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Amidst mayhem, Mehbooba completes 2 controversies-filled years in office

By Mudassir Kuloo

Srinagar, Apr 03: The PDP-BJP government is going to complete its controversies-hit two years under Mehbooba Mufti on April 4.
Mehbooba took over as the Chief Minister of the state in 2016.
On the eve of the second anniversary of her rise to the throne, the government, or Mehbooba’s party PDP, doesn’t seem to be in the mood to celebrate the occasion, which could come as a reminder of the controversies that overshadowed the coalition’s governance since 2015.
Soon after taking over as the Chief Minister, Mehbooba faced her first test at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar, where non-Kashmiri students engaged in fierce clashes over a cricket match.
The incident became a national issue and the institute needed to be shut for weeks.
The killing of five persons in north Kashmir’s Handwara town during the protests against the alleged molestation of a girl by an army soldier followed.
Strict curfew was imposed in parts of the valley and clampdown on the mobile internet services.
Soon after, a controversy triggered over the government’s proposal to establish Sainik and Pandit colonies.
The implementation of the controversial National Food Security Act (NFSA) was a serious challenge for the PDP-BJP government, which, too, turned into a law and order problem situation in the state.
Mehbooba-led government faced its toughest phase when Hizbul Mujahidin commander Burhan Wani and his two accomplices were killed in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on July 8, 2016.
It sparked one of the biggest uprisings in Kashmir, lasting six months.
Mehbooba earned ridicule by stating at a presser: “Those hit by bullets or pellets had not gone to fetch milk or toffees.”
In September 2016, PDP Srinagar MP and the party’s founder member, Tariq Hameed Karra, left both his Lok Sabha seat and the PDP, terming its alliance with the BJP “unnatural and unethical”.
Mehbooba’s statement also triggered a massive controversy when she called all those demanding abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution “anti-national”.
The BJP slammed her statement, following which the Speaker Kavinder Gupta directed to expunge her remarks from the Assembly records.
The leaders of Mehbooba’s alliance partner also made several remarks on Article 370, human rights violations, internet ban, sparking controversies in the state.
On July 24, 2017, the NIA arrested seven Hurriyat leaders. It has been reported that Chief Minister was not in favour of the crackdown.
“You cannot kill an idea. You cannot jail an idea. Reconciliation and dialogue are the only way. Guns, violence and arrests are not a solution,” she had said.
There have been other Centre-led moves seen as “threatening” J&K’s special status, including the extension of the Goods & Services Tax to the state. The special status of J&K was back in focus when in July last year, the Centre sought a “larger debate” over Article 35A even as the J&K government opposed any challenge to it.
Mehbooba, who even reached out to arch rival Farooq Abdullah of the NC on the matter, warned, “If the special constitutional status of J&K is tampered with, or the Permanent Resident Act (35A) removed, there will be no one to shoulder the Indian flag in the Valley.”
The by-polls of Srinagar parliamentary witnessed only 6.5 percent voting, with killing of several civilians and scores injured by government forces.
Following which, it was decided not to hold by-polls of Anantnag Lok Sabha seat.
The PDP led government faced an embarrassment when the Centre gave award to army Major Leetul Gogoi who used a civilian as a human shield.
The appointment of the Centre’s representative was seen as a big outreach by the BJP to the Mehbooba government.
Although the Centre has limited the scope of what Dineshwar Sharma, a former IB chief, can do — underlining that he is just a “representative of the government and not the interlocutor”.
On January 27 this year, when three civilians were killed in army firing in Shopian, the J&K Police filed an FIR as part of routine practice, which was opposed by the BJP.
On February 14, after a group of people led by a BJP leader took out a protest in favour of an accused Hindu police official in the case, the CM tweeted: “Appalled by the marches & protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. Also horrified by their use of our national flag… this is nothing short of desecration.”
Government also faced criticism when son of a senior PDP leader’s name figured in the list of appointees in Khadi Village Industries Board.
The Chief Minister also dropped Haseeb Drabu from the council of ministers, who was a main architect of the PDP-BJP government.
Just a few days ahead of the completion of two years, 13 militants, four civilians, and three army men were killed in three encounters in south Kashmir; scores of civilians were injured in the protests that are yet to cease.
The government had also failed to hold panchayat and urban local body elections.
Political expert, Professor Rekha Chowdhary said the present dispensation faced a “lot of controversies” since they formed the government.
“It was for the first time when two parties of different ideologues came together and formed the government,” she said.
Opposition National Conference’s General Secretary, Ali Mohammad Sagar, claimed that “no development” took place in the PDP-BJP government.
“The present government did nothing for the state. It gave only bullets, pellets. There is no end of killings. Their Agenda of Alliance has remained confined to papers only,” Sagar said.
“What the PDP-BJP did for youth of the state? What about releasing of political prisoners? This government disappointed the people of the state.”
Senior Congress leader, G N Monga said that PDP-BJP government had “failed” on all fronts.
“Killings continue. There is no development on the ground. There has to be a dialogue to address issues,” Monga said.
While the alliance partners claimed that a “lot of good things” were done in the PDP-BJP government.
BJP State Spokesperson, Arun Kumar Gupta said that alliance was running as per its ‘Agenda of Alliance’.
“The state has witnessed a huge development in past few years, which cannot be compared with 60-years rule,” Gupta said.
The development, he said was “visible everywhere”.
“Bridges, hospitals, educational institutions, are being building up in all three regions of the state. Execution of development works has been started but will take time to get the things done,” he added.
PDP spokesperson, Rafi Ahmad Mir, said that Mehbooba herself remained available to general public.
“She held meetings in districts and also monitored the works,” Mir said.
“There has been huge development by construction of new roads, macdamisation, new schools, and educational institutions infrastructure has been upgraded,” he said.
He said the government provided a lot of job opportunities to unemployed youth of the state.
On dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat, he said that state “could not do much due to unfavourable situation”.
“Interlocutor has been appointed by the Centre and amnesty has been announced to 10,000 stone pelters. But the killings that took place are very unfortunate,” he said.
He said that Chief Minister did not succumb to the pressure on Kuthua incident from her alliance partner for handing over case to the CBI.
“She stood firm and said that case should be investigated thoroughly,” he said, “There will be no celebration on completion of two-year-rule of Mehbooba. If you do something for people, it is the biggest celebration.”