The fall of the PDP-BJP government led by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti can bring calm on the streets of the Kashmir Valley, says Tariq Karra, a prominent Kashmiri politician who resigned in anger from Parliament and from the regional party of which he was one of the founders.
In an exclusive interview with IANS, Karra said the PDP-led government's policies in Jammu and Kashmir have wiped out the middle ground that existed between separatism and pro-India ideology, rendering all mainstream politicians irrelevant in the restive state.
He said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was founded in 1998 to fill the gap where the people "were caught between the two extremes" of being either pro- or anti-India. "It played the role of the buffer between the two extremes. I had built this party brick by brick. But today, all mainstream politicians have been rendered irrelevant," Karra, one of the closest aides of PDP founder, the late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, told IANS in a telephonic interview from Srinagar.
"And blame this unholy, unethical and unacceptable alliance between the PDP and BJP for that. The PDP betrayed the electorate because the votes were sought to keep the BJP out of power. This alliance laid the ground for the discontent and anger that you see on the streets of the Kashmir Valley today."
Karra resigned from the party and quit his Lok Sabha seat on Thursday. Elected from Srinagar, he was the urban face of the PDP, a party that has its bastions in the rural areas, particularly in south Kashmir.
"The seeds were sown on that very particular day when the alliance was cobbled together. Later on, misgovernance and the irresponsible, egoistic and arrogant attitude of the people at the helm fuelled the anger. The Burhan Wani episode was only a trigger," he said, referring to the July 8 killing of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander.
The militant's death triggered an unprecedented and seemingly unending crisis in the Kashmir Valley that has resulted in nearly 90 deaths and over 12,000 injured in almost two-and-a-half months of unrest.
Karra said the "daily killings and unabated bloodshed" were like "an undeclared war against the Kashmiris by the government of India" and that it was being facilitated by the government of Jammu and Kashmir.
So how could the situation be controlled and the violence stopped?
"Stop this mayhem. The perception on the ground today is that the government in Jammu and Kashmir is anti-people. It is facilitating the fascist designs of the BJP-led government of India. The anger may possibly be doused if the state government doesn't remain there. That is a popular view," Karra said.
But he quickly added that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir needed a permanent solution to stop recurring bouts of violence in the state. "I have been vociferously speaking for a permanent settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue. Separatist leaders also advocate this. The goal is resolving the Kashmir issue."
Asked if he was toeing a separatist line, Karra said he still was "a mainstream politician" but "speaking the truth".
"Do I have to be a separatist to speak the truth within the Constitution? One can speak the truth within the Constitution also. And the truth is that the solution to the Kashmir issue is imperative.
"I will look for a solution within the ambit of the Constitution. Even if I say within the ambit of the Constitution that doesn't mean the Constitution cannot be attuned to the wishes of the people. It is not a divine book which cannot be amended. It has been amended hundreds of times. In order to bring peace and save the lives of the people, if the Constitution has to be amended I don't think that would be anti-national."
He said he would carry this message to the people and intelligentsia of India who would put pressure on the government to accept "the fact that the issue is political and needs a political resolution".
"It is not a real estate problem."
He said it was foolish to think that the separatist Hurriyat Conference can be sidelined even if it is true that the present situation in the state is not entirely in its control.
"Not that they don't represent the people. They do. Please understand that they could have played a positive role to turn the things around had you been sincere with them. Thanks to the misdoings of the two governments (in Delhi and Srinagar), today we are in a situation where the Indian face for the Kashmiris is brutally inhuman."
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)