Barely eight weeks after he was sworn in, Mufti Sayeed’spolitical programme for restoring a lasting peace to Jammu and Kashmir is in imminent danger of failing. A series of misunderstandings, magnified by the media, have ensured that neither he, nor the BJP central command, have been able to allay the ingrained suspicion in their respective political constituencies that they have sold out their principles for the sake of power. Their mutual distrust was exacerbated, first, by the release of stone-pelting mastermind MasaratAlam, then by the premature attempt to acquire land for Kashmiri Pandits’ dwellings in the valley, then by the re-arrest of MasaratAlam, and finally by Union Home minister Rajnath Singh’s claim that he had got it done.
In the orgy of mutual recrimination no one has noticed that Pakistan has abandoned its policy of non-intervention in Kashmir and is now intervening energetically in its internal politics. This change of stance has taken the PDP, and possibly New Delhi, by surprise. Mufti had insisted from the beginning of his talks with the BJP that if Kashmiris were to know lasting peace both the Hurriyat and Pakistan had to be a part of the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. The very first clause of theirAgenda for Alliance had therefore stressed that its purpose was “to form a coalition Government that will be empowered to catalyze reconciliation and confidence building within and across the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K”.
But Pakistan’s distrust of India is too deep seated for it to take such declarations of intent seriously. If the coalition was a success its policy makers seem to have reasoned, it will not only bridge the Jammu and Kashmir divide, but also to a great extent the divide between Hindus and Muslims on which Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir rests. It has therefore embarked on an attempt to break the coalition or, failing that, todiscredit Mufti as a tool of New Delhi in Kashmiri eyes. The surest way to do that is to provoke confrontations with the police, raise the level of tension in the valley, and force the state government to bring back the curfew Raj that had so completely discredited both Delhi and the National conference government in the 1980s and ‘90s.
The release of Masarat Alam, and Geelani’s return to the valley, gave it the instruments it was looking for. Masarat Alamhas claimed, in numerous TV interviews before he was sent back to jail, that he had nothing to do with the hoisting of Pakistani flags. This was only a manifestation, he said, of the prevailing sentiment in the valley. What he did not tell his interviewers was that, prior to the reception, he had spoken to handlers in the Pakistan army’s Inter Services Intelligence 18 times for a total of 47 minutes. It is these intercepts, and not just his presence in the midst of aPakistan flag waving, green ribbon sporting band of Kashmiri youth as they marched to the reception venue, that led to his re-arrest.
Since then the ISI has been using both inducement and threats to break the Hurriyat (Mirwaiz) and make its member organizations and parties join the Hurriyat (Geelani). Bilal Lone, a key member of Hurriyat(M)’s executive council, has refused to budge, so it has put him on its hit list, as it had done his father.
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