Till just a month ago, she would be called "the soft separatist".
In the last couple of days, however, CM Mehbooba Mufti has seized that enduring epithet by the neck, severed it in a flash, and has thrown it, at least for now it seems, into the blood-caked bin of Kashmir's history.
She has said what no CM from the state has perhaps said so unequivocally, openly, and brutally.
That only five per cent incite violence in J&K. That these five per cent troublemakers are anti-national. And that children are not sent to Army camps despite a curfew to buy toffees or get milk.
And unlike her predecessors who would come to Delhi and say something pleasing for rest of India only to return to Srinagar and flirt with the puppets of Pakistan, Mehbooba took on the separatists and their masters right there in the Valley.
She even defiantly took on the local media, which has often been accused of running the separatists' narrative and muting the voice of the state's silent peace-loving majority.
We are seeing the wrath of a betrayed, wounded woman. She has always been supportive of the separatists' point of view.
She had expected them to stand by her, especially when a confirmed, dreaded Hizbul terrorist has been killed, not an innocent man in a fake encounter.
But separatists, buoyed by a cornered Pakistan which sees a final hope in a convulsing Kashmir, stabbed her in the back.
They gave ammunition to her political rivals, the Abdullahs. It is true that Mehbooba has a paucity of options.
|Perhaps this is the Kashmir moment. (PTI)|
The BJP won't compromise its nationalism plank beyond a point. And if that makes her government fall, Omar Abdullah, currently goodwill hunting in Kashmir's blood streets, may return to power.
The BJP does not stand to lose anything in Kashmir. It only stands to gain in Jammu and the rest of the country by exhibiting toughness.
But Mehbooba - like a J Jayalalithaa or Mamata Banerjee - is not a woman who would meekly submit to political expediencies.
She is genuinely furious with those she feels have betrayed her.
Also, for that "five per cent" she would not want to lose the others who voted for development of the state.
Time to back CM
This is the time to back her, and not subject her to the 9pm inquisition either with drumbeats of macho nationalism or by playing Pakistan's tune.
Our parties must also speak as one nation now.
Media often inadvertently projects it as Kashmiris versus Indians.
It could not be more ironic; especially when we believe Kashmir is civilisationally, umbilically India and Kashmiris are Indians.
Perhaps this is the Kashmir moment. A terrorist's killing and the ensuing violence have exposed Pakistan's hand and that the violent struggle is more about jihad than Kashmiriyat.
India has perhaps never had a CM in Srinagar who spoke so fiercely in the nation's voice.
And Pakistan lay exposed in its own home by raging freedom struggles and terrible state repression, especially in Balochistan and POK.
It is winning no friends in neighbouring Afghanistan either, credited with fomenting bloodshed and instability there.
Also, for the first time, the Narendra Modi-led Centre has kept separatists out of any talk of plan on Kashmir, squeezing their political space.
It is time to completely isolate the tiny section hell-bent on creating trouble, take the cameras off them and starve them of attention, begin scripting a new narrative of development, and let the snow heal.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)