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Silly Point : Outwitting Mufti

SARVANAND is the pen name of an astute Kashmiri Pandit who has been a close observer of the mind games being played out over the decades in Kashmir. He was for long in the Intelligence Bureau and was involved in the manufacture of half the tales spun by the mandarins of North Block.

Long after he retired, he once wrote a masterful analysis of why the Kashmir problem could never be resolved. He proved beyond a shadow of doubt that all the parties to the struggle, in India, Pakistan and the Valley, were vitally and personally interested in an indefinite continuance of the struggle. People remarked that Sarvanand had always been known to be a maverick, but this time around he had really exceeded the outermost limits of forthrightness and was bordering on effrontery. Indeed, he had been brutally frank and had revealed the innermost secrets of the army brass, the ISI, RAW, the separatist lobby, the Panun Kashmir crowd, the Pakistani Rangers, the BSF, the Americans, the Russians, the Afghans, the Chinese… everyone, every blessed one of them.

They all privately admitted that Sarvanand should not have said what he did, but there was no doubt that he was unfortunately right.

He was the editor-in-chief of the premier community journal being brought out from Delhi. The uproar over his editorial was so strident that he had to be removed from his position. So much for freedom of speech and expression!

I recently had a long chat with Sarvanand and wanted to know what he made of the present situation. To my rational mind, Modi had been taken for a ride by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. He had made Modi believe that India could keep Kashmir and hold it too, and that Mufti would help him in this enterprise. I said that Mufti was an old campaigner and Modi a comparative novice, and that although Modi was a shrewd player, this time he had met his match and he was all set to lose.

To my surprise, the usually disenchanted Sarvanand said that he felt in his bones that the Kashmir problem had finally met its ‘master player’. For the first time, the Indian side had a plan. It was somewhat convoluted like a game of chess, where a player had to have the capacity to anticipate the opponents’ 20th move, but there was a plan.

Modi’s opening gambit was the vociferous selling of Mission 44. He launched a blitzkrieg media campaign to assert that the BJP would bag 44 seats in the Assembly. And because he had taken UP by storm against all odds, there was a credible possibility that Mission 44 just might succeed. Delhi had not happened as yet. Modi had a dark suspicion that the results of the Delhi poll might not be as comfortable as in UP. So he delayed the polls in Delhi as much as possible.

This was the first master move. Mufti and the separatist lobby fell into the trap. They outwardly called upon the people to boycott the polls, but their secret call was for 100 per cent turnout. They failed to perceive that Modi had no possibility of achieving Mission 44. He had merely floated a canard so that the voter turnout would be an all-time record. He could then claim (as he later vociferously did) that the common people in the Valley were happy with the Indian Constitution; they had a deep and abiding faith in the electoral process, and thus could be said to have rejected the options of independent Kashmir or Kashmir as a part of Pakistan.

In the second phase, Modi wanted to show Mufti in his “true” colours. Mufti had pretended to be anti-India and pro-Pakistan, but he had negotiated with his arch-enemy, the outrageous emblem of a saffron India, the BJP, for forming a government of sorts in Kashmir. His main strategy should have been to keep the BJP out at all costs. But he wanted to be the Chief Minister and only an alliance with his arch-enemy could place the crown on his head. By starting a long-drawn-out negotiation, Modi was able to demonstrate that Mufti was only interested in his own coronation and as far as he was concerned, the people of Kashmir could go to hell!

Mufti was now in a double fix. His popularity had plummetted to an all-time low. He could have broken off the negotiations and clambered on to the moral high ground. But age was against him and this was probably the last time he would come within striking distance of the crown.

This is where Modi showed his genius as a player, said Sarvanand. Since the day he took over as Prime Minister, he has led Pakistan a merry dance. He was cordial, even effusive, with Nawaz Sharif. He shook hands with him and embraced him; he presented a sari to his mother. And when his guard was down, he stabbed him in the back. He made a great hoo-ha over the Pakistani High Commissioner calling Geelani and party for their annual cup of tea. He cancelled the Foreign Secretary level-talks. He even told the Indian troops to inflict maximum damage on their Pakistani counterparts. Sharif did not know what had hit him.

Come Republic Day and Modi was able to persuade the First Citizen of the US to attend the festivities and not pay the customary call on Islamabad on his return journey. Sharif was now in an absolute tizzy.

IN their disturbed state of mind, all that Mufti and his Pakistani mentors could think of was the strangely incongruous remark that Mufti made minutes after he took the oath of office as chief minister. He expressed thanks to Pakistan and the separatist lobby in the Valley for letting the election process be smoothly conducted.

But the people of Kashmir are not fools. They noted the fact that Mufti had dragged the negotiations on till the BJP conceded the chief ministership to him for all of six years.

Now Mufti was really in a soup. He tried to redeem himself by releasing Masrat Alam and letting Andrabi hoist the Pakistani flag and lead a squad of burqa-clad women in singing the Pakistani national anthem.

But Modi refused to intervene in the matter and thereby put the problem back onto Mufti’s plate. Resultantly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson was forced to concede that the state government’s decisions to arrest Alam and register an FIR against Andrabi were based on the procedure laid down in law, and had not been taken under political pressure from the Centre.

So what is the status today, Sarvanand asks. Today, the PDP comes off as a party prepared to sell Pakistan and its agents if they are allowed to rule the state in peace for six years. And the BJP is the Good Samaritan, only interested in the welfare of the flood-hit people of Kashmir.

Sarvanand is sore at the channels which project the riff-raff separatists as anti-national villains, who deserve to be condemned on prime-time television. Left to himself, Modi would have killed these non-entities not in encounters with the security forces, but just by ignoring them.

What is the endgame that is being played out now, I ask Sarvanand. He has advised me to keep an alert, watchful eye on Modi’s schemes for promoting the welfare of individuals, subsidising the hotel and tourism industry, persuading film units to recreate the magic of the romantic 1960s, rehabilitating the displaced families and distributing munificent largesse to persons devastated by natural calamities and so on. He is just waiting for the Durbar move, when the government shifts to Srinagar, says Sarvanand.

That will be the time for the final moves and checkmate!

MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India

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