Are Kashmir Separatists Fearing Marginalization?

24 March 2015
Gyan Varma

New Delhi: The formation of a coalition government between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has begun to alter the political scenario in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), analysts said, after a frenetic bid by the Hurriyat leaders to publicly engage with Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi this week failed to spark off the usual round of recriminations. The common minimum programme (CMP) drawn up by the PDP and the BJP, two ideologically opposed parties, commits the grand alliance to engagement with the separatists, which, analysts say, has blunted the USP of the separatists, until now defined by their isolation by the establishment. 'The CMP is clear that there should be talks with all the sections. So where is the issue? The state government will hold talks with all groups and individuals,' a BJP leader said. The election threw up a fractured mandate, with the PDP and BJP emerging as the top two parties, but individually falling short of a majority. While the BJP did exceptionally well in Jammu, the PDP dominated Kashmir. After protracted negotiations, the two sides agreed to stitch up a coalition, marking the first time that the BJP has shared power in the state. Interestingly, even while the leaders of the Hurriyat were meeting the Pakistan high commissioner in Delhi, the PDP and the BJP took an in-principle decision to form a coordination committee. The panel will have six members-three each from the PDP and the BJP-who will liaise between the government and the two parties to ensure better coordination. 'The announcement of this committee is likely to take place in two to three days. The state presidents of both the parties will be part of this group,' said another BJP leader, who was monitoring the developments in Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. The leaders involved in the discussions between the PDP and the BJP concede that one objective of forming a popular government in the state was to sideline separatist organizations like the Hurriyat. 'We have been very clear about our alliance with the PDP. While the state government will work for the development of the state, it will also try to make organizations like Hurriyat irrelevant. So far, there has been no divide in the relations between the PDP and the BJP,' said a BJP leader who is involved in the affairs of the Jammu and Kashmir government. 'There was a little friction because of the release of separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat, but we have been assured that no further such steps will be taken,' the BJP leader added. None of the BJP leaders agreed to be named. The BJP leaders believe that the state government will involve the members of the Hurriyat in the talks because it is a part of the CMP. A PDP functionary, who did not want to be identified, said that their party is clear that the separatist group should not be isolated and, instead, should be made part of the discourse. So far, except briefly, the separatists have never been a part of the dialogue on Kashmir. Separately, the representatives of the state government pointed out that there were many groups in Kashmir that claimed to be representing the people of the state, but that no third party will be allowed to play a role in the talks between Pakistan and India. 'There are only two sides in the dialogue process-India and Pakistan. Apart from these two sides, internally also there are two sides to hold dialogue-it is the elected government of the PDP and the BJP. There are many groups which claim to represent the people, and we are ready to listen to them,' the second BJP leader added. 'These groups represent a certain ideology and idea, and it is not correct to expect them to leave it immediately. The relevance of these separatist groups will depend on the success or failure of the government. It is too soon to comment on the performance of the government. In a democratic process, there should be dialogue with all the sections of people and all stakeholders, but it is a gradual process,' said Ellora Puri, a Jammu-based political analyst and political science professor at Jammu University.