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Divorce In Srinagar : Marriage Of Convenience

Divorce In Srinagar : Marriage Of Convenience

One good thing about the BJP is that they do everything in the national interest. Three years ago, they formed a government in Jammu and Kashmir in collaboration with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The two parties had nothing in common. Yet, they came together in the national interest. On June 19, they got separated, again, in the national interest.

Remember Prime Minister Narendra Modi sanctioning a surgical strike against Pakistan in the national interest! It was the same Modi who broke protocol and called on the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his residence to enjoy the savouries prepared on the occasion of his daughter’s marriage. 

Another great thing he did in the national interest was to allow a Pakistani intelligence official to visit the Pathankot Air Force centre where some Pakistani terrorists were able to sneak into in one of the worst such attacks. Small wonder that UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath justified the BJP’s break-up with the PDP on the ground that it subserved the national interest.

Governor’s rule has been imposed on the state in the national interest. It’s the fourth time Governor NN Vohra is ruling the state as a plenipotentiary. The BJP’s latter-day trouble-shooter Ram Madhav has said that the party would not indulge in horse-trading in the national interest. Thank goodness that he got some time to deal with J&K as he had been busy in the Northeast sewing up alliances.

We all know how a party which got just two seats in this year’s elections in Meghalaya is now calling the shots in the state. Ram was believed to be the master strategist who made the impossible possible. Why should he forsake the chance of forming a government of his own in the state? All he said was that the BJP would not encourage horse-trading but he did not say that the BJP’s door was closed to the MLAs who wanted to join the party in the national interest.

Otherwise, there was no logic in keeping the Assembly under suspended animation. Ideally, the BJP should have recommended dissolution of the Assembly and holding of immediate elections to let a popular government come into being. One can easily guess what motivated the party to remove Mehbooba Mufti from power.

The BJP has enough financial power to encourage defection and form a government with the support of the defectors. Of course, it would be described as a political strategy adopted in the national interest. Till then, it is Governor’s rule, again, in the national interest!

Three years ago, when the BJP and the PDP formed a government, everyone in the country knew that it was an ill-advised move. This was because there was nothing in common between the two parties. The BJP was able to capture the Hindu votes in the Jammu and Ladakh areas, which the Congress had been traditionally winning.

The PDP won most of the Muslim votes in the Kashmir Valley while the Congress and the National Conference had to be satisfied with the crumbs they received. The BJP had all along been branding the PDP as a pro-separatist party. How could such a party have an alliance with the PDP?

But when it comes to upholding the national interest, the BJP has no such reservations. Remember the Sukh Ram scandal when crores of rupees were found hidden behind the idol in his puja room. The party did not allow any work to happen in Parliament for weeks together because it wanted Ram’s head on a platter! And then what did the party do? Sukh Ram was invited to join the party and his son is now a minister in Himachal Pradesh.

The party is capable of doing such sacrifices in the national interest. The PDP-BJP government was touted as a great achievement. Messages coming from the BJP suggested that things were hunky-dory in the Valley. Every now and then it has been giving the number of militants killed in action. But it never gave the number of policemen and soldiers killed during the same period.

Who has forgotten the hysterical comments made by some BJP leaders, including the present External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, when an Indian soldier’s body was allegedly mutilated by the Pakistanis? Then Defence Minister AK Antony was described as a good-for-nothing Saint.

What Antony did not publicise was that adequate retaliatory action was taken at that time itself. Comparisons are odious. Yet, one is compelled to compare the last four years when the BJP was in power at the Centre and the preceding four years when the UPA was in power. There has been a quantum jump in the number of defence personnel killed during the latter period.

The surgical strike was touted as a great success, as it could destroy the terrorist camps located all long the border. But the number of terrorist incidents in the Valley do not suggest that the surgical strike was a great success. One hears often about the thousands of crores of rupees the Centre had spent in J&K for its development.

This should have Maha-pleased the people but what is the situation on the ground? Shujaat Bukhari, editor of the Rising Kashmir, and one of the most influential journalists in the state was killed along with his security guards right in front of his office in downtown Srinagar. It was a pointer to the total bankruptcy of the security policy the government followed.

One word which is now mentioned often is “muscular”. The dictionary defines the word as “relating to or affecting the muscles” but in the political context in J&K, it has a different meaning. We saw what muscular policy was when a dimwit officer tied a Kashmiri man to the bonnet of his official jeep to challenge the so-called stone-pelters. 

