Thousands of individuals, including the former state’s most consequential political leaders as well as children were placed in detention
It has been evident from the start that the reading down of Article 370 of the Constitution which ended J&K’s autonomy guaranteed by India’s Constituent Assembly, no less, had little to do with the formally proclaimed objectives of the Narendra Modi government, and everything to do with advancing the political agenda of the ruling BJP to install the party’s chief minister in J&K — a dream of many decades in fulfillment of a communal agenda for India’s only Muslim-majority former state.
The continued detention of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, when several key figures, including two other former chief ministers, the father-son duo of Farooq and Omar, who carry the iconic Abdullah name and lead the National Conference, have been set free, seems a part of that design. On Wednesday, Shah Faesal, a former bureaucrat-turned politician, a high-profile individual yet to come into his own politically, was released, besides a key figure of Ms Mufti’s party, the PDP.
Ending terrorism and promoting rapid economic development (although J&K is better placed than many states on most development parameters) were the announced objectives behind changing J&K’s constitutional status. Ten months after the inglorious event, and the subsequent creation of two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh — the administration of the UT of J&K stands pretty much paralysed — and exposed for its conspicuous failure to perform on the development front.
In truth, the only department which has worked is the home department and the police, the latter as junior partners in the national security grid underpinned by the Army and the paramilitary forces.
Thousands of individuals, including the former state’s most consequential political leaders as well as nine-year old children, were placed in detention. This was an act of state intimidation of the populace, pure and simple, intended to serve as prelude to the next Assembly election, expected to be held after the creation of a few more constituencies in the largely Hindu Jammu region through a delimitation exercise, which is expected to get underway after a few lakh non-Muslim voters are added through the exercise of handing out domicile certificates to several new categories.
Shortly before being packed away in jail last August, the principal regional mainstream political players, including Ms Mufti, had met at the residence of Dr Farooq Abdullah to pass the Gupkar Declaration, at the heart of which lay the sentiment of exalting J&K’s autonomy. In light of this it is not surprising that the Abdullahs have made repeated demands for the release of their erstwhile regional rival, Ms Mufti. Omar Abdullah reiterated the demand after Mr Faesal was freed on Wednesday. When his father, Dr Abdullah, an ailing 80-year old, had been set free in March, the latter had stated unequivocally that his party would take further political decisions only after consulting Ms Mufti upon her release.
In spite of this, an under-the-breath rumour has been floated — thanks to the separatist elements — that the Abdullahs are out because they have done a secret deal with the BJP, while Ms Mufti has not. This suits BJP perfectly. Degrading National Conference, J&K’s most consequential party, before an important election, and disrupting any foreseeable electoral unity between NC and PDP, is likely to be at the top of its mind.