Just when the whole of India was keenly watching the standoff between the Centre and the elected government of Delhi, the Sangh-BJP establishment chose to change gears and shift the spotlight to Kashmir. It has gone for a ceasefire in Delhi while opening a new chapter in Kashmir by pulling out of its power-sharing arrangement with the PDP in the state. The stage is now clearly being set for the next round of big electoral battles.
Some forty months ago when the BJP stitched a post-poll coalition with the PDP – yes, it was a post-poll power-sharing deal between two parties much more disparate than the Congress and the JD(S) in Karnataka – Narendra Modi had described the deal as a historic opportunity to fulfill the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and to take the state to new heights of progress. Today the BJP chooses to pull out by citing ‘increased terrorism and radicalisation’ as the most proximate cause, and holding the PDP responsible for the mess in Kashmir. The BJP’s vocabulary is all about the word ‘opportunity’ with words like ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ remaining conspicuously missing!
What did Modi’s BJP do by way of fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir? Atal Bihari Vajpayee had mooted a paradigm of ‘Kashmiriyat’, ‘jamhuriyat’ and ‘insaniyat’ (Kashmiriness, democracy and humanity) to resolve the long-standing grievances of the people of Kashmir. Modi would have nothing of it! The grievances of Kashmir were all projected as Pakistani conspiracy and propaganda and the ‘aspiration’ was interpreted only in terms of ‘development’ (which like elsewhere in India is more about jumla or hollow rhetoric than any actual delivery in real life)! In other words, the BJP treated the people of Kashmir as the problem (to be contained through repression and cured through ‘development’) and when even Home Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the people of Kashmir for keeping Kashmiriyat alive he became the target of the BJP’s troll army on social media.
The images of the BJP’s rule in Kashmir that will stay with us are all soaked in this militarised approach. We saw a Kashmiri man being tied to the bonnet of an Army jeep and paraded as what the Army called a ‘human shield’ and rewarded the concerned Army Major for this ‘innovation’ in counter-terrorism (it is another matter that the same Major was subsequently charged by a Srinagar hotel for trying to occupy a hotel room with a teenage Kashmiri girl). We saw the whole of Kashmir repeatedly come out on streets crying for justice in the face of the BJP-PDP coalition’s pellet-powered killer rule that has been termed the world’s first case of mass blinding. We saw Kashmiri youth being mowed down under police/paramilitary vehicles. And of course we saw BJP Ministers and MLAs rushing to the support of the rape accused after the horrific Kathua rape and murder incident.
Far from the promised heights of progress, Kashmir today finds itself plumbing the depths of despair and disaster. The anger and alienation of the average Kashmiri has increased manifold and a credible journalist like Shujaat Bukhari who used to capture it in his reports and editorials has also been gunned down. Human rights violations in Kashmir have been extensively documented and now the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also released a report on the situation in Kashmir. By all accounts, Kashmir in June 2018 is much worse off than when the BJP came to power in March 2015. The BJP must not be allowed to get away with the enormous human tragedy and devastation it has engineered in Kashmir.
In the context of Kashmir, it is also instructive to remind ourselves of the BJP’s political arguments in favour of demonetisation. Senior BJP ministers wanted us to believe that stone-pelting in Kashmir was funded by fake big notes injected by Pakistan and that demonetisation had ‘broken the back of terrorism’ in Kashmir. Today when the BJP cites increased terrorism as the main reason for ending its coalition with the PDP, it therefore simultaneously also admits to the failure of demonetisation. The country has listened enough to the BJP narrative on Kashmir and demonetisation. Now that the BJP has ended its disastrous reign in Kashmir, obviously with an eye on the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, it is time for us to listen to the people of Kashmir.
Towards the 2019 elections, as the BJP seeks to intensify and showcase the violence in Kashmir to justify the claim for another term for Modi, we must hold the BJP squarely responsible and accountable for the lion’s share of the deterioration of Kashmir situation. Rather than prolonging Governor’s Rule, let there be fresh elections in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest. While the BJP may smell another ‘historic opportunity’ in making Kashmir a sacrificial goat in its game of throne, it is time for the whole of India to punish the BJP for the all-round devastation and suffering it has caused in Kashmir and across India.