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Modi’s Kashmir move is biggest test for Indian democracy – and for the silent liberals

BJP is so convinced about the lack of support for its move in Kashmir that it has brought in even more troops to maintain ‘law and order’.

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Kashmir is in lockdown. The special status of Jammu and Kashmir has been ‘scrapped’ as though it were a mere doodle, and not the only semblance of legal fiction that continues to tie India to Kashmir.

To be fair to the Bharatiya Janata Party, this had always been on its agenda. Writing in The Illustrated Weekly of India in June 1993, then-BJP vice-president and spokesperson K.R. Malkani had outlined his party’s solution for the Kashmir problem. Article 370 was “temporary and transitional” and “must go. But it can go only when there is a two-thirds majority for it in Parliament. That is going to take some time. And the BJP would avail of this time to convince everybody, and particularly the Kashmiris, that Article 370 is not good for anybody. It has only acted as a cover for corruption and irresponsibility. Once it is gone, Kashmir will have the same rights and responsibilities as Punjab and Bengal.”

Twenty-six years later, the BJP has the majority in Parliament to push through its solution for the Kashmir problem. But it has convinced no one in Kashmir, not even its erstwhile coalition partner, the People’s Democratic Party, whose leader Mehbooba Mufti is under house arrest. In fact, the BJP is so convinced about the lack of support for its move that it has brought in even more numbers of troops to maintain “law and order” and used the inspired device of shutting down the internet and all phone connectivity.

So monumental is the folly of the BJP that even the discredited Mufti has summoned the courage to call a spade a spade. Speaking to the BBC, she noted that this was to “occupy our land”, “reduce us to a minority and disempower us totally.”

Also read: No debate, no discussion, no dissent, and the Constitution is changed

Not a new day for Kashmiris

Kashmiris who experience daily humiliations at the hands of an extraordinary military deployment would point out that this too has been true for the last thirty years. Their lands – schools, colleges – have been taken over by the military, their bodies have been searched, concertina wires have taken over their pavements, and bunkers overrun their famed gardens. Kashmiris who come to India to study in schools and colleges will also point to the instances they have been harassed, picked up by the police, accused of terrorism, and detained for close to two decades on trumped-up charges. The idea of India as a site of diversity and respect for all religions died three decades ago in Kashmir. The silence of liberals on the situation in Kashmir, who otherwise routinely extol India’s democracy, has been deafening. Speak to Kashmiris and they will tell you they understand too well the meaning of that silence.

Historian Mridu Rai has noted the “resolute commitment” of most Kashmiris to remain non-violent thus far, “in the face of the gravest provocations.” In this, Kashmiris have been following the greatest example and export India has ever produced: Mahatma Gandhi. Yet, it cannot be foretold how this latest abandonment of democratic principles in Kashmir will play out. The strategic deployment of additional troops in the last week suggests that the government expects backlash on a large scale, and, will be more than willing, as usual, to set aside all norms of war to bring peace to Kashmir. “They make a desolation and call it peace,” as Agha Shahid Ali, Kashmir’s most famous poet, once wrote.

In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Edward Luce optimistically prophesies: “Though Narendra Modi … harbours Bonapartist traits, it is hard to imagine he would try to close down the system. It is still harder to see how he would succeed. So ingrained is India’s culture of noisy dissent and sheer pluralism that I would rate democracy as now safer in India than in parts of the West.” And then he adds that the “biggest thing India has going for it is growth.”

Also read: Delimitation could be carried out soon in J&K, seats to go up to 114 from 107

Kashmiriat not part of BJP agenda

What has happened now is that growth has diminished and Modi’s well-known Bonapartist tendencies, helped by the BJP’s longtime agenda, have come to the fore. The ‘scrapping’ of Article 370, without even the fig leaf of a debate, is Indian democracy’s most severe test.

In the conclusion to his 1993 piece, Malkani had suggested that as and when the Kashmir Valley is set up as a state, the language “Kashmiri must be introduced as the medium of instruction and administration…[to] strengthen and revive Kashmiriat and checkmate the appeal and influence of Pakistan.” The BJP of today has no interest in reviving any such idea of Kashmiriat; it only seeks to impose its idea of a Hindu Rashtra on what it imagines is a crushed and hopeless people.

