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How far can separatists stretch Sayeed’s healing touch doctrine?

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Srinagar: As he advocates more political space for them, Kashmiri separatist leaders are making Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s doctrine of “healing touch” more and more difficult to be put in practice.

Reacting to hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani’s latest statement seeking de-militarization of Kashmir and the shortening of the annual Amarnath Yatra period from two months to 30 days, Sayeed said: “Waiving Pakistan flags and making inflammatory speeches is not going to help the cause of the people of Kashmir.”

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Geelani made an inflammatory speech the other day in Tral town in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district where a large crowd received him waiving Pakistani flags and shouting anti-India slogans.

Although militant violence is on the wane across Jammu and Kashmir, Tral and Shopian are two areas where guerrillas are still believed to exist and hold sway.

Sayeed first came to power in 2002 winning maximum number of assembly seats from the south Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag and Kulgam.

The National Conference had said that Geelani supporters in the Jamaat-e-Islami party had voted in large numbers for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to oust the National Conference from power.

The National Conference leadership also said that while most Kashmiris stayed away from the 2002 election due to fear of militants, the rank and file of the Jamaat went ahead with a well thought out strategy to bring Sayeed to power.

The acrimony between Sayeed and the Abdullahs dates back to the times of the National Conference founder, the late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.

Sayeed was among the few local leaders, though much junior to the late Sheikh, who mustered the courage to challenge the Abdullahs.

The National Conference also opposed the growth of the Jamaat in the Kashmir Valley.

If wooing the enemy’s enemy had been Sayeed’s political strategem by soliciting tacit support against the National Conference from the Jamaat, the undeclared romance is nearing its end.

Sharing power with the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has placed Sayeed and his party in an indefensible situation given the separatist ideology.

Even remotely seen to be soft towards Sayeed would cost the separatists their face.

The hatred for the National Conference cannot be good enough for the separatists to risk being seen as ‘soft’ towards the BJP and its allies.

This perhaps was the reason for the hardline Masrat Alam to organise the welcome rally for Geelani where Pakistan flags were waived. Alam even refused to acknowledge Sayeed’s role although he released him from jail after nearly five years.

Sayeed had to move in quickly to order Alam’s re-arrest last month.

Will the chief minister’s doctrine of healing touch for all remain relevant if the separatists disturb peace and tranquillity in Kashmir this year?

The Kashmir Valley has been through the worst because of incessant rains this spring, on top of last year’s unprecedented floods.

Kashmiris are looking forward to a successful tourist season to revive the largely devastated local economy.

Sayeed has been camping in Mumbai to woo Bollywood back to Kashmir in a big way.

Even though he is known to be a wily politician, Sayeed’s patience with the separatists is unlikely to last if they stretch his healing touch doctrine too far.

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