Whatever efforts the successive governments in the past had made to draw people in Kashmir closer to mainstream politics, the current dispensation in Centre seems bullheaded in its approach to dash them all.
A near irreversible damage has been caused by PM Narendra Modi-led BJP government to pro-India politics in Kashmir by delegitimizing the political leaders of different of mainstream parties since August 5, 2019.
On Thursday, senior Congress party leader and former Union minister Saifuddin Soz told media from behind the boundary wall of his house, topped with coils of glistening barbed wires, that he was no way a free man. Soz laid bare the claims of J&K government that he was not under detention or house arrest.
On Tuesday, J&K administration in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court had said that there was no restriction on the movement of Soz and the leader was never detained. The apex court then disposed off the petition of filed by Soz's wife seeking his release.
Soz said that the police men deployed at his residence told him he could not move out as they had the orders from their higher ups.
While he was speaking to scribes, a plain clothed man, ostensibly a police officer, took him down forcibly showing no respect to the 82-year-old politico. "Don't touch me," Soz was heard saying in a rather grating voice from behind the wall.
The police men deployed at the premises were also abrasive with the media persons who were asked to leave the place.
Weeks before government did away with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the government had made attempts to demonize the mainstream political leaders in Kashmir. Last year on July 22, at a function in Kargil, former Governor Satya Pal Malik asked militants to kill those who had looted the state. He pilloried the Kashmiri politicians claiming that they say one thing in the Valley and another in Delhi.
Although Malik later expressed regret at his remarks, it was the beginning of delegitimizing the mainstream politicians in Kashmir. It was followed by downgrading or withdrawing the security cover of many political leaders, even in the worst militancy hit areas, putting their lives on the line.
The unprecedented crackdown on the political leaders in the lead up to the August 5 move was a big move to delegitimise the pro-India politicians here.
"Thousands of political leaders have been killed thus far only because they believed in Indian democracy. And now you see how we are being treated," said a National Conference leader who declined to be named.
He said that it was the height of idiocy to lie before the top court and manhandle a former union minister.
“Such moves will only disappointment the people and widen the space for separatist politics while drawing people away from mainstream politics,” he added.
Political observers in the Valley believe that government itself has ensured the demise of mainstream politics in Kashmir. "The government has created a huge graveyard for mainstream politics, hoping that it will open a space for systemic politics," said noted political commentator Prof. Gul Muhammad Wani.