His action generated millions of “likes” on Facebook and sharing on Twitter but it also exposed the Indian Army, though wrongly, as an organisation commanded by men who were no better than the terrorists they tried to hunt down. Some police and army officers have said that Governor’s rule will help them pursue a muscular policy vis-a-vis the militants.

Is shooting at sight part of a muscular policy? Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had mentioned the term Kashmiriyat to explain the basic philosophy of his Kashmir policy. Was it muscular? Perhaps, it was not. Why do they find Governor’s rule better to follow a muscular policy than a popular government?

For the BJP, the villain of the piece in Kashmir is Mehbooba Mufti. Its leaders have been hinting that it was because of providential reasons that she was chosen as Chief Minister. It is as if the BJP felt ashamed of having cohabited with her. It is now pointed out that originally it was her father who was chosen to lead the government and it was his untimely death that forced the BJP to accept her as her father’s successor!

What the BJP leaders forget is that it was she who provided leadership to the PDP at a time when it needed most and brought the party to the position where it is today. In short, she was a leader in her own rights. Now, the BJP admits that it was a mistake to join hands with the PDP. What were the BJP leaders doing as ministers in her Cabinet? Were they all powerless and did everything at her bidding? How farcical it is for the party to claim that they were a group of good-for-nothing legislators!

The PDP-BJP government had everything a government could aspire to have. It had the backing of the Indian Government with its inexhaustible resources in terms of Army, paramilitary and finance. Yet, it was a frail chief minister who allegedly stood in their way!

Mehbooba Mufti has already warned the Centre against treating the Kashmir Valley as if it was an enemy territory and the people some sort of enemies. That is the fundamental failure of the BJP. They should see the Kashmiris as ones who deserve to be treated like good citizens. History bears proof that muscular policies seldom succeed for they are devoid of human values.

Ceasefire is not new to Kashmir. Once I mistakenly wrote that ceasefire was unilaterally declared by India while I was in Pakistan. The next day when the report appeared, a spokesman of the Pakistan government contacted me at the hotel, first praised my report and then said that it was Pakistan which first declared ceasefire with India reciprocating the gesture. The point is that declaration of ceasefire is not something extraordinary.

By claiming that the ceasefire during the Ramzan month went against the interests of the country, the BJP leaders are exposing themselves as bigots. They should tell the world that we are not like Pakistanis and we do not treat our minorities like they treat their minorities. Alas, the BJP’s mindset is the same as that of those who wanted an independent Pakistan as, otherwise, their religion was in danger.

While all the blame for the collapse of the government has been placed at the feet of Mehbooba Mufti, does the BJP realise that it was the unbelievable action of its own ministers that caused greater damage to the government’s credibility. The reference is to the rape of a Muslim girl in the Jammu region.

Everywhere in the world, people would have demanded the severest action against the perpetrators of the rape and murder of the innocent girl. And that too inside a temple! But the BJP ministers were using all the power they had to save the rapists-cum-murderers. They even had the audacity to organise demonstrations against their own police and they are the ones who talk about morality!

Do the Ram Madhavs know how the world would have been watching the ugly spectacle of his ministers defending, of all, rapists and killers? The government is upset that a United Nations human rights report has shown the government in a poor light. We are all upset about it. We can attack those who drafted the report. We can say that they were influenced by the Pakistanis.

Will the world believe us or the UN report? Modi is a globe-trotter. He has been travelling to every nook and cranny in the world and he knows how public opinion matters. That is why he is never tired of speaking at places like Madison Square in New York. But why can’t he know that in these days of instant communication, anything that happens in Kashmir is reported the world over?

Seeing is believing. People the world over see what we do in Kashmir and then they judge us. Our pious platitudes become meaningless when they are not matched by suitable action. There is a distinct possibility that the BJP wants to use the religious card more effectively in the next Lok Sabha elections. Modi’s rhetoric no longer appeals to the people, as was clear in the successive by-elections to the Lok Sabha.

A huge trust deficit stares Modi in the face. Modi’s promises of good governance and development will no longer appeal to the people. It may be tempted to highlight its core agenda in the next elections. And Kashmir is integral to its divisive agenda.

They would project repeal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution as the panacea for all the ills that afflict Jammu and Kashmir. Other such agendas are enactment of a Uniform Civil Code and building up of a magnificent Ram temple at the very spot where the Babri Masjid stood for nearly five centuries.

The people of this country are not foolish enough to be influenced by such rhetoric. They would turn around and ask why the BJP formed a government with a “separatist” party under the very Constitution that has Section 370 as intact as the word “secularism” in its preamble. It is difficult to regain credibility that can easily be lost.

( ajphilip@gmail.com)

(Published on 25th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 26)