October 31, 2021

J&K: Disillusionment, Hopelessness Created by BJP’s Divisive Policies Bound to Provide Ground for Extremism to Grow

M Y Tarigami

THE recently concluded visit of union home minister Amit Shah, his first since the special status of Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370 was arbitrarily and unconstitutionally revoked in August 2019, has been one more addition to the long list of disillusionments as except rhetoric nothing came out of it. The claims made by Shah that since the abrogation of Article 370 and downgrading of a state with special status into two union territories, there has been progress in J&K, is nothing but a hoax.

The home minister’s visit was preceded by an arrest spree, restrictions, undeclared snapping of internet services in several areas, seizing of thousands of two-wheelers and booking of youth under draconian laws like UAPA and PSA which is instructive of the continuing volatility in the Valley. The several security reviews that Shah presided over during the visit were testimony to the challenges in Kashmir, belying his and other ministers’ assertions that “terrorism ended” on August 5, 2019.

Through a series of restricted public engagements and official functions in Jammu as well as in the Valley, the home minister’s single-minded focus was on reiterating the BJP’s political narrative on Kashmir. Through the visit, he also wanted to hoodwink the people of the country and blow the trumpet of so-called normalcy in Kashmir. But his ‘normalcy narrative’ was punctured already due to the unfortunate civilian killings in the Valley and one of the longest anti-militancy operations in Poonch district of Jammu region, where nine army soldiers, including two officers, have already lost their lives.

The reality is that the claims of the BJP government that August 2019 decisions reduced terror incidents and brought an atmosphere of peace and security in Kashmir are nothing but concocted and fabricated stories. In the last more than two years, the silence of people, achieved by force, is being projected as acceptance of the government’s unconstitutional and arbitrary decisions. But in reality, treating silence by force as acceptance is the biggest mistake.

When the home minister said he had come here to forge friendship with the youth of Kashmir, it was at the same time that hundreds of them were being called to police stations, detained and humiliated by the law enforcing agencies. And on October 26, two FIRs under UAPA were registered against MBBS students of two medical colleges in Srinagar for allegedly celebrating Pakistan's win over India in the ongoing T20 World Cup. Even female MBBS students have not been spared. Is this the model of ‘friendship’ which Amit Shah wants to make with the youth of Kashmir?

The reality is that disillusionment and denial of constitutional and democratic rights to Kashmiris forces them to cheer for Pakistan. After revocation of special status, people in Kashmir have been silenced by force and on Sunday night they gave vent to their anger and frustration.

The BJP government has been flaunting that August 5, 2019 decisions have ushered in a ‘Naya Kashmir’. But the question remains what has this so-called ‘Naya Kashmir’ of the BJP given to the region? By all means civil liberties have been curtailed in ‘Naya Kashmir’ of BJP and media has been gagged, dissenting voices are being silenced with force and government employees are sacked arbitrarily. Can a new Kashmir be built by destroying the real Naya Kashmir which was achieved after a historic struggle and sacrifices against the autocratic rule and feudalism? The highest unemployment rate of 21.6 per cent and staggering inflation rate of 7.39 per cent in J&K belies the claims of the BJP’s ‘growth and development’ in the region post 2019.

J&K has been under central rule since June 2018 and since then the BJP has been trying to systematically delegitimise the mainstream political parties in the region. The home minister fell back on the ‘three families looted and brought ruin to J&K’ trope. Why does he forget that the BJP shared power in J&K and at the centre with the same families at one or the other point of time. Why were those very same families and the parties associated with them considered so important that none other than the prime minister invited them to Delhi for talks in June?

The rhetoric of holding assembly elections in J&K after delimitation and restoration of statehood after that was again repeated by the home minister. The J&K Reorganisation Act-2019, under which the delimitation process is being carried out, has already been challenged in the Supreme Court. It is being widely perceived that the exercise is being carried out to further disempower the people of Kashmir. The question is what is stopping the centre from restoring statehood to J&K for which announcements have been made in the last more than two years within and outside the parliament? The reality is that the prevailing situation in Kashmir has been created by the BJP-RSS combine by design, whose only intention to abolish the constitution of J&K was to change the demography of this historic state.

The J&K administration’s recent order to authorise the district collectors to alienate agricultural land to a non-agriculturist for extending the primary activity on a larger commercial scale, is part of this ploy. Last year also it enacted land laws that opened the region to all comers, liberalised domicile laws, conducted demolition drives in forests, made structural changes in administration that reduce the centrality of Kashmiris, raised new property taxes, opened state resources to outsiders, reduced the retirement age and also the civil service quota for local Indian Administrative Services and Indian Police Service officers in the union territory (UT) from 50 per cent to 33 per cent. An attempt is being made to create a wedge between regions and communities for partisan interests.

The home minister said that 30,000 people got elected as the representatives of the people of Kashmir. But the reality is that J&K is suffering because of denial of democracy which has been a consistent policy of the Indian state which is being followed aggressively by the current regime in Delhi. Since 2014 every attempt has been made to dismantle any remnants of democracy in Kashmir. Shah is still claiming conducting elections for local bodies and panchayats as “victory of democracy.” The fact is that these elected representatives are neither being facilitated to function properly nor are being empowered to serve the people.

It is time that secular democratic forces in the country come forward and unitedly raise their voice in defence of the democratic rights of the people and their legitimate aspirations. The disillusionment and hopelessness created by the nefarious designs of the BJP government among the people of J&K should not get further deepened. It can only provide opportunities for extremism to grow.