August 2018 News

Heckling Of Farooq Abdullah Not Isolated Instance; Space For Mainstream Politics Has Been Receding In J&K

23 August 2018
Ishfaq Naseem

Srinagar: The heckling of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah by a group of people at the Hazratbal mosque on Eid on Wednesday was not a one-off event. It shows that the space for mainstream politics is being lost in the state. On Wednesday, youth booed Abdullah and raised slogans in favour of top commander of an Al-Qaeda affiliate Zakir Musa. His subsequent comment that militants have lost relevance in Kashmir is being viewed by some as indicative of his ignorance. Many observers in Kashmir say that Abdullah 'introduced a culture of counter-insurgency in Kashmir', and that he has the blood of many innocent people on his hands. Prominent human rights activist Mohammad Ahsan Untoo said, 'After Abdullah became the chief minister in 1996, grave human rights violations took place. He was the one who created the Task Force in Kashmir, and he sabotaged talks between India and Pakistan.' Untoo said that both Farooq Abdullah and his father Sheikh Abdullah are known for having changed their stances. 'Farooq Abdullah has no mandate to speak on behalf of Kashmiris and to abuse our boys. Kashmir is a dispute. Sheikh Abdullah had entered into an accord with the Indian government, reneging on his promise of fighting for plebiscite in Kashmir,' said Untoo. It is not just Abdullah who has faced the public wrath. Many in Kashmir celebrated the fall of the PDP-BJP coalition government led by Mehbooba Mufti. Senior BJP leader Altaf Thakur said that he was not able to visit his family in Tral (the hometown of Burhan Wani), and instead, 'celebrated Eid in Srinagar' due to the threat to his life from militants. Public anger against mainstream politics may also pose challenges to authorities for conducting urban local body polls and panchayat elections. Meanwhile, militants have also increased attacks on policemen and political workers. Shabir Ahmad Bhat, the BJP's constituency president in Pulwama, was killed by militants in the wee hours on Wednesday, while three policemen also died in several attacks. This year, Kashmir has witnessed a steady increase in militant recruitment, and there has been growing support from people to help militants escape from encounter sites. Further, politicians are not holding public rallies in south Kashmir for fear that they might meet with resistance. Abdul Rahim Rather, PDP MLA from Kokernag, said, 'We have not been able to organise rallies in south Kashmir. This is because of the governance deficit, and also the anger and alienation of the people. This could have been addressed through dialogue.' While the deterioration of the security situation in Kashmir began after militancy started in 1990, matters became particularly difficult following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani. In recent times, people have conducted pro-freedom marches at encounter sites despite the presence of security forces. Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, PDP MLA from Tral, said, 'The government forces are responsible for the current situation. How can one justify attacks on houses of militants, and the excesses committed on their family members?' While many in Kashmir argue that Abdullah was booed as he had recently chanted 'Bharat mata ki jai' while paying tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, this was not an isolated incident. After the death of Wani in 2016, many mainstream politicians announced their decision to dissociate themselves from the parties of which they were earlier members. At the time, about 75 people were killed during protests, and Kashmir witnessed months of shutdowns. In April 2017, parliamentary elections in Srinagar witnessed bloodshed, and a series of videos showed members of security forces parading a youth and shooting another one dead in Beerwah, during stone-pelting at a polling booth. The state government was forced to cancel the election on the Anantnag parliamentary seat - on which Mehbooba Mufti's brother brother Tasaduq Mufti was contesting - after it witnessed a mere 7 percent turnout. Eight people died on polling day itself, while parties called off their rallies in south Kashmir.