J&K, a mess set to get worse

Mehbooba Mufti. (PTI file photo)

It is no surprise that the alliance between the PDP and the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir has come to an abrupt end, though the break-up may have been in the making for some time. The partnership was strange and contradictory from the beginning, with hardly anything in common between them. Indeed, ideologically, they represented opposite extremes on the Jammu and Kashmir question. Parties of different and even conflicting persuasions can work together and offer good governance if there is commitment to a common goal and, more importantly, agreement on the methods to be adopted to reach the goal. This was lacking, and so the situation in the state only deteriorated under the watch of the coalition government. It may have reached such a stage that both parties may have been waiting for an opportunity to call the divorce first. The BJP beat the PDP to it, declaring that the alliance was no longer tenable. 

The BJP has blamed the rise of radicalism and violence for its decision. But this was not sudden, and the partners in government are equally responsible for it. Radicalism has been rising since the past few years, with Kashmiri separatism coming to assume overtones of Islamist fundamentalism. The killing of the militant Burhan Wani in July 2016 triggered fresh waves of protests with ever more people getting involved in them. Stronger counteraction by the security forces did not help and was counter-productive. There are more militants in Kashmir and there is greater disaffection among the people now than at almost any time in the past. The gulf between the PDP and the BJP has been widening through this. The Kathua rape and murder incident exposed this clearly. Though the BJP withdrew its ministers who had supported the rapists, it was aware that the popular sentiment in Jammu supported them. While Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti wanted the Ramzan ceasefire to continue, the BJP did not want it. The killing of journalist Shujaat Bukhari gave it an immediate reason to claim that law and order has collapsed. 

The BJP may have sensed the alienation of its ranks in Jammu over the Kathua incident and over its association with the PDP in government. The party also perhaps wants to go into the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on a hyper-nationalist plank with its government at the Centre wielding the stick and the gun against the “anti-nationals” in Kashmir and their supporters in Pakistan and even India. Governor’s rule would mean the rule of the armed forces and the implementation of the Centre’s muscular policy. But the situation is unlikely to get any better, with the democratic buffer between the people of the troubled state and the Centre gone and unlikely to be brought back soon.

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