by Tahir Mustafa (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 1, Rajab, 1441)
With Indian occupied Kashmir under total lockdown since August 5, 2019 and thousands of people incarcerated including the entire political leadership in Kashmir, political activity has also come to a standstill. Schools, colleges and courts are also not functioning. The Modi regime in Delhi claims the situation in Kashmir is returning to normal but fact on the ground belie such claims.
India’s former Kashmiri collaborators—the Abdullahs and Muftis—are also behind bars or under house arrest. Thus, there are no political figures to talk to. India must, therefore, seek new puppets to advance its policy of colonization.
Enter Muzaffar Baig, the former deputy leader and patron of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) headed by Mehbooba Mufti. Although she had collaborated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in forming a coalition government in Indian occupied Kashmir, she was booted out of office in June 2018. The BJP engineered her ouster by pulling out of the three-year-old alliance. This was the first time that the BJP had got a foothold in Indian occupied Kashmir.
A lawyer by profession, Baig floated the idea of autonomy and claimed that the political discourse in Kashmir had changed and people no longer wanted independence. How he came to this conclusion when the entire eight million population in Kashmir is under lockdown is not clear. He tried to pass a resolution in the PDP Jammu office on January 30 but local party leaders rejected his bid.
“PDP sources said Mr. Baig’s move to pass a resolution at the party headquarters in Jammu was scuttled by the local leaders on January 30. Mr. Baig was planning on passing a resolution calling for the restoration of Statehood and seeking Constitutional guarantees on land and jobs as under Article 371 (sic. It should be Article 370). However, no senior PDP leader in Jammu agreed to attend the meeting, The Hindu reported on January 30.
India had already groomed Baig by conferring on him the Badma Bhushan award—the third highest civilian award in India. Even Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah, the best-known Kashmiri leader, was not considered worthy of this award. So, what is special about Muzaffar Baig?
He is seen as someone with sufficient political weight to sell India’s illegal act of colonization of Kashmir to the people. Together with Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, he had founded the PDP in 1998 to challenge the Muslim Conference. While he should have inherited the party leadership in 2003, Baig was frustrated in his bid by Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. Mehbooba went door to door in Kashmir shedding crocodile tears for the incarcerated or martyred Kashmiri youth to hoodwink the people into believing she is sincere. Now, Baig seems to have taken his revenge of the Muftis by becoming India’s new poster boy.
But it would be wrong to assume that India would bank on only one individual for its colonial policy in Kashmir. It has also got Haseeb Drabu to join its sinister campaign. He is a former finance minister in the PDP-BJP alliance but resigned from the PDP in December 2018. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Delhi-based India Foundation. This is a think tank with close links to the fascist outfit, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). BJP leaders including Narendra Modi have emerged from this fascist outfit. Drabu is the only ‘Muslim’ in the India Foundation whose Board of Governors also includes Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of the BJP.
And then there is Altaf Bukhari, also a former Finance Minister in the PDP-BJP alliance government in Srinagar. It seems three years of consorting with the BJP has rubbed off on these opportunist politicians that see their interests served by advancing the BJP agenda. For this, they are prepared to sell the Kashmiri people. The situation is not dissimilar to the 1950s when Delhi arrested the veteran Kashmiri leader Shaikh Abdullah for not fully complying with its demands. India found Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad to do its dirty work in Kashmir.
On February 17, India Today TV reported that a new political party would soon be launched in Srinagar. “Speaking to India Today TV over the phone, Altaf Bhukhari (sic) confirmed that a new political party is going to be formed in the coming days which would represent the aspirations of both Jammu and Kashmir regions. ‘Yes, a new political party will be formed. Many leaders from other parties are going to join this party. Young professionals, lawyers, social activists will also be part of our new group. We have formed a committee to draft the constitution of the new party’,” Bukhari was quoted by India Today.
Meanwhile, Kashmir Monitor reported on February 23, that the new party will be called Apni Party. “The draft constitution has entered its final stage and is awaiting approval. We will declare our party anytime as all the formalities have been completed,” Bukhari told the Kashmir Monitor. He has been acting as a busy bee garnering the support of those political leaders that remained silent in the face of Indian illegal acts and thus escaped imprisonment or house arrest.
On February 22, Bukhari met BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav in Gulmarg (IOK), according to the same Kashmir Monitor. The following day Madhav said he wanted the situation in Jammu and Kashmir to become conducive for “normal political activity” to resume. Adjusting their sails to the winds of change, senior Congress leader and former MLA from Bandipora, Usman Majeed resigned from the party to join hands with Bukhari. Others jumping on the BJP-backed Bukhari-led bandwagon include former MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir, and former PDP leaders Dilwar Mir, Javaid Beigh, Noor Muhammad Shiekh, Rafi Ahmad Mir, Abdul Majeed Paddar, and Abdul Raheem Rather.
The ‘third front’ idea was further confirmed when these former MLAs met Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu and envoys of 15 countries including Canada during the latter’s visit to Kashmir in January. Not unexpectedly, Bukhari claims he will work to solve the people’s problems. He also claims that the mainstream parties had failed to solve such problems as unemployment, total lockdown and maintain Occupied Kashmir’s autonomy.
Bukhari and his fellow collaborators plan to do this by becoming tools of the Modi regime in Delhi and sell out their people for a few miserable rupees.