DOST KHAN / ANCHOR
They had not thought in their wildest of dreams what happened this day three years ago. And when it happened, they-the three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir– found themselves locked up in the confines of their homes. Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were placed under house arrest after Home Minister Amit Shah announced on August 5,2019 in Lok Sabha the Centre’s decision to repeal Article 370 and Article 35-A of the Constitution of India besides bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories-Jammu and Kashmir, with legislature and Ladakh, without legislature. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and former J&K Chief Minister had described the announcement like lightning strike.
Ghulam Nabi Azad was not far from the truth. The constitutional amendments actually came as a lightening for the Kashmir mainstream-comprising two dynastic political families, which had been ruling Jammu and Kashmir in turns after the infamous Indira-Sheikh Accord of 1975.
Here it is not to discuss the fallout of Article 370 and Article 35A. What repeal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status actually means in terms of its political and constitutional terms is not to be discussed either. Much has been spoken, debated and written during the past three years on these constitutional amendments and political developments. The point to be brought home here is how Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah outsmarted the pampered, conceit and bullying mainstream leaders of Kashmir, who ruled Jammu and Kashmir by exploiting their brethren in the Valley, discriminating the two important regions of Jammu and Ladakh and more importantly blackmailing and bullying New Delhi for nearly 45 years.
Soon after her resignation as Chief Minister on June 19, 2018, Mehbooba Mufti had taken high moral grandstanding by saying, “We defended Article 370 and Article 35A”, least imagining and anticipating that her ouster was actually the beginning of the realization of the BJP’s dream of having ‘Ek Nishan, Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan’. Those in the Indian opposition criticizing the BJP for entering into alliance with the PDP for lust of power also erred in their analysis as the saffron party used the Muftis party as ladder to achieving their manifesto of over seven decades. The BJP provoked their Chief Minister in coalition so much that Mehbooba Mufti warned on July 29, 2017, despite holding a constitutional position, that if Article 370 or Article 35A were trampled with, there will be nobody in the ‘state’ to hold the Indian Tricolour. She had apparently her last laugh over the BJP ‘kneeling’ down over the issue of Article 35A when Attorney General K K Venugopal informed a bench of Supreme Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar on October 31, 2017 that former Intelligence Bureau Director Dineshwar Sharma had been entrusted with the task to hold talks in his capacity as the Centre’s Special Representative in the State and pleaded that the case with regard to repeal of this law be adjourned for six months. Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, then appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, had supported the stand of the Centre, making the PDP to fix muscles over its victory. Nobody could decipher the code that this move was just to gain the time. Times have proven how patiently the Modi led NDA government proceeded towards realizing its dream political agenda on Kashmir.
The so-called mainstream parties (which can never be mainstreamed because of their duplicity and political inconsistency for lust of power) could not see the writing on the wall when the Jammu and Kashmir government issued an advisory on August 2, 2019, asking tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to curtail their stay in the Valley with immediate effect citing intelligence reports of terror threats. Though nervous and perplexed but confident on the basis of their time tested bullying tactics, the mainstream leaders put Governor Satya Pal Malik on notice to clear the air about what was going on. Even former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah rushed to the Raj Bhavan in the evening only to be assured by the Governor that there was no forward movement over the issues of Article 370 and Article 35A.
Why the Kashmir mainstream was taken aback on August 5, 2019 has a historical background. They had never comprehended any government at the Centre mustering guts to annoy the chosen few leaders, least to make constitutional changes. They were so pampered by the Indian system that they never gave two hoots to them, except when it came to enjoy the loaves of the power. After getting rehabilitated into the power corridors, they would again indulge in browbeat and black mail.
Power has been the only destination for the ‘Kashmir mainstream’ which was why the National Conference delegation led by Farooq Abdullah and comprising its MPs besides Omar Abdullah met Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi on August 1, amid widespread buzz about the constitutional changes, and sought holding of elections expeditiously. “We are satisfied with the meeting,” Omar Abdullah had said after the meeting, little knowing about unexpected to happen just four days after.