Sunday, 23 January, 2022
HomeOpinionDemonetisation, GST, now Kashmir. Modi govt doesn’t think beyond the first step

Demonetisation, GST, now Kashmir. Modi govt doesn’t think beyond the first step

If things get better in Kashmir, give half of the credit to Modi government and the other half to sheer dumb luck.

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If demonetisation and GST implementation are anything to go by, when the Narendra Modi government takes a big transformative decision, it only looks at first order effects, ignoring the far more important second and third order effects that start playing havoc later on. Twenty-three days after Article 370 was abrogated, it is time to ask if the Modi government has lined up the next steps in Kashmir, and if so, then what are they. In many ways, we seem to be experiencing the same disregard for second and third order effects now in Kashmir, with the initial (good) effects of Article 370 abrogation dissipating and tougher dilemmas setting in.

A likely ‘unbalanced’ assembly

Consider first what we can guesstimate based on available evidence. The governance of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will almost certainly be delegated to local councils. The fact that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC) boycotted these elections, which threw up a whole new rung of leadership, means that the new leaders have indeed been identified.

Then there are the 24 seats allotted to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. In the post-delimitation 114-member assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, these 24 seats, which the Modi government has maintained will remain vacant “until the area…ceases to be so occupied and the people residing in that area elect their representatives”, could be given to “nominated members”. That is, if the Modi government is tempted to “nominate” members for these seats, it could identify Pakistani dissidents from those areas.

It seems almost certain that when the delimitation happens, the 90 seats will get split between Jammu and Kashmir (with a possible bias towards Jammu). But this is where the “nominated” members could ensure a marginalisation of the Kashmiri political elites. In effect, political careers of Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are finished; even if they are not, the leaders most certainly will not have any powers. Why?

Because the top administrative level in the Union Territory will be filled by a new Jammu elite supported by “nominated” members from POK. With the lower rung of municipal corporators, which is where all the money-making happens, now closed off – not just to the Muftis and the Abdullahs but also to the Hurriyat leaders – there will be a significant shift in the region’s politics. The former mainstream political elites will no longer be able to sponge off central funds from the top nor raise funds from the bottom.

Seems a bit like Chanakyan genius, doesn’t it? Except it isn’t.

Also read: The sheer folly of Modi govt’s media managers plotting a Kashmir-is-normal story

Dealing a hard hand without thought

This is where the second important wheel in the clog comes in: the role of Indian security forces and the intelligence apparatus that have been incentivised and corrupted by a conflict economy and which never understood the meaning of good governance to begin with.

Consider what has happened so far. In order to keep some 10-100 thousand miscreants at bay, the Modi government has shut the communication network in the whole Valley. As discussed before, this is obviously counterproductive not just in terms of security but also in terms of population management. People may tolerate the restrictions for a while, but at some time, the ban will push them over the edge. Moreover, our forces and the police have never actually understood carrots and sticks: evidenced by the arrest of a doctor, urologist Omar Salim, Monday. By all means, target the stone-pelters, but why arrest a man making a public request? What message does this send?

Worryingly, an anonymous, but clearly well-informed, piece that came out a few days ago seemed to throw light on the extent to which the security apparatus of regime ancien in Kashmir has been compromised; in fact, it is being empowered by the new dispensation. For their part, this same old guard was “cannibalising members of the old corrupt gravy train into the new corrupt gravy train”. The article also proceeded to give the examples of Shah Faesal and Shehla Rashid in addition to several others.

Government supporters would say this is not the case. Their main argument is that unlike the previous counter-insurgency attempts that would be followed by the election of same politicians, the entire ecosystem has been targeted this time: newspapers that used to coordinate stone pelting and tacks according to some; banks that were used for money laundering; mainstream political parties that indulged in corruption in dispensing central governments funds; and the Hurriyat which received money from Pakistan.

They would also contend that unlike 1987, when the opposition felt it had no options and thus turned to terrorism (the Muslim United Front’s Syed Salahuddin who went on to head the Hizbul Mujahideen while the MUF largely became the present-day Hurriyat), the Muftis, the Abdullahs, the Geelanis and the Mirwaizs have been part of the gravy train for so long that despite having no options, they will prefer a cushy life to one of exile and hard work at the behest of a capricious and murderous foreign government. Moreover, this felling of the old leaders has allowed a new crop of leaders to grow.

