At a time when the political chill besetting Jammu and Kashmir has finally shown some signs of abating, increased surveillance on Kashmiri students studying in different universities in New Delhi in the wake of the pro-Afzal Guru protests at Jawaharlal Nehru University could turn out to be a yet another stumbling block for People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to kick start their alliance.
After a month long impasse, the PDP-BJP alliance was likely to be back on track. Both the parties showed willingness to continue with the coalition that was chalked out by the late Mufti Sayeed before forming the Government in March last year.
So much so that on February 17, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, who played a key role in stitching alliance with PDP, held a close-door meeting with PDP party President Mehbooba Mufti at her Fairview residence in Srinagar to iron out differences over the Government formation in the State.
After the untimely death of Mufti Sayeed, a grieving Mehbooba was expected to step into her father’s shoes. Yet, she refused to continue with the alliance. She demanded from the Centre to take Confidence Building Measures or the CBMs for the region before taking the ties with the rightwing BJP any further.
However, in a conflict ridden State like Jammu and Kashmir, politics often tends to take an ugly turn without warning. Whatever little headway made through back channel efforts to reinstall PDP-BJP Government under Mehbooba Mufti might go waste in case any action is taken against the Kashmiri students on suspicion of taking part in the “anti-national” event.
The separatist hawk Syed Ali Geelani has already threatened to launch a Statewide agitation if Kashmiri professor SAR Geelani who was arrested under sedition charges is not released forthwith and the harassment of the Kashmiri students does not stop. On the call of separatist leaders, the valley observed a complete shutdown on February 27 against the ‘harassment’ of Kashmiri students.
In support of JNU students, some youth in the Valley while clashing with the police came out on the streets carrying banners with “Thank You JNU, Afzal our hero” written on it.
Over the past two weeks, Delhi Police has conducted a numbers of raids in Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in search for 10 persons, in connection with the case of alleged sedition for which JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested.
Sensing trouble, Mehbooba in her one-on-one meeting with Madhav raised concern over the prevailing atmosphere in the country and has reportedly explained to him about such incidents having the potential to disturb the peace in the State.
On February 21, at a membership drive for her party, Mehbooba in order to keep her image intact among the local populace even said that she would not hesitate to go against the tide if it suited the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
She also asked politicians and the media not to pronounce verdict on the students accused of raising anti-national slogans on the JNU campus and asked her party leaders to take up with the Union Home Minister any issues concerning the students from the State in the wake of JNU crisis.
"I request the Government of India to ensure that the situation, which is already bad in Jammu and Kashmir, does not have a negative impact here," she said.
PDP has in the past called the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru a "travesty of justice" and demanded his mortal remains be brought back to Srinagar.
Interestingly, no Kashmiri students who may have been a part of allegedly “anti-national” sloganeering at JNU or Delhi Press Club were arrested.
As per the reports, even as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has begun profiling all the Kashmiris who participated in the demonstrations, BJP had directed Delhi Police to avoid detaining any student from Jammu and Kashmir.
It is believed that the police action against the Kashmiri students could make it harder for the PDP to form the new Government with the BJP.
It is also understood that the PDP is going slow in their secretly held talks with the BJP keeping in view the prevailing atmosphere in the country. Senior PDP leader and former Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu met BJP President Amit Shah and several Union Ministers in New Delhi during past few days as part of ongoing parleys between the former coalition partners.
While Mehbooba is in the Capital to attend the on-going Budget session of Parliament, she is also likely to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in coming few days to finalise the deal vis-a-vis Government formation in the State.