After failed peace bid, Mehbooba is running out of options

The Kashmir Valley is reeling under the bloodiest unrest it has seen in years and, to nobody’s surprise, the two-day visit of the all-party delegation of parliament members has done little to improve matters.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti now appears to be running out of options in the valley after the failed bid to open talks with separatist leaders, who refused to speak to a section of MPs from the delegation. The already complex crisis in the state may now have become even more complicated.

As is evident, the central government has been unwilling to give legitimacy or extend an olive branch to separatists who have been spearheading the agitation with unending stone-pelting protests, triggered by the July 8 killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.

Mehbooba, a reluctant first woman Chief Minister of the troubled state, had invited separatist leaders for talks with the delegation in her capacity as the president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), if not as the head of an elected government.

The separatist leaders, most of whom are either in jail or detained in houses, rejected the offer outright, saying that talks would be futile unless their set of demands — including demilitarisation of civilian areas and accepting Kashmir as an international dispute — were first met.

These are demands Mehbooba is powerless to fulfill, and the central government is unlikely to acquiesce to.

Political analysts are of the view that the PDP is losing its electoral popularity due to the trail of death and destruction in the aftermath of Wani’s killing.

At least 74 persons, including two policemen, have been killed in the nearly two months of violence. Over 12,000 have been injured. And the worst hit is the south Kashmir region — the political bastion of the PDP — where most of the deaths have occurred in firing by security forces.

Analysts say that, after losing on account of her party’s decreasing popularity, more so in the south, Mehbooba is left with two options now: Crack down harshly on separatists or step down to make way for Governor’s Rule.

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