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PDP intolerance: Haseeb Drabu’s sacking by CM Mehbooba Mufti reflects Kashmir’s myopic politics

The sacking of Jammu & Kashmir finance minister Haseeb Drabu by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti – for his reported remark at a Delhi event that Kashmir wasn’t a political issue – is unduly harsh. Drabu was speaking at a PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry function aimed at inviting foreign and domestic investors to J&K. He emphasised that Kashmir wasn’t a conflict state and the situation there ought to be looked at as a society-related issue. Given the occasion and context, sacking Drabu for making these remarks smacks of intolerance.

At one level, that there is a political dispute at the heart of Kashmir’s complicated situation is obvious. It manifests itself in the many firings across the LoC, the infiltrations and insurgency in the state, the heavy presence of Indian armed forces. But at another level, harping on the state’s political dispute won’t resolve the dispute. Even apart from the immediate context of Drabu trying, as J&K’s finance minister, to drum up investment for his state, his proposition should be seen as at least arguable and worthy of debate rather than beyond the pale.

To resolve a stalemated dispute it may be necessary to expand the debate and admit plural narratives, and events internal to Kashmir from the expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits to the shutting down of movie theatres may be seen as indicative of a broad social failure, which in turn can be traced to infirmities of local leadership. Realistically speaking, a resolution of the Kashmir dispute may have to await the emergence of a stable leadership and polity in Pakistan, which in all likelihood is a long time to come. But should Kashmir stand still all this while and ignore outstanding issues of social and economic development? Voices arguing for such a perspective should be permitted rather than proscribed.

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