[Editorial Analysis] Mehbooba’s challenge

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Gupkar Declaration
Mains level: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

Context:

• The imprisonment of Mehbooba Mufti, former CM of Jammu and Kashmir, and former MP, on August 5, 2019, the day the Centre ushered in sweeping constitutional changes to the state, has come to an end after 14 months.

• As with other political leaders who have been released, no explanation is forthcoming on the grounds of her arrest, the decision to charge her under PSA, and why those charges have been revoked now.

• There is no explanation for why some political workers are still languishing in prisons.

• In the post-Article 370 Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti’s release presents her with new challenges.

Indirect implication:

• In her first public message, posted on Twitter within hours of her release, she made two points that signal her broad political intent.

• One, she described the changes to Jammu and Kashmir’s special status as “unconstitutional, undemocratic and illegal”, and, without explicitly mentioning Article 370 or statehood, or domicile rules, talked about a people’s struggle to reverse the changes.

• Two, she spoke of the larger Kashmir question for which “thousands have sacrificed their lives” — the question that existed before last year’s changes and that has not disappeared since.

• In this sense, she went beyond the two Gupkar declarations, which commit the six signatories — mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir — to the demand for restoration of the status quo that existed before August 5, 2019.

• A third Gupkar meeting, to be held on Thursday, may bring more clarity.

• But Mufti has indicated that while she will walk the talk with the rest on the Gupkar common cause, her own political plank remains the resolution of the Kashmir issue itself.

• This is where her politics will be located. But the road ahead for her and the PDP will need to be defined.

Facing reality:

• Faced with a shell of the PDP and the newly formed Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, Mufti seems to have realised that she has no time to lose.

• It may be fair to deduce from her release that the government too has come to terms with the reality that there is no alternative but to go to the people, and deal with the outcomes this throws up.

• That is a good sign. It also possibly comes out of the realisation in the Home Ministry that Kashmir needs real politics.

• Militancy in the Valley has shown no sign of disappearing, indications are that it remains an attractive option for youth.

• Farooq Abdullah’s vehement denunciation of Delhi, and his grandstanding on how China might help Kashmir win back special status, has taken the government by surprise.

• Delhi may hope that Mufti might be able to re-channel the mainstream. Mufti herself has kept the door tantalisingly open to all possibilities.

• The first clues could come with the elections in Jammu and Kashmir to 13,000 vacant panchayat seats, which are likely to be held before the end of this year.

Conclusion:

• Mehbooba Mufti’s release is belated and welcome.

• Much depends on how she finds way forward for herself and PDP in Kashmir’s new reality.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the National Council for Science and Technology Communications (NCSTC), consider the following statements:

1. The awards shall be presented at New Delhi at a special ceremony on the 28th February, on National Science Day, every year.

2. The awards are conferred annually and are open to all Indian citizens above 55 years of age as well as to institutions registered in India or created by the Central/ State governments/ Union Territories recommended in writing by a competent authority.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What is the Gupkar Declaration? Why this pact? Also highlights the reason behind the scrapping of Article 370.

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