BJP’s ‘flirting’ with Kashmir leaves people in the lurch

A failed alliance with PDP, rampant unemployment in the region, divisive politics, demonetisation, no govt jobs are all the reasons why BJP can take credit for producing the first Kashmiri fidayeen

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Aasha Khosa

Panic in the Valley over the weekend saw people rushing to buy and stockpile kerosene, petrol, food items, medicines and draw cash from ATMs. The air was thick with something terrible being in the offing to avenge the Lethpora (Pulwama) terror strike.

Srinagar-based journalist A A Fayyaz with 25 years of experience, was aghast at this unprecedented phenomenon. He wrote on social media: “I can say that all these rumours - preparations of war, air strikes, and a massive military operation in South Kashmir, relocation of border population, shifting of Divisional commissioner’s office to a hotel, rationing and stocking of essential commodities, abrogation of article 35-A by Supreme court or Presidential order etc. - are unfounded and mere speculations.”

Only this time, all was not a rumour; in the wee hours of February 26, the nation woke up to the news about Indian Air Force had blasted the madrasa-cum- jihadi training center run by JeM chief Azhar Masood where he was raising young men to blow themselves up in the name of religion and go to Kashmir on missions.

The Indian jets also left a trail of destruction around on similar camps. Nation was jubilant for this revenge for years of proxy war by Pakistan against India in Kashmir. However, Kashmiris could not join this celebration, for they realised the gravity of the situation and its impact on the front line population after Pakistan retaliates.

“Why did Kashmir reach a point where a young man became a human bomb and triggered this near war like situation between two nuclear powers?” asked a senior BJP leader from Kashmir not wanting to be identified. Why did Kashmir slip from relative peace in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s regime to the mayhem of the PDP-BJP rule of his daughter and subsequently the direct central rule?

This question is raging in the minds of all in Kashmir. Interestingly, analysts blame the alliance between Peoples’ Democratic Party and Bharatiya Janata Party for bringing Kashmir to such a pass. Ideologically, both the parties are exact opposites of each other – BJP stood for stripping Kashmir of its special power to integrate it with India and a muscular approach on terrorism; the PDP never made any bones about its Kashmir-first policy, soft approach to terrorism with its slogans of winning hearts and minds of people and its links with especially right wing Kashmiri secessionists, who formed the overground support network for terrorists.

“The two parties made a working arrangement – you mind your business and we mind ours,” said the BJP leader privy to a lot of inside information from the coalition. BJP asked PDP to take care of its core constituency of Kashmir leaving BJP to deal with Jammu. With the result the two parties never worked as a synchronized machine for running the government and people's expectations were not met. At the end of their three-year alliance, the government had not a single scheme or a project to its credit in the state.

Left wing leaders claim the ‘unnatural alliance’ puzzled the youth on the ground, especially in Kashmir where Pakistan’s agents are waiting round the corner to rope in disgruntled elements into terrorist ranks. This is one reason why South Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti’s Lok Sabha constituency, became the hot bed of militancy. In fact, the ground situation in the South had deteriorated to the extent that the Mehbooba government didn’t have courage to hold elections to the Assembly seat fromBijbehara, her home town.

BJP’s anti-Muslim stance in the Hindu-majority Jammu and veiled support to the fringe elements that were carrying out lynching in the name of protecting the cow in other parts of the country added fuel to the fire; the youth of Kashmir felt isolated and further pushed into terrorism, its support groups like stone-throwing brigades and the ‘azadi’ movement.

The rampant unemployment in the BJP rule had its worst impact on Kashmir where the unemployment rate is the highest in the country

The division of work between alliance partners only fecilitated divisive politics. In Jammu, the Hindutva elements raised their head as never before and further accentuating fears of Kashmiris.

“We had thought the BJP wants to make inroads into Kashmir by inviting people like me to join the party and it was an opportunity for an alternative politics,” the said BJP leader told this reporter. However, once inside, he said bad mouthing Kashmiris as atankwadi (terrorists) in the party meetings was a regular feature and I realised that they had no love lost with the people of Kashmir and had tied up with Mehbooba just to be in power.”

BJP’s flirting with Kashmir became a wasted opportunity and only added to people's’ fears when its leaders started raising touchy issues like abrogation of Article 35-A of the Constitution that gives right to the State legislature to confer privileges and rights on permanent citizens of the state and Article 370 of the Constitution. Was there a need for BJP to rake up such issues at a time when Kashmir’s security and political situation remains fragile?

The rampant unemployment in the BJP rule had its worst impact on Kashmir where the unemployment rate is the highest in the country. Lack of industries, decline of government jobs and factors like demonetisation and its quick follow up with a confusing GST regime added to the ranks of jobless in Kashmir. Today, the unemployment rate in Kashmir is about 40%!

Did BJP have any different policy on tackling terrorism than the previous regimes? Analysts feel the counter insurgency strategy had always remained uniform – kill terrorists after giving the local youth ample chance to surrender and rehabilitate those willing to surrender. Pakistan’s isolation on global level was started by the Narsimha Rao-led government when Delhi invited foreign ambassadors to visit Kashmir and see the impact of Pakistan’s proxy war.

The Modi regime too contributed its part in this policy. The only difference is that its leaders spoke too much about it and did chest thumping while previous regimes did it without raising hype. Also, the UPA and Congress regimes continued isolating Pakistan while taking people of Kashmir along; the Modi government could never win the trust of Kashmiris and further isolated them.

BJP’s hype on trivia, harsh task and chest thumping on smaller wins added to the Kashmir’s fear psychosis and helped resurgence of terrorism and attacks like Lethpora, where Pakistan could dissociate itself on the pretext that it was done by a Kashmiri fighting for `azadi.’

With barely two months left for the general election, is BJP using Kashmir, once again, as a prop for raising hyper-nationalism and turning it into votes for the party?

As Pakistan has chosen to retaliate on the very next day of the IAF’s strikes, Indo-Pak tension is likely to escalate. Will this take away peoples’ attention from a bad job situation, Rafael scam, farmers’ plight etc and give Modi and his party a calculated advantage in the coming general election?

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