As Narendra Modi led BJP government has close to two months ago, completed its three years in the office, among many of its shenanigans, what mostly comes to fore, is its handling or rather gross mishandling of the sensitive political issue of Jammu and Kashmir and by consequence, an appalling treatment of Kashmiris.
The Sangh Parivar has permeated the issue of Jammu and Kashmir with its own violent and divisive discourse, and has thus led Kashmir into an abyss of violence and instability. The recent deadly attacks on the policemen and Amarnath Yatris, and also the recurrent deaths of civilians during the protests are a grim reminder of this fatal imbroglio.
These were horrific attacks which resulted in the loss of precious lives. Yet what is heartening to see that these incidents were denounced in unequivocal terms by Kashmiris across the political divide.
The reality however remains that Kashmir needs attention and a beginning to end the current vicious cycle of violence before it is too late. According to one of the surveys/analysis carried out by IndiaSpend, in the past one year ending June 30, 2017, Jammu & Kashmir witnessed a 45% rise in militancy-related deaths and a staggering 164% increase in civilian deaths alone. The survey which was also reported by Business Standard further notes that there has been a 42% increase in militancy-related deaths in J&K since the Narendra Modi led BJP came to power in May 2014, compared with the last three years of the second term of the UPA-II. In its 3 years rule, the Sangh Parivar has somehow managed to relate Kashmir with the politics of hate and divisiveness which it enacts in the rest of the country. It has thus put Kashmir and by consequence, the whole country on a perilous path.
The secular, plural ethos of the state which brought J & K naturally closer to India in the exceptional circumstances of 1947 were wedded to certain constitutional and democratic frameworks which laid a foundation and later on, safeguarded the relationship between J&K and the union of India with a strong constitutional basis. Since Sangh Parivar's ideology and politics stands antithetical to all the essential secular and democratic values, it has always made efforts ever since Shyama Prasad Mukerjee's communal sojourn into J & K to scuttle the guiding relationship between J & K and India.
Times may have changed, but Sangh's essential approach vis-a-vis Kashmir remains the same and now that it has got a majority government at the centre, it has become emboldened in leading all kinds of vicious assaults on everything that binds together India and Kashmir. Consequently, a serious situation has been created where it appears that India is fast losing Kashmir and Kashmiris because there has been so much of a distrust and alienation of late.
Currently, the Narendra Modi government and BJP, leaving aside all of its sensitiveness and intricate nature, appear to have made Kashmir as an epicenter of their hyper-jingoistic and fascism strained version of nationalism. They employed it in the recent UP elections to good electoral utility. Even in the recent Delhi Municipal polls, which are usually fought on the plank of civic amenities, there were high octane references by BJP leaders to Kashmir and its conceited cobbling with their imaginary version of nationalism.
Kashmir has certainly become the central thread with which Sangh Parivar is currently weaving its politics of hatred across the country. Read the frequent rants of the leaders of Sangh Parivar whether it is Arun Jaitley (free to do anything in Kashmir), Ram Madhav (everything fair in love and war), Amit Shah (won't enact a dialogue), Subramaniam Swamy (make Kashmiris IDPs), Mohan Bhagwat(plant Saffron ideology in Kashmir) or a Parveen Togadia (Carry out Carpet Bombing in Kashmir), what we infer is that it is only the mantra of venom and utter disregard for republican values and even basic commonsense when it comes to Kashmir. Those of them who advocate sanity and dialogue amidst all this insanity are easily silenced, abused and even labelled as traitors.
In every way, Narendra Modi continues to follow the same line of approach on Kashmir that the broader Sangh Parivar advocates. While he was very prompt in condemning the attack on Yatris, he largely puts up a mischievous silence on the killings of Indian citizens in Kashmir (whether security forces or civilians).
What hurts Kashmir and Kashmiris more is his refusal to even acknowledge the problem as a political one, not to talk about any steps of dialogue and reconciliation to put an end to the senseless violence. Despite the fact that he is holding the most important constitutional post in the country, he is badly failing his responsibilities. And the kind of approach he and his government have adopted vis-à-vis Kashmir and Kashmiris, he is badly damaging the constitutional foundations of our Republic. And as such, all Indians are entitled to make him accountable on this reckoning.
Prior to 2014, many Kashmiris had renounced the path of violence and extremism which had gripped them ever since the dark decade of 1990s in favour of the republican promises that India's democratic polity had to offer.
This was indicated by a large participation of people in the democratic exercises despite the sporadic acts of violence and even the non-commitment shown by the previous central governments in showing any will to resolve the issue. But in today's Kashmir, we are again fast losing all those voices as a general distrust for Indian democracy has crept among them.
The recent by-poll was an example of this general distrust. It is also partly because the antagonists to peace, who are also present in valley and across the border, have capitalized on Sangh Parivar's approach to Kashmir to reinforce their own facet of extremist consciousness. They have managed to portray the idea of India through Sangh Parivar to Kashmiris. In this, they have been generously helped by the Sangh Parivar and the bellicosity of some quarters of the corporate owned electronic media. No surprises that extremism is taking roots in valley and that many youth are taking to gun. More than anyone else, it is the BJP, Sangh Parivar and the frenzied corporate media houses who are playing into the hands of Pakistan, and thereby helping it in the exact ways as it wants them to do. This is one of the more seriously disastrous achievements of the three years rule of Modi government in Kashmir which should worry every Indian. And amidst all this atmosphere of distrust and fear, if someone like Farooq Ahmad Dar of Budgam does dare to trust in democracy and republicanism, he is repaid with betrayal and oppression. Adding to his miseries is the fact that this act of oppression is condoned brazenly by the current ruling dispensation.
