October 10, 2021

Bhagwat in Jammu & Kashmir

THE RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, paid a four-day visit to Jammu recently. This was the first visit by Bhagwat to Jammu & Kashmir after the annulment of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution.  In one sense, this was a triumphant tour  by the RSS chief since it was the Sangh which relentlessly opposed Article 370 and fought for its removal.

The Sangh had, through the Praja Parishad in Jammu, opposed Article 370 and launched an agitation for integrating Jammu into the Indian Union.  Jammu became the redoubt of the RSS and later the BJP. Earlier, the All Jammu and Kashmir Rajiya Hindu Parishad, the forebears of the Jana Sangh had adopted a resolution in May 1947 extending support to the Maharaja of the state, who had the constitutional authority to decide whom to affiliate J&K with of the two domains after Partition. At that time the Maharaja was reluctant to accede to India.

Bhagwat had meetings with intellectuals and supporters of the Sangh, with swayamsevaks and office-bearers of the BJP.  Speaking in the style typical of the Sangh leadership where the actual meaning and intent is left ambiguous,  Bhagwat said that what had changed was the system of governance, referring to the end of special status and the creation of a union territory. He stressed that the old mindset and attitudes have yet to be changed. 

Given the Sangh’s clear understanding that the original state of Jammu & Kashmir should be trifurcated on communal lines, what Bhagwat intended to say was that the administrative decisions need to be buttressed by political and ideological division.

The RSS had, in a resolution in 2002, called for the trifurcation of the state into Jammu, the Valley and Ladakh as separate entities.  The changes brought about in 2019 were a step in this direction.  There are two union territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh now. What Bhagwat intended to say is that the RSS will work to heighten the divide between Jammu & Kashmir, so that it can become two separate entities. This is what is meant by changing the old mindset.

Bhagwat had also come to gauge the growing discontent in Jammu after two years of the end of the special status.  The Jammu people have found that rather than benefitting from the new set-up, they have lost out. Lack of employment opportunities, the threat of influx from outside with the end of domicile provisions and the inadequacies of rule from Delhi have all surfaced. 

The Sangh is very much concerned with ensuring that the end of the special status of J&K gets popular sanction, particularly in Jammu.

Beyond that, Bhagwat was exploring how to expand the RSS shakhas into the Kashmir Valley. The remarks made recently by Bhagwat about Muslims being Bharatiya as they have the same DNA as Hindus, was meant to make the Sangh more acceptable to the Muslims. The actual goal is of “assimilation” of Muslims to the greater Hindu samaj. The very fact that Bhagwat was talking of expanding the shakha network all over J&K indicates the growing ambitions of the Sangh to take the assimilation process forward.

Under central rule, already efforts are on to settle non-Kashmiris in the Valley in the name of ex-servicemen or industrial estates. The domicile rules have been changed. The delimitation exercise being undertaken is expected to bring about changes in the political representation from the Valley in a future assembly. 

With the mainstream parties in the Valley still being repressed, there is not much scope for democratic politics. This has led to extremists resorting to acts of individual violence. The dastardly killings of a 70 year old widely respected Kashmiri pandit pharmacist and a Bihari street vendor in Sringar on October 5 are meant to create a communal divide.

All this spells greater divisiveness and the prospects of destroying the very essence of Jammu & Kashmir. The RSS chief’s visit is an ominous portent of things to come. 

(October 6, 2021)