Kashmir has been pushed to the precipice once again. Democratic process in the state has been suspended with the return of Governor’s Rule in Jammu and Kashmir. The state has not seen peace in the last three decades, courtesy Pakistan.
It needs no reminder that our western neighbour has made it its state policy to engage Indian Army in the Valley in a proxy war that Pakistan has launched since 1989. Pakistan generals introduced gun culture inside the paradise on earth and the Valley has since been a troubled spot. There have been many ups and down in the Valley. Successive Indian governments of various hues have made sincere efforts to mend fences with Pakistan to settle the Kashmir crisis.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous bus journey to Lahore in the year 1999 was the first major attempt to break the Kashmir logjam. Kargil War was Pakistan’s response to the Indian peace move then. Vajpayee was the one who made a second attempt with the Agra summit where he hosted General Parvez Musharraf to resolve the Kashmir tangle through table talks. But the attempt met with a fiasco.
Manmohan Singh followed Vajpayee as the Prime Minister and continued peace talks. His moves were scuttled through the Mumbai terror attack in 2008. Yet, Manmohan Singh continued talks with Pakistan through back channels. Even that did not work while Kashmir kept simmering and Kashmiris kept dying. Enter Narendra Modi in 2014. He began as a dove and hosted his then counterpart Nawaz Sharif at his swearing in ceremony. He even visited Pakistan in the hope of a breakthrough. Modi’s peace moves were met with infiltration inside the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot. Modi retaliated with surgical strikes inside Pakistan while he went into an alliance with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
The BJP-PDP alliance was hailed as a historic opportunity for peace in the Valley. But the BJP’s script for Kashmir was different from what it was made out at the time. Three elements dominated New Delhi’s Kashmir policy since the gunning down of Burhan Wani, the charismatic militant, by security forces in 2016.
First, the Centre adopted a muscular policy in Kashmir. Secondly, the Sangh line of teaching Kashmiri Muslims a lesson was too evident in Kashmir. Thirdly and conclusively, the Doval doctrine was imposed with impunity in the Valley while Hindu sentiments were fanned in the Jammu region. The long and short of it was that Kashmir hurtled from bad to worse and eventually to the worst where the Centre found itself left with no option but to impose Governor’s Rule.
The Army is now in charge of even the day-to-day governance in the state. It has given rise to apprehensions that Narendra Modi may use the Kashmir card to win the 2019 parliamentary election. Modi is known for turning elections into a ‘us versus them’ contest wherein he plays the role of a saviour for ‘us’. Kashmir is an overwhelmingly Muslim majority region wherein a military solution to the rising threat of “separatism’’ could easily moulded into another ‘us versus them’ show wherein Modi turns into a super nationalist who fixes ‘them’ to win the electoral battle.
One hopes the Kashmir narrative does not move in the direction one apprehends. But there are clear indications that Kashmir is fast moving in that direction. Playing the Kashmir card for winning national elections would be the most dangerous course for both the country and Kashmir. Kashmir needs peace. Meddling with Kashmir for electoral gains may help win an election. But such a move will further alienate Kashmir from India, something that will help Pakistan. The Modi Sarkar must keep away from such game plans that weaken India and strengthen Pakistan.