Testing the BJP’s patience?
Hurriyat Conference leader Masarat Alam, who reportedly organised the anti-India protests of 2010 in Kashmir Valley that saw the death of 112 people, was released from jail on Saturday by the state government amidst much hullabaloo. The order to release Alam came from Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, as part of his decision to release political prisoners against whom there were no criminal charges. The decision to release Alam, who was in detention under the draconian Public Safety Act, has caused much consternation within the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ranks, a key member in the ruling coalition with the PDP. Senior leaders of the BJP have displayed their annoyance at what they deem to be a unilateral decision by the chief minister. This decision follows Sayeed’s statement on his first day in office, where he thanked Pakistan, militants and the Hurriyat for allowing elections to be held in the state. The decision has yet again given us a glimpse of the challenges the new Bharatiya Janata party-Peoples Democratic Party coalition government faces. Critics of the new coalition government have pointed out that the alliance between both political entities may not necessarily be a good one. They believe that the present arrangement will only accentuate the Kashmir-Jammu divide, since governance in the state will be predicated on religious and sectarian identity. Although leaders from both parties are keen to dismiss these claims, members of the BJP’s parent organisation the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have begun to raise some very uncomfortable questions surrounding Mufti’s patriotism. The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, has questioned the BJP’s intention and called its protest an attempt to “befool people”. Key to the ruling coalition’s success, however, will be to maintain peace in the region. For the peace process key stakeholders like the Hurriyat and Pakistan, must be included. It is true that Alam’s hard line view on total independence for Kashmir goes beyond mere sacrilege. No lasting solution for peace in Kashmir, though, will come without taking the likes of Alam along, however uncomfortable the process maybe.