Observers, people keenly watching how politics in Kashmir shapes up after Mehbooba Mufti’s release

The prolonged detention of Mufti was seen as a government tactic to create a chasm between National Conference and PDP, and further disempowering political forces in the Valley

People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti  (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti (Photo Courtesy: PTI)

Gulzar Bhat

People's Democratic Party president and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has finally been set free from detention after 14 long months.

Soon after her release, Mufti posted an audio message online vowing to fight for the restoration of Article 370. She pulled no punches while upbraiding the August 5, 2019 move, when New Delhi put paid to the special position of Jammu and Kashmir.

"Today I have been released after more than a year. During all this time, my body and heart ached from the black decision of August 5," she said, adding, "Now we should all resolve to take back what New Delhi has snatched from us undemocratically and unconstitutionally. No one among us could forget the humiliation of that day".

Besides Mufti, hundreds of political leaders including two other former chief ministers – Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah – were also detained just before and after the abrogation of Article 370. Although the Abdullahs were released in March, Mufti continued to remain in detention under Public Safety Act (PSA).

Mufti in her dossier, prepared by security agencies, was accused, among other things, of borrowing the party’s election symbol – inkpot and pen – from Muslim United Front (MUF), an amalgam of various religious bodies formed in 1986 which had participated in the controversial 1987 elections.

Following the release of Mufti, political observers as well as the people of Kashmir are rather keen to see how the politics of Jammu and Kashmir will shape up in coming days.

Prominent political analyst and a Kashmir watcher of long standing, Prof. Noor Ahmad Baba said that the Mufti's release was important to decide which course the politics of Jammu and Kashmir takes. "Mufti's release is a positive development. It is very significant as it will decide how the politics of J&K shape up," Baba said.

Javed Ahmad, a resident of Bandipora, said that Mufti was rather blunt in criticising the August 5 move, but now people had to see if these pro-India political parties would be able to put up a joint fight against the August 5 move.

Last year, a day before New Delhi revoked the semi-autonomous status of J&K, leaders from six political parties of Jammu and Kashmir had come together at the Gupkar residence of Dr Farooq Abdullah and vowed to protect the special position of Jammu and Kashmir. A joint statement with one of the important clauses reading "Nothing about us without us" was later released to the press.

On August 22 this year, the signatories of Gupkar declaration met again and reiterated their earlier resolve.

"It is time to see if PDP and NC hang tough on Gupkar declaration," said another Valley-based political observer.

Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav, during his recent visit to Srinagar, had billed the Gupkar decleration as parroting the National Conference's "plebiscite front".

The prolonged detention of Mufti was seen as a government tactic to create a chasm between National Conference and PDP, and further disempower political forces in the Valley.

Senior communist leader and former lawmaker Mohammad Yousuf Tarigrami told National Herald that Mufti's detention was unwarranted.

"Mufti's release is a welcome move. But there are many people including political leaders languishing in different jails under false and flimsy charges; they all should be released," he said.

Among the prominent mainline political leaders, former lawmaker from north Kashmir, Engineer Abdul Rashid, who was collared by NIA on August 9, 2019, is still under detention.

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