Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam is back in jail. The BJP government at the Centre is calling this a vindication of its ‘zero tolerance policy’ against terrorism and separatism. If this is so, then how did the Mufti Muhammad Sayeed led PDP-BJP government of Jammu and Kasmir get this policy wrong in the first place? It’s decision to backtrack now with both the BJP and Congress upping the ante, only seems to have complicated the situation in the valley with yet another violent strike and shutdown. Sayeed’s liberal outlook on providing democratic space to separatists to woo them away from violence in the Kashmir valley seems irreproachable at first sight. The State Home department had argued that Alam’s detention period under the Public Safety Act had expired and there was no further legal ground to keep him in jail. But then, Alam had been arrested in 2010 for spearheading a bloody agitation in which more than a hundred youths were killed in clashes with security forces. The agitation had died down since then, but the danger was always lurking of another massive flare-up. This seems to have happened now after Alam led a rally supporting senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani in which Pakistani flags were displayed and anti-India slogans shouted. The position of the Mufti government has become indefensible now, making him unpopular with both separatist and mainstream quarters. In fact, Sayeed had been criticised after his win for trying to reach out too soon to Pakistan-based Kashmiri separatists by thanking them for the peaceful elections in the state. Militancy and terrorism, particularly those supported or fomented by other countries, needs to be tackled by long-term, hard-headed strategies in which the gains may be incremental and small. Untrammelled use of state power needs to be avoided, but the administrator wearing his heart on the sleeve will not help either.
Mufti back to square one