Also read: Modi govt’s Kashmir crackdown is damaging India’s image abroad

A lacking security apparatus

To a large extent this is true; but just like the central government, this narrative too falls into the same trap, where the Intelligence Bureau and the Jammu and Kashmir police are assumed as straight players that haven’t been incentivised and corrupted by a conflict economy. Even assuming they haven’t been corrupted and accepting that intelligence gathering is by nature a highly amoral, dirty game full of shades of grey, the bureau and the police still need to be reined in, of which there are absolutely no signs. It is pertinent to ask then: under what principle of counter-insurgency or good governance were Shah Faesal and Shehla Rashid detained, under what circumstances were they released, and how was it different from the case of Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, and how is the re-arrest of Shah Faesal justified while Shehla remains loose? At some point, the Modi government needs to introspect.

Be it the counterproductive communications blackout, the arrest of doctor Omar Salim, the unanswered questions of the arbitrary arrest and release and re-arrest of political leaders, and a lackadaisical approach in dealing with the Intelligence Bureau and the Jammu and Kashmir police – one is forced to conclude that the Modi government simply hasn’t thought things through as thoroughly as it should have. Only time will tell if things get better in Kashmir, but if they do, while half of the credit must go to the government, the remaining half should be reserved for sheer dumb luck.

The author is a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. He tweets @iyervval. Views are personal.

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  1. Possibly true. India is a country where things are just statist for decades, the same old social, cultural, economic, political philosophies that just don’t seem to change. Despite being a young country, the same old tired faces occupy politics, business, media, academia, cultural spaces etc. propagating the same old stale beliefs. So maybe sometimes it’s best to do something without getting paralysed by too much analysis. India or the world will definitely not end.

  2. Could you please share which second and third order impacts of GST and DeMon were ignored?
    I think there were carefully considered.
    GST: the council has made several changes to the tax structure taking in inputs, the system is now more robust and the IT backbone is working as it should. All of this unanimous.
    DeMon: notices were sent to those depositing excessive cash. Direct tax collection has gone up by over 60%. And we are by and large a more compliant society than what we were before demon. Biggest impact, property prices has not soared. In fact they have stagnated and that is a good thing.
    You need to study, just a bit, before writing.

  3. A novish approach of the author to a complex issue. All will fall in place as demonetization and GST have. When the intentions are right and efforts are unceasing, the results will be there even if delayed. Modi works with a mission and views from a level which ordinary people like the author can’t even comprehend. It’s too large and tall……better write on something you understand.

  4. It simply exposes the yawning gap between the bureucracy in India and the aam aadmi about whose problems our famed babus are clueless and very few care while those that do are hounded out for not being His Masters Voice.

  5. WE cannot expect the Govt to tell the public in advance how they will face the problems that may crop up.I am sure they would have done enough HOME work and are not fools to presume it will be a cake walk.
    Except Congress no other major political party has opposed the constitutional amendment.Even a strong minority are in favour of the reform.
    Let us wait and see.

    • Going by the implementation of Demonetization and GST, what the author is telling about Kashmir policy looks true..

    • How can you say that the government is not full of fools? Everyday ministers make foolish statements and have made India the laughing stock of the global scientific community.

    • Dear Balagangadharan,
      Just a correction. The matter of article 370 is not a constitutional amendment. Article 370 is an enabling article and it has been provided within the article itself that the application of constitution of India to Kashmir can be extended by the Presidential order with the concurrence of the constituent assembly of J&K. In the absence of assembly, the central parliament assumes the role of the state assembly and acts thereof. That is what happened this time when the whole of constitution of India has been made applicable to J&K. It is the reorganisation of the state that has been brought in as a bill and has been passed with due process.

      While I do not disagree with the matter of taking off the special status of J&K, I fully agree with the article that this administration has repeatedly taken steps without thoroughly considering the wider repercussions.

  6. It appears they have left everything in the hands of the police, just brought in the capf and forgot about civil administration. They should send in a good hundred odd civil servants of various departments to the valley to deal with difficulties of regular life. It can also help avoid any unnecessary use of force or arrests like that doctor. A good administrative team can help build local stake holders against anarchy created by protests.

