As security forces battled militants in both Srinagar and Jammu, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reiterated that a dialogue between India and Pakistan still remained the only way out for lasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). While her ruling alliance partners in the BJP advocate a hardline approach and want to tell Pakistan that enough is enough, Mehbooba has consistently followed the peace approach.
Accepting that she would come under strong criticism for her comments during television news channel debates, the Chief Minister posted on her twitter page: “Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary if we are to end bloodshed.” “I know I will be labelled anti-national by news anchors tonight but that doesn’t matter. The people of J&K are suffering. We have to talk because war is not an option.” A war of attrition has already started between the two ruling alliance partners, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP legislators on Monday strongly protested against the PDP’s silence on the pro-Pakistan rant by opposition National Conference MLA, Muhammad Akbar Lone. Lone had ruffled many a feather by shouting pro-Pakistan slogans inside the state assembly on Saturday.
Defiantly, Lone maintained his stance when confronted by the media over such an embarrassing stand by a mainstream lawmaker. BJP legislators have demanded that an FIR be lodged against the MLA for his anti-national stand within the state assembly. The relations between the two ideologically opposite ruling partners in J&K have never been on even keel. The PDP politically remains Valley-centric from where the majority of Mehbooba’s 28 MLAs won in the 2014 elections.
All the 26 MLAs of the BJP were elected from the Jammu region as the party could not win a single seat in the Muslim-majority Valley. PDP founder and former Chief Minister, the late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, who forged the present alliance with the BJP, called it a meeting of the South Pole and North Pole. After unending ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB), militants have stepped up suicide attacks even before Kashmir’s tourism season starts this year.
On Saturday, heavily armed militants of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) outfit stormed a highly fortified army camp in Jammu city. Five soldiers and a civilian were killed and 10, including six women and children, were injured in this terror attack. After killing three terrorists, the army said on Monday a fourth surviving terrorist is still hiding inside the camp. Even before the Jammu anti-terror operation could end, two militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit tried to enter a CRPF camp in Srinagar city, but were prevented by an alert sentry who saw them moving suspiciously outside the camp in the wee hours of Monday.
A fierce encounter was under way between the security forces and these militants who later entered a nearby under-construction multi-storeyed building. One CRPF jawan was killed in this gunfight while a constable of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of state police, fighting alongside the CRPF, was critically injured.
As tensions on the border and the hinterland start mounting, the hardline approach adopted by the BJP and the so-called soft-pedalling by the PDP could become mutually uncomfortable for the two ruling partners in the not very distant future. State assembly elections are scheduled towards the end of 2020 as the term of the state assembly in J&K is six years against five in the country’s other states. If the present ruling alliance lasts its full six-year term, the dictum that politics is the art of the possible would be proved right.