Jhelum Review | Mehbooba Mufti’s unceremonious departure is welcome

The former chief minister’s legacy of repression has given ordinary Kashmiris so much reason to cheer that the governor’s rule is a welcome change

Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti’s unceremonious departure from the state government on June 19 is widely seen as a godsend reprieve for the people. A large section of Kashmiris heaved a proverbial sigh of relief when her party's coalition partner in the government decided to snap ties. Therefore, it is not strange that this action has earned some applause for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a Muslim majority constituency that is otherwise wary of the Hindutva politics and its attendant anti-Muslim violence and toxic rhetoric. Mufti’s regression from a spokesperson for public emotions to a shameless murderer has led to her overwhelming unpopularity, so much so that there were reports of nocturnal fireworks in her hometown, Bijbehara, about 52km southeast of Srinagar. Though the enraptured display of joy was limited and mostly carried out after dark, it conveyed a symbolic yet potent message of how deeply her politics of repression and tyranny is loathed by the people. Had it not been the threat of the police action that the Muftis have readily employed against unsuspecting civilians over the years – forcing the police to arrest anyone who posed a threat to their currency under the false charge of sedition and supporting terrorism – Bijbehara would have burst in euphoria and gratitude.

A few hours after Mufti’s ouster, I walked through the town and couldn’t help notice a visible glee on the faces of the people as the streets wore a strange sort of a festive look. It seemed that everyone had suddenly discovered a purpose to exchange greetings and messages of gratitude. Most of the language used to describe Mufti and her extended family, who were all part of the government in some shape or form, is too profane to be mentioned here. A recently retired government officer, whom I have known since childhood, told me that everytime someone asked about his ancestral place, he felt ashamed to answer that it was Bijbehara. The town, of late, had become associated with the Muftis who had become the new butchers of Kashmir. In Mufti’s little more than two years in power as the chief minister, she has certainly surpassed the memories of the past milestones of brutality and barbarity. Worse, she never showed much remorse and remained defiant till the end, always blaming others for the brutal violence that was carried out under her watch.

The PDP operated like a ruthless mafia gang that was connected through blood-links or cast allegiance; most of its inner rung were either related to each other or consisted of mullahs, the traditional clergy class

Since July 2016, when the mass rebellion started with the death of popular resistance militant, Burhan Wani, Mufti operated a ruthless regime that showed no sympathy for the Kashmiri masses. The death of Wani galvanised millions only to be meted out with extreme repression that Mufti and her clique of ministers, advisors and law enforcement officials felt was necessary and justifiable to keep guarding their positions of power. Mufti’s inability to manage the situation without extreme repression destroyed the trust between India and Kashmiris; all the hard work of over two decades went up in smoke in less than a month. In the first week of the mass rebellion, Mufti had managed to murder more than 40 people and left thousands wounded, a large number of them with life-changing injuries. When this failed to stem the tide of rebellion, she grew desperate and some leaders of her PDP tried, mostly successfully, to push the police to arrest civilians – often opponents of the party – under flimsy charges. On a number of occasions, these arrests were operated outside of the law with the PDP leadership demanding money or other favours in lieu of release.

The PDP operated like a ruthless mafia gang that was connected through blood-links or cast allegiance; most of its inner rung were either related to each other or consisted of mullahs, the traditional clergy class who, in the past, would threaten the gullible masses with their faux command over religion and its dishonest interpretation. In its new avatar, they would threaten people with arrests, incarceration and attacks by the police and the security forces. With Mehbooba Mufti gone, that threat has suddenly disappeared and the people feel a certain sense of relief and personal security. This would perhaps be for the first time that people are looking forward to living under the governor’s rule and they have a reason to celebrate.

(Murtaza Shibli tweets @murtaza_shibli)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author and do not reflect the views of SouthWord. SouthWord does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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