Pro-Pakistan Kashmir Has Centre Clueless

1 July 2008

New Delhi: pro-Pakistan sentiment in Kashmir after the forestland transfer to the Amarnath board has left the Centre flummoxed and the government has reportedly instructed the security forces to avoid confrontation with protestors. The home ministry echelons are finding it hard to explain the mass protests over an issue that has been in the pipeline for the past over four years. The resultant communal and regional divide (Jammu vs Kashmir) has put a question mark on the possibility of free and fair assembly elections in October. The inherent contradictions between ruling partners Congress and PDP and an overzealous former governor SK Sinha are being seen as the crux of the problem. The squabbling allies and the Centre’s ignoring of the demand by a sizable chunk of the state’s political spectrum to shift the NDA-appointed governor provided the perfect setting for the resurgence of Pakistan-backed forces pushed to the background for some time. Sinha forcing the government to put the forestland transfer on the fast track raised doubts in the minds of the majority Muslims in Kashmir. He wanted to accomplish the task before the end of his term early this month and ended up ignoring sensitivities. If Sinha was running out of time, so were political parties such as the PDP headed by former home minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed and the separatist Hurriyat Conference (HC). The PDP and the HC, who had almost lost relevance in the people’s eyes, have since tried to use the issue to resurrect their sagging fortunes. Where Pakistan failed, in uniting the rival Hurriyat factions despite sustained efforts in the last five years, the squabbling mainline political parties and a pro-active governor succeeded, and the recent popular perception that a congenial atmosphere awaited the assembly elections was defeated.