The PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir has been woefully inefficient in handling the ongoing cycle of protests that broke out on 9 July. However, while the BJP’s “no-sympathies” lines is clear, the PDP has shown through its response that not only does it know what to do, it has no idea what to say as well. As the protests moved from the first death on 9 July to the 65th yesterday, PDP, led by party chief and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, has been first missing, then evasive and eventually ambiguous in its response.
Take a look at statements made by Mufti and other top PDP leaders over this period:
01 . 21 July: “What was the need to kill Burhan?”
Muzaffar Hussain Baig, PDP MP from Baramulla, was among the earliest ones from his party to speak out. Participating in a debate on the issue in Lok Sabha, Baig questioned the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani by security forces. If Wani was on the radar of intelligence agencies, why was he not arrested earlier, he asked.
Mufti took nearly a fortnight after the protests broke out to make her first public appearance and statement. Speaking at an all-party meet in Srinagar, she broke-down requesting all parties to use their “good offices” to resolve the crisis.
03. 25 July: ‘Pakistan is the reason for Kashmiri youth taking up arms
This was the first time when the CM squarely blamed Pakistan for the valley’s troubles. “While Pakistan tortures those who take up guns in its own territory, it teaches some other lesson to our Kashmiri children. This is wrong and hypocritical ,” she reportedly told the media.
04. 28 July: “Burhan could have been given another chance”
This was a clear attempt to appear sympathetic to those mourning Wani’s death. Mufti implied that forces did not know that Wani was present where they attacked, adding that if they did they would have given him “a chance”. She did not elaborate.
05. 4 August: “Apologise to Kashmir’s youth for killing Burhan”
Once again, appearing to be on the side of those protesting Wani’s killing, the CM reportedly asked policemen in the state to apologise to Kashmiri youth for his death. This, she reportedly said, may pacify the protestors.
06. 9 August: “Revive Vajpayee’s dialogue, heal Kashmir’s wounds”
This came just before she was to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has studiously avoided visiting Kashmir till now or even addressing the people of the state directly. This was the first time when Mufti referred to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s approach, appearing to nudge Modi to draw lessons from his predecessor.
07. 9 August: “We welcome PM Modi’s statement”
Naeem Akhtar, PDP’s chief spokesperson and the state’s education minister, said this after Modi broke his 32-day silence on the issue. Modi said, speaking at a public rally in Madhya Pradesh, that a path of “democracy and dialogue” was needed to restore peace in the spirit of ‘insaniyat (humanity), jamhuriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat’.
08. 15 August: “It is not that an encounter has happened in Kashmir for the first time…
After first nearly regretting Wani’s killing, Mufti admonished the people of the state for protesting so vehemently against one among the many encounters that the state has seen throughout its decades of troubled history. She also chose an awful occasion to send out this message – her Independence Day address.
09. 15 August: “There is trust deficit…between the leaders of the state and the leadership of the country.
She said this in the same Independence Day speech, nearly admitting that there was gap in communication between her government and the Union government. “If there is trust deficit, it is between the leaders of the state and the leadership of the country. There can be no quarrel between the people of J&K and people of the country”, she noted.
10. 21 August: “Forces have been using a lot of restraint”
Even as at least 60 civilians died and thousands left brutally injured and blinded by the deadly pellet guns, this statement from Akhtar surprised everybody. There were many reports of protestors having been shot at from close distance, indicating absence of adequate restraint on part of security personnel.
11. 23 August: “95% Kashmiris are not with the 5% indulging in violence”
Mufti’s point was that some vested interests wanting to unsettle her government were instigating young children to indulge in violence and were using them as shields. However, she ended up implying that these “interests” comprised 95% of the protestors and the average Kashmiri only 5%. Her statement meant that the protests were manufactured and even the protestors were not genuine. The statement was soon negated by her own party colleague.
Just a day after Mufti indicated that most of the protests were manufactured, a PDP spokesperson punctured her claim. Mehboob Beg, former MP and now a key spokesperson of the party, called the protests an ‘uprising’ and a ‘movement’. He said that the ‘present uprising as a movement’ is not against any particular political party but against the system “as a whole”.