‘Eliminating the Unwanted’

How to ‘eliminate the unwanted’ was the point at issue when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Mehbooba Mufti formed an unholy alliance three years back to govern Jammu and Kashmir. The imposition of President’s rule, for the fourth time in a decade, in the ill-fated state of J&K which itself illustrates how unstable the state polity is, means the administration in Srinagar will now be under the complete sway of saffronties—Governor will deliver justice—or injustice—through the centre appointed advisers. The 2014 assembly poll gave a fractured verdict as no party, regional or national, got the chear-cut mandate to rule the most difficult state of India. The alliance of BJP and PDP that delayed the imposition of President’s Rule was in question right from the beginning. That the marriage of inconvenience won’t last long was a foregone conclusion and political speculators were speculating about its timing. That it has managed to police the state for three long years is no less surprising. The alliance was opportunistic in the sense that two parties with differing political and ideological outlooks came together with two opposite goals to reach. While the purpose of BJP was to saffronise the administration to the maximum possible extent and ruin their political rivals from within, PDP however, had limited objective of establishing itself as the major regional outfit by dislodging the National Conference (NC) of the Abdullah family.

Strangely senior Congress spokesperson Ghulam Nabi Azad blamed it on the BJP for committing a ‘Himalayan blunder’ by entering into a coalition government with a regional party like PDP. As per Azad’s prescription regional parties should have been allowed to form an alliance among themselves. But his party—Congress Party—has a kind of permanent understanding to share power with NC whenever the situation in Kashmir compels them to do so. He actually mocked at himself by opining against the idea of alliance between a national party and a regional party. Perhaps he overlooked the Karnataka scenario when he delivered his wise judgement.

The emergence of regional actors in Indian theatre is a peculiar phenomenon. Basically they are bargaining counters—they bargain with the centre to increase the share of loot of the exchequer. Strictly speaking, they are hardly regional because they have representation in parliament—they are regional with extra-regional ambition. If their alliance with national parties at the centre is not questioned, how does it become unethical at the state level is too difficult to be stomached.

The ever-deteriorating law and order issue is cited as the overt reason for BJP to quit. That BJP, being a hard-liner and communal as well in handling the Kashmir unrest with tough measures, was in contradiction with PDP from the day one. Mehbooba’s soft stance towards stone-pelters was not liked by the saffronites. Also, her appeal to the Centre to withdraw the notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) at least partially, fell into deaf ears. Both BJP and PDP have their own agenda to regain lost ground and that stands in the way of normal functioning. It is not known whether governor’s rule is for the remaining period of the term—or for six months only. NC’s demand for early polls without prolonging the President’s rule doesn’t sound that convincing because the main focus is on security which is not disputed by their backer—Congress. On the question of security Mehbooba’s statement immediately after the collapse of her government that ‘muscular security policy won’t work’, tells a lot about how and why the BJP pulled the plug. The BJP has all along been insisting on taking rigid stand against stone-pelters but Mehbooba’s government instead reportedly withdrew 11,000 cases against stone-pelters. BJP’s game plan to dilute Article 370 from within didn’t work despite their strong presence in the coalition. It’s the sole consolation for Mehbooba that she can at least tell her people that she has been able to safeguard Article 370 that guarantees special status to Kashmir and resisted BJP’s pressure. Mehbooba’s allegation that some people, implying saffronites, are treating Kashmir as ‘enemy territory’ may have dangerous implications. In no way this perception is going to improve the ground situation. On the contrary it will alienate the Kashmiris further from what they call mainstream. As bureaucrats who will now rule Kashmir, have no compulsions to win elections—or losing them—‘elimination of the unwanted’ will soon gather full steam.

Meanwhile, army chief General Bipin Rawat asserted that Governor’s rule won’t affect their anti-terror operations as if they were handicapped by Mehbooba’s civilian rule! He heaved a sigh of relief that there won’t be any political interference in their action. It’s simply ludicrous. What hell do they came about civilian rule. The army runs its own parallel administration in its own way. In Kashmir they are armed with AFSPA which gives them impunity. Their action, in most cases illegal, cannot be questioned. They are accountable to none but army. Over the years human rights activists have been talking about army excesses in J&K comparing them with Israel’s army brutalities in Gaza and West Bank. But who is listening?

If any insurgency has popular support, it cannot be defeated by weapons. Americans failed in Vietnam and nearer home how New Delhi cuts a sorry figure in taming the Nagas is known to all. Whether they admit it or not militants in Kashmir have enormous sympathy among ordinary masses. Blaming it on Pakistan all the time doesn’t wash. Nor will tough measures under the Governor’s baton even against stone-pelters, not gun-wielding terrorists deliver.

Vol. 50, No.52, Jul 1 - 7, 2018