One wonders what this signifies for Kashmiris in general and to those specifically who are still holding on to the trust that they have reposed in India? As Modi government continues to brag about its arrogance and belligerence towards Kashmir and Kashmiris, one is reminded of one of the speeches by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah which he made in August 1952 in the State Assembly: The supreme guarantee of our relationship with India is the identity of democratic and secular aspirations, which have guided the people of India as well as those of Jammu and Kashmir in their struggle for emancipation, and before which all constitutional safeguards will take a secondary position...I would like to make it clear that any suggestion of arbitrarily altering this basis of our relationship with India would not only constitute a breach of the spirit and letter of the Constitution, but might invite serious consequences for a harmonious association of our State with India.
The way Farooq Ahmad Dar of Budgam was made a human shield after he had just cast vote amidst all the boycott and fear is a symbolic illustration of how the BJP government is wantonly violating the fundamental human and constitutional rights of Kashmiris.
What is also so specific about Modis three years rule vis-à-vis Kashmir and in consequence, the current tumultuous situation in the valley is that there has been an aggressive invasion of Sangh Parivars violent discourse into its already prevailing imbroglio on which he himself very cleverly puts a veneer with his typical Jumla or crafty but hollow slogans. Modi professes this tactic with much fervor and passion across India and also in Kashmir. On Kashmir, since last 2 years, he has alternated between platitudes like Vikaas ki Oonchayi, Pathar nahi Laptop, Tourism and Development, etal and also a deafening silence. In reality, his approach towards Kashmir's political problem and the suffering of its Kashmiris is one of total apathy and indifference.
In the run up to the 2014 Assembly elections in J&K, the PDP sought votes in the valley to keep a check on the intrusion of rightwing BJP in the state. In one of his rallies at Kishtwar, during the same campaigning, Modi had hit out at J&Ks political parties like PDP and NC calling them exploitative, opportunistic, and highly inefficient ruling dynasties. But then, his party went on to tie up with one of the parties belonging to the same clan of ruling dynasties. In a public rally in late 2015 in Srinagar, Modi, in the presence of late Mufti Syed, reiterated Vajpayees much glorified slogan of Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhoriyat and told the people that coffers and hearts of New Delhi will be opened up for the people of Kashmir. But what the people of Kashmir got in 2016 was blinded eyes and bleeding hearts. What is more hurting is that there has been a refusal to listen to or even acknowledge the miseries of Kashmiris which shows in the BJP leaders frequently talking about the use of muscular policy while refusing to give in on any initiative of dialogue and reconciliation. For them, every dissenting Kashmiri is an enemy of the state notwithstanding the kind of genuine political aspirations her voice of dissent carries.
This is because the party and the ideology that Modi subscribes to have tied their brand of hyper jingoistic nationalism have been or are being increasingly tied to the idea of Republic and that there is no better productive site to enact all this than the valley of Kashmir against the imagined dissenting enemies. It is in consonance with this dangerous schema that the most repressive measures are being viciously administered. And no surprises, Kashmir has been thrown into a vicious cycle of violence, student unrest, failure of local governance, and an ever increasing radicalized militancy in only a short span of two years.
With Kashmir as its key axis, the aggressive grandstanding on the nationalism discourse allows the Sangh Parivar to project itself as the sole custodian of Indian nationhood and identity. Both at Centre and in the state, the BJP is following this dangerous design. Instead of any calm steps of reconciliation, bellicosity has become the new characteristic approach of the leaders of the ruling party.
The aggressive posturing of BJP on valley is exacerbating the already prevalent anger and alienation here which is of course going to bear very adverse consequences. This is already indicated by the unabated intensity of the student protests and an ever increasing number of young boys joining the militancy.
Of late, the anger, alienation and protests have swelled and so has the disproportionate force of the state. In fact, the state is seen commending its own forces for using excessive force to thwart these protests. Those protests which are only meant to express dissent and pleas and cries for political justice.
The situation is deteriorating to the unprecedented levels, and so is the anger of a hurt, humiliated and oppressed populace of Kashmir which is now itself looking for violent outlets to convey its anger when all other ways have been obstructed. And far away from the efforts of redressal and pacification, there is a palpable denial which is dictating the approach of the BJP government as it is now seeing the current problem as being restricted to only three and a half districts in the valley. By this, they are grossly underestimating the brewing dangers in the rest of the valley. As the reports are coming and if the veracity of the videos on the social media is to be believed, even boys from Srinagar city and other parts of Central and North Kashmir are now joining the militancy.
What the current ruling dispensation at the centre needs to understand urgently is that the dissenting Kashmiris only want solution to the political problems according to their aspirations. They indeed desire peace and development but only when it comes with honour and dignity, not with an absence of these. They indeed dont want a repeat of 2008, 2010 or 2016. But they dont want to see New Delhis coffers at the cost of the coffins of their children.
The author is based in Kulgam (South Kashmir), J &K and calls himself a progressive youth activist.