Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti may have tried to follow in the footsteps of her father, the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in calling for a ceasefire within the state, but finds herself cornered with leaders from the BJP accusing her of playing politics over the issue.
Her call for a ceasefire to ease tension during the fasting period of Ramazan and the Amarnath Yatra has been questioned by the BJP, the coalition partner of the PDP in the Mehbooba-led government in the state. Newly-inducted deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta had recently said the ceasefire appeal should come from militants attacking security forces. “If there is an appeal from their (militants’) side, only then we can think of it… Let them first make an appeal for it,” he told reporters.
In November. 2003, India and Pakistan had agreed to a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Actual Ground Position Line at Siachen in Jammu and Kashmir, bringing much needed relief to people living close to the LoC on either side of the divide from nearly 14 years of hostilities. Then Chief Minister Sayeed, heading a coalition government with the Congress in the state, had often claimed credit for the decision.
On May 9, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti convened an all-party meeting to discuss the situation arising out of frequent encounters, stone throwing incidents and civilian killings in the Valley. After the meeting, Mehbooba claimed the participants had agreed to appeal to the Centre to announce a ceasefire within the state from the fasting month of Ramazan, starting later this week, to the end of the Amarnath Yatra to ease tension during these periods significant for devotees.
“All parties participated in the all-party meeting. Everyone was concerned about the present situation (in the Valley), about the killings, the youth picking up guns, stone-pelting which also took the life of a tourist from Tamil Nadu. Everyone agreed that we should appeal to the government of India to consider a ceasefire like the unilateral ceasefire in (former Prime Minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s time,” Mehbooba told reporters after the four-hour meeting.
The PDP leader said the Centre should think of a ceasefire so that the people could get some relief “because they are facing many difficulties due to encounters, crackdowns and search operations”. Gupta, however, said there was no consensus on an appeal for a ceasefire to the Centre at the meeting. “… It cannot be accepted that we announce a ceasefire, despite their (militants’) continuous attacks on our security forces,” Gupta told reporters.
Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office, went a step further and, without naming Mehbooba, accused her of “playing politics” over Ramazan. Opposition National Conference leader Omar Abdullah questioned the purpose of calling the all-party meet when the coalition partners — PDP and BJP — were not on the same page. “What was the point of @MehboobaMufti calling an all party meeting to build a consensus around initiatives in Kashmir when her ally in the Govt doesn’t agree with her! Yet she will shamelessly cling to power because that’s all that matters to her,” Omar wrote on Twitter.
However, the most damning indictment of the PDP came from the controversial independent MLA from Langate, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, who claimed that barring him, no other MLA had raised the issue of a unilateral ceasefire at the meeting. “They are all lying. No party spoke about ceasefire during the meeting,” Rashid said, adding that the representative of the state unit of the Communist Party of India supported his demand for a ceasefire.
Rashid told PTI the chief minister only talked about the situation in Kashmir and sought the opinion of political parties for restoring peace in the region. “The chief minister did not talk about ceasefire and instead suggested that an all-party delegation meet the prime minister to discuss the Kashmir situation,” he said.