Will the fifth of August be the day that marked the point of no return for Kashmiris’ divorce from India, or will it be the day that India’s hollowed-out liberal opposition finally found its voice? Where’s the evidence for India’s noisy dissent and pluralism?

Neeti Nair is associate professor of history at the University of Virginia and Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Views are personal. Read the article in Hindi here

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  1. Another West based Indian academic who has sold one’s soul to parrot the narrative fostered by their paymasters. Perhaps it would serve her well to listen to this westerner (YouTube link below) whose take might well be derided as a rant by a right wing Islamophobe but would it not put into context the Hinduphobe of the Left? On this occasion the facts as presented by Anne Marie Waters are irrefutable, particularly as regards the reference to Kashmir. As a UK resident I can also say that today the police are uncomfortable treading into parts of UK such as Birmingham, Bradford and Luton where a growing sizeable Muslim population is creating fears of the kind Anne Marie Waters is predicting. This link will elucidate the comments here.

  2. This article really had me in splits after a hellish day. The author must continue writing such hilariously blasphemous articles to keep us entertained. How was this filth even published. Mate, do let us know what you’re smoking.

  3. “Kashmiris come to India to study”?? This sure is hilarious!!
    When we have such “distinguished” Indian intellectuals in our midst, is there any need at all for external enemies like the JeM and LeT? The secular/liberal cabal is enough to destroy the nation.
    Ms. Nair clearly belongs to that tribe of “secular” scholars/academicians who feel increasingly threatened by the resurgent Indian nationalism. Because this group has always had an exclusive monopoly over state patronage and largesse and is unable to come to terms with the loss of its privileges. For them, it is an existential crisis. In the absence of state patronage, their days are numbered.

  4. This historic move will foster peace, stability and development of the region. Cross border terrorism will die its natural death . The real beneficiaries of the action will be common people of J&K. J&K will join in the nationa mainstream and will develop like any other part of the country. J&K will open up with the nation and enjoy the fruits of vibrant and properous new India. This bold, decisive and historic move by a strong leader like NaMo will be blessings for the Country and the people of J&K.

  5. The moment you said Kashmiri come to India you lost my respect for you. Do Bengalis come to India do madrasi come to India , they are in India. So your concept of Kashmir is a separate state and you are just a traitor.

    • You would like to pretend you are a patriot but you call South Indians -all Tamils, Telugus, Kannadigas and Malayalees collectively “madrasis”?’

      We have languages richer than your nomadic language and we don’t speak your Muslim invaded language with Arabic and Persian words.

      • Oh Appa…. Please understand that calling Madarassi is different than calling coming to India is different. No one says from Madaras I came to India when you go to Delhi. Hope you understand English.

  6. I suspect such elitist Authors are in reality hand in glove with Sangh Parivar. Every time they open their mouth, India moves further few inches to the right.

  7. Silent Liberals? Really? The author must be living in People’s Republic of Cuba! Do not please insult us with your stupid observation! As for whether Art 370 was the only semblance of legal fiction of Kashmir’s ties to India, does Ms Nair believe then that it belongs to Pakistan? Fact is that all Princely States became part of post independent India as did J&K. If Nehru had not been so naive and smug all of that Princely State would still be wholly part of India. In fact the special status provisions contained in the Art 370 came much after accession and these were always meant to be transitional. By anyone’s reckoning 70 plus years is transitional enough! The Liberals have had their day ruining India’s prospects. Though they are definitely not silent, Ms Nair, they have earned their right to be so!

  8. Armchair critics sitting in Virginia and being paid by the sahib’s to spout what the girls want..just stay where you are.

  9. Bloody Hell, you live in Virginia and lecture us how how to manage Kashmir. Why not write about the local whites and how they shoot coloured people with their automatic guns or your president who likes to grab women by their p…y!!

    Have you ever been to Kashmir? I have and many times and I assure you that most of them are perhaps the laziest, fattest, traitors you will find living of subsidies which Bharat provides! Why should they have a special status when they contribute nothing but terrorists to Bharat. I salute PM Modi and HM Amit Shah for taking this bold decision and setting things finally right. Oh Yes these Kashmiri’s will try to revolt but they will be put down and peace will return to this valley.