  7. The author talks of Panchayat Elections which were boycotted by main stream political parties. But he forgets that hardly 5-10% voting took place in valley. Also he forgets that even with 5-10% voting, it was NC which won all Lokh Sabha seats in valley. Leaving aside Hurriyat leadership and militant leadership (who actually enjoy majority of support) it is Mufti and Abdullas with whom Govt of India can talk in valley.
    The author talks of majority of seats in proposed LA belong to jammu province but he seems to forget districts of poonch, rajouri, baderwah, kishtawar & ramban which are part of jammu province. These areas are strictly against abrogation of Article 370. These areas are NC & Congress support areas. In addition, there are many muslim dominated areas of Jammu who are also against abrogation of 370 & are core supporters of NC.
    So in any election which is not rigged by BJP, the govt will me made of NC/PDP + Cong.
    The security forces cant be kept in such high state of alaert in valley and 5 distt of jammu for long . With local police particularly in valley against abrogation of 370, conditions will get worse in days comming.
    Even with being a real superpower, Israel has not been able to control Palestanian areas, it is very difficult if not impossible for Central Govt to control conditions in valley for long. By removing 370, you have made is difficult for Central Govt to install a puppet Govt.

  8. “In order to keep some 10-100 thousand miscreants at bay, the Modi government has shut the communication network in the whole Valley.” This whole assumption that there are only few miscreants is deeply flawed. Whole southern kashmir including parts of Srinagar is Pro-separatist and indulges in creating safe heavens for miscreants. The communication blockade is to gain a firm ground in information control in Kashmir. Mosques act as small epicenters where exchange of info takes place and the narrative of PAK is spread. There is no way u can solve Kashmir until u remove jihadi tendencies from the youth. Jihad in Kashmir is not in the name of “KASHMIRIYAT” but in the name of RADICAL ISLAM. There is no way u can counter that unless u have a firm information control machinery.
    It is very peculiar that author does not talk about the role of Mosques and the friday jummas, because these are the very places where separatism took birth. Who is MIrwaiz, Gillani and many other separatists? They all are ex-Maulvis and Ullemas. U game this whole network and u solve Kashmir. This talks of IB and JKP being corrupt and playing dirty game full of shades of grey are trivial.

    • wish it was so easy and problem of Kashmir would have been solved on Day 1… There is no doubt Pakistan instigates lot of these stuff but to put every blame on them is not fair… Equivalent instigator is Indian Media which has pushed Kashmirs to the wall. Its not only the Godi Media but also WA and FB messages. We may ask Kashmiris to adopt Kashmiriyat but my friend we have forgotten Bhartiyata ourselves.

  9. All valid questions isn’t it? Or there is a much larger game at play ? Fingers crossed. More discussions from other well informed intellectuals are sought please. The controversial anonymous article that this post talks about has an air of “credibility” around it ……… maybe this anonymous author has a far more realistic grip what’s happening in Kashmir as he seems to be based in Kashmir itself ! My point of view.

  10. Mr mitra..u seem to be an authority..on these least u make urself out to b one…well its good…but r u aware of a concept called “known unknowns”?
    monumental decisions bring about tectonic shifts..and one has to adapt and innovate and adjust and create solutions along the process…as the situation changes so will the govt’s thought and action process…even the colossal “samudra manthana” between the devas and asuras …though fecilatated by the GODS themselves …it produced the poison “halhala” ..wc had to b consumed by shiva himself…so there are “many known and many known unknowns” …
    The govt has contingency measures to accomadate these unknowns …

  11. Dismantle what you consider defective, replace it with something demonstrably superior. Ideally, it is the people of Kashmir who should decide if the new Coke tastes better, but even if the interests of 1.3 billion Indians outweigh those of seven million Kashmiris, the new system should be seen by all as a huge improvement. Will more investment flow in, more tourists arrive, more jobs – not the moth eaten 50,000 ones the government will provide, at the cost of the national fisc – materialise. Will alienation disappear, or will it go the next, more lethal level. Will Pakistan back off completely or are the two nation’s edging closer to conflict. I honestly cannot see a new dawn over the Valley.

  12. The country is simply lurching from one disaster to another. Serves Indians right for voting for such persons who only do things for self-aggrandizement.

  13. Modi’s overt reliance on the executive, who cannot see beyond their noses will be India’s downfall. Baboos simply don’t care. They are a privileged ruling class of their own. No accountability will ever be brought to their doorstep. Nothing can touch them. Modi’s acceptance of that status quo is why there will NO legislative changes to the business rules governing the executive and the Judiciary. The current power structure over ordinary citizens will be maintained at all costs. No structural reforms will come. The lowly Indian citizens will continue to suffer the stupidity of the ruling elite. The Chinese and the Pakistanis were never the real enemies. They’re just artificial constructs to keep the senses of an ignorant population occupied. The wily baboos are the true enemies of India and the true democratic way of life. Indians never attained freedom, except they don’t know that this time around.

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