The Kashmir problem has been solved by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and now there will be peace in the beautiful Valley, or so the BJP wants us to believe.
Removing Article 370 will solve “the Kashmir problem” according to Home Minister Amit Shah. The union territory status is not permanent, he says, the state (minus Ladakh) will have a full state status again once “peace returns”. Peace will return, he is confident, now that the obstacles to peace have been removed. “Article 370 is biggest hurdle to normalcy in the state,” he said, as he moved to abrogate Article 370 Monday.
Articles 370 and 35A “disrupted peace” among the people of Jammu and Kashmir, according to the BJP’s state chief. According to NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, J&K will now have “peace, progress & prosperity”. Aditya Thackeray, who wants to transform his family enterprise Shiv Sena into a centre-Right party, thinks the region has now opened up to the same 3Ps: “peace, progress and prosperity.” AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, desperate to shed his Modi-basher tag, hopes “this will bring peace and development in the state.”
Your land is my land
Anyone who thinks the clown-and-dagger dismantling of Jammu and Kashmir will bring peace to the region is either ill-informed or lying.
When the lockdown is removed and Kashmiris start expressing themselves, we will most likely see them angry about just one thing: 35A. They have long felt India wants to settle Hindus from across the country in their state, thus changing it from a Muslim-majority to a Hindu-majority state. Like China in Tibet and increasingly in Xinjiang (East Turkistan), demographic transformation has been a key tool with which repressive states have put down rebellious populations.
The issue of Article 35A is in court. The J&K state BJP chief said in June that if the Supreme Court were to uphold 35A, the Modi government would annul it with a law. Turns out, they didn’t even wait for the court to decide. Article 370, union territory and the separation of Ladakh are going to matter too, but not so much. Those things are more symbolic, because Article 370 had been made meaningless long ago. New Delhi has been de facto running the state directly since 1948. It is Article 35A that’s going to cause a lot of resentment.
They make mayhem and call it peace
If history is any indicator, this resentment will channelise itself into violence. There will be many more angry Kashmiri youth fighting for their land, for many more generations. More protests that New Delhi will ban with declared and undeclared curfews. The banning of mass protests will lead young Kashmiris to pelt stones. The stone-pelters will easily be shot at and killed. Some will lose lives, some only their eyes. This will make them take up the gun. So, we are in for a new round of cyclical violence in Kashmir, and it’s possibly going to be much worse than the uprisings we have seen.
“There will be repercussions, and we might see an upswing in violence — not only in Kashmir, but just about anywhere,” said A.S. Dulat, former R&AW chief, an old Kashmir hand.
An AFP photo showed a document in Home Minister Amit Shah’s hand in parliament Monday. Among the points in this document was “Possibility of violent disobedience in sections of uniformed personnel.” And they say their move will bring peace.
Anyone who thinks removing 35A is going to bring peace will soon have to eat their words. Pakistan-based jihadis and their masters in Rawalpindi must be very happy at the prospect of further tensions in Kashmir. They will aid and abet the militancy, send in suicide bombers across the Line of Control, especially now that their eyes are going to be off Afghanistan.
The move makes not only Kashmir but the entire region unsafe. It will only give a fillip to terrorism. Obviously, the BJP and the Modi government can also see that. Then why have they made this self-goal?
Against national interest
While rising tensions and terrorism in Kashmir may not be in India’s national interest, they don’t really hurt the BJP. The more the BJP can say ‘look at these bad Muslims’, the more it furthers its Hindutva agenda. The more spectacular terrorist attacks there are, the more India-Pakistan skirmishes there will be. That will only enable the BJP to say “ghar mein ghus ke maara” — the emotion of retribution always handy to cover up for rising unemployment.
In other words, the national interest and the BJP’s interests in Kashmir don’t go together. And the BJP is choosing the BJP’s interests over national interest.
The national interest in Kashmir was to not have discredited Mehbooba Mufti and her party. The national interest in Kashmir was to have held state elections there along with the Lok Sabha elections in May. The national interest in Kashmir was to have carried out a dialogue with the people to make them feel less hostile towards India. The national interest in Kashmir is to let them have 35A, just as there are restrictions on non-state residents buying land in much of the northeast. The national interest in Kashmir was to prevent Indian citizens there from taking up the gun, but the abolition of 35A will make them do just that. The national interest in Kashmir is to reduce the number of soldiers who return home in coffins, not increase the suffering of their families in the name of martyrdom.
This is a bit like demonetisation. It’s going to backfire. Intended to destroy the black economy, demonetisation destroyed the white economy even as the black money owners quietly changed all their currency.
Similarly, instead of bringing peace to Kashmir, the abolition of 35A will only create more violence and mayhem. Perhaps, that is what we want as a nation today.
Views are personal.