Majid Jahangir, Srinagar
The 90 minutes of high voltage drama on Thursday over the house arrest and release of Kashmiri separatists ahead of NSA-level talks has surprised many.
The government on Thursday had put all separatists under house arrest only to release them within two hours. As expected, these developments have raised many eye brows prompting people to question the motive and politics behind what happened on Thursday.
Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani is still under house arrest.
Indian government sources claimed that the sudden house arrest followed by their release within two hours were signal to the separatists that they could not be allowed to meet Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, Sartaj Aziz, in New Delhi on 23 August.
Pakistan High Commission had invited Kashmiri separatist leaders to New Delhi for meeting with Aziz ahead of the NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan.
The questions are now being asked to as to what prompted the government to change its mind after it had placed all prominent separatist leaders under house arrest. Did government succumb to any internal and external pressure in both ‘house arrest’ and ‘release?’
Many believe that the decision to keep these separatist leaders under house arrest simply backfired for the government. They argue that the chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who shares power with Bhartiya Janta Party in Jammu and Kashmir had been criticized in past for adopting tough stand against providing political space to the separatists of Kashmir has been key to the final outcome of this drama. So, Mufti was simply mindful of these allegations and wanted to send a different message to people about his new approach towards the separatist leaders.
Analysts, who in the past, accused Mufti Sayeed for losing” battle of ideas” say that he had to demonstrate that there had been no dilution in his party PDP’s famous slogan “bandook say nahi golii say, baat banegi boli say(Gun and bullet not the solution, Talks are the only way forward)”
Credible sources in the PDP government said that while the orders of house arrest had come from the central government, it was the PDP leadership, which threw its weight behind in forcing the Modi government to make a sudden U-turn. Mufti’s daughter, Mahbooba Mufto, reportedly played a crucial role here.
Srinagar based senior journalist, Asif QuerashI, said, ” What government did on Thursday simply backfired for them. Drama of house arrest and release have obviously boosted the morale of separatists. The alliance partners BJP and PDP are at loggerheads. Some voices within the PDP are against such move. Clearly, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has also tried to send a message that he was not against giving political space to separatists as accused his opponents in the past.”
Political analyst and editor of Urdu daily, Chattan, Tahir Mohidin blamed Modi government’s ‘confused Kashmir policy’ for this fiasco.
He said, “I fail to understand that why separatists were put under house arrest, and why they were released later? This was not a confusion? BJP has become habitual of making issues out of nothing thereby causing embarrassment for itself. We don’t understand why separatists are being prevented from meeting people like Pakistan’s Sartaj Aziz. The same leaders have met the the Pak High Commissioner before. Modi government had even sent its cabinet minister. Whats the problem now? Seems like the centre has no definitive policy on Kashmir and towards Pakistan.”
Last year, India had cancelled foreign level talks with Pakistan following the meeting of separatists with Pakistani High Commissioer in Delhi. It’s not clear if the the latest drama followed by the renewed determination of separatist leaders to meet their Pakistani guest once again will prompt Modi government to cancel the talks again.