Every Indian would want peace in Jammu and Kashmir but every one may not know how to go about it. Not many even in the NDA Government that Narendra Modi leads seem to have any clue on what it wants in J&K.
There is no argument that India has to stop cross-border terrorism from Pakistan. There is no question of India seceding J&K to become independent either. But there is no way India can maintain peace in J&K without winning the confidence of the people there.
India’s tried and tested J&K policy has been to discourage secessionism, terminate terrorism and allow democracy to gain roots. It has been one of the most arduous tasks and no political party, national or regional, has worked sincerely enough to achieve these goals. While corruption has led the people of the state to lose faith in political leaders, they are even more fed up with secessionists and their masters in Pakistan who send terrorists in droves to kill and maim their own.
Since the assembly elections of 1996, the Central Government has been trying patiently to help the people of J&K to regain their faith in democracy. From Deve Gowda to Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh have all been involved in the venture. However, traditional wisdom seems to have made way for foolish implementation of rhetorical whims on the state since Narendra Modi assumed office as PM.
Questions are still being asked as to whether Burhan Wani could have been arrested instead of being killed. It is not anyone’s contention that he was not a terrorist. But he was a local and had managed to win the sympathy of several youth in his state. His elimination triggered a massive protest in J&K that only helped forces inimical to India.
Instead of tactfully subduing the protests, the Modi Government flexed its muscles and sent forces to use pellets to counter stone-pelters. Diplomatically, India blew hot and cold: Modi arrived for an unscheduled visit in Pakistan while taking credit at election rallies for the Army’s routine strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. After assembly elections in J&K, the BJP lend support to a PDP Government, only to pull it down now.
There does not appear to be a method in the Government's moves. The Centre’s Kashmir policy looks similar to the daily rules made, changed and withdrawn during demonetisation. India’s National Security Advisor claims to be an ‘ex-spy’ but spent his hey days guarding the Indian embassy in Islamabad. If a ‘guard’ could be NSA, any bank clerk could aspire to become the RBI Governor. With the fall of a democratically-elected Government in J&K, the BJP can be expected to blame the national Opposition and Pakistani in the same breath, with ample help from news channels, in the hope of reaping electoral dividends nationwide. However, it will turn the clock back in J&K.
Not Magnetic Poles
Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was the political guru of Ghulam Nabi Azad. By the time, he became the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 2005, by forcing Sayeed to step down from the post, Azad had proved that he was a politician par excellence who could teach his guru a few lessons on how to read the cards right.
But even Azad would not have expected Sayeed to take the most foolish step of his life in 2015, when he decided to form a coalition government with the BJP in J&K. Sympathisers of his People’s Democratic Party contended that Sayeed had no choice but align with the BJP if the party had to remain politically relevant, as it was out of power for 10 years by then.
However, those who supported this theory may have realised their folly now. When he aligned with the BJP, Mufti called it the “coming together of north pole and south pole.” Less than 10 months after challenging the basics of geography, Sayeed died, weighed down by the pressures of governing inarguably India’s most difficult state along with a party that always held impractical notions about Jammu and Kashmir and its role in secular India.
His daughter could have walked away from continuing the alliance, but Mehbooba Mufti’s reflexes were guided by the gains that main rival, the National Conference, could make if the PDP refused to continue the alliance with the BJP. It was debatable if the NC would have aligned with the BJP, after having learnt lessons from being its ally during the NDA stint of Vajpayee at the Centre and given Omar Abdullah’s personal rapport with Congress President Rahul Gandhi. However, politicians are also known to forget about tomorrow when the fishes and loaves of office lure them today.
With the primary task of the state government in J&K is to win over the people and make them put their faith in India and the constitutional promises the nation made via the Instrument of Accession in 1947, any half-baked politician should, nevertheless, have known that Narendra Modi’s BJP could never be a coalition partner for any party that plans to govern Kashmir. That the PDP-BJP coalition lasted more than three years is a wonder then. But the cost that the nation may have to pay for the messy situation that has enveloped J&K would take much lesser time to be known.
BJP B Team Is Back
Last weekend saw Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal gaining support of prominent non-Congress Opposition parties in his stir against the Centre. Kejriwal, thereafter, left for his annual retreat to Bengaluru. No Opposition leader made it clear whether they believed if a CM can hold an agitation inside another Constitutional authority’s premises over a dispute on powers of his Government, which awaits a Supreme Court verdict.
The Congress has, meanwhile, been criticised by some ‘innocent observers’ for not showing ‘Opposition unity’. The Congress remains the biggest challenger for BJP even today, securing more than 19% of votes in the last Lok Sabha polls when it was at its nadir. The percentage of all parties who pledged support to Kejriwal would not add up to half of this. But their sideshow will help BJP again.
The politicians of the ‘third front’ are aware of this but are not bothered if a Dr. Kafeel is arrested for saving lives of children or an Akhlaq is killed for storing mutton in his refrigerator. They are only interested in furthering individual causes.
The Congress is not the answer to all ills the nation faces but Congress administrations have demonstrated professionalism in running the nation and state governments and its politicians have never created constitutional crisis. The best answer to BJP hence is the Congress, not those who split the Opposition.(Published on 25th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 26)