    And again please stick your adopted country and try to suck up to the Goras by writing against Bharat and perhaps they might give you a drink or two

  10. Yes – the move is biggest test of democracy in India, but India would pass out with flying colours, please do not worry about this! India has left going by the dictates of AC drawing room thinkers and critics.
    BJP had to do this and none would have done this if not BJP. And this was required to be done for the greater interest of the country.
    J&K has been made a closed society by the dynast rulers of the state. Had they cared for so-called Kashmiriyat, Kashmir would really have been heaven as a poet famously termed it. But what the special status has given it – illiteracy, poverty, degrowth and terror. The local political class enjoyed the chaos in Kashmir, for it had paid them hugely – in terms of huge authority, power and strength. But this all at the cost of the public.
    This situation is going to change now. Only Shaikhs and Muftis are not the people’s voice there. The public has their own voice too.
    Modi govt did not fear the backlash and deploy additional force there – the govt felt misguidence and incitement by the vested quarters. The people would eventually understand the logic and intent of it. But till then, naturally, govt didn’t want the situation to slip out of it’s hands. Let’s not see dishonesty in everything the govt does.
    Making the union territory would speed up the growth and shun too much of politics. Opening up the space would open up the public to greater liberties and opportunities in conformity with their fellow citizens elsewhere in the country.
    And most importantly, the focus will be on growth and progress only. Terrorism and lawlessness would be handled more firmly as the centre would be directly in command.
    And yes, this remains a major surgery, very severe and sensitive! The success will be observed by all very seriously. Some may even try the other way round too. Govt has to be careful about those elements.
    And let’s not at all go what Mehooba Mufti says the BBC. She is just trying to give this a communal colour. That way Omar Abdullah has given positive statement – telling whatever will happen will happen for good and appealing to maintain calm.
    We should be doing everything to maintain a good order and refraining from misadventure of inciting people in a wrong way. Ultimately, it is always the public who will take the call… But two things are sure – One, this is good for the Kashmiri people at large and two, the democracy will eventually Win!

  11. Neeti, your opinion can be considered seriously only if it was balanced. How come there’s no word about Kashmiri Pandits driven out of their Homeland and becoming a refugee in their own nation? Opposing for the sake of opposing is nothing but the proverbial ostrich head buried in the sand. Charlottesville will be disappointed by the poor erudition here.

  12. If you do not see much Neeti in the goings on, why not come back from the comforts of America and work in India to awaken the Liberal Conscience here?

  13. I still feel the PDP – BJP coalition government, although created in exceptional circumstances, could have scripted a more hopeful outcome. Both within the state and in India’s relationship with Pakistan. Now, of course, a very different path is opening up. May there still be place for statesmanship and reconciliation.

  14. I never got it what the so called liberals want to achieve by indulging in most illiberal propaganda against Modi, RSS and Hindus in general. I found them most dishonest and unidirectional people whose madness have no bounds. Just like Indian secularism has been reduced to mean being pro-Muslims, liberalism is India has been reduced to mean anti-Hindus particularly anti-Modi and anti-RSS. What genetic changes the Indian liberals have gone through that they hate the saffron color, they have extreme dislike of Hindu Sadhus and Sants. It’s so interesting that these liberals want everybody else to accept their dictates and worship their hollow intellectualism but they will not even listen to others view points.

  15. don’t worry, the country is in safe hands,, both Kashmir and country will benefit from it…lets keep faith in the govt who all are doing it for the betterment of one and assured!

  16. One of the important things to remember is that Article 370 isn’t acceptable to Kashmiris in the valley either. Many in the valley want outright succession. So, this move is as much a repudiation of the three mainstream parties in the valley: PDP, NC and Congress, as they have lost the support of the people. Separatists want succession, Pakistan wants conquest, and JNU (types) want destruction of India. So, there is no real constituency that truly supports Article 370.

  17. Big news to learn liberals are or have been “silent”.
    Typical fascist liberal propaganda. Self described “liberals” have been very vocal, nasty fascists who have written and spoken loud and clear in the media and the parliament and have been nothing but “silent”.

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