The plot in Kashmir is thickening by the day. After extra troop deployment, mysterious government circulars hinting at troubled times ahead, BJP leaders strongly batting for revocation of Article 35A, the Jammu & Kashmir Police issued a note to all its superintendent-level officers to provide list and details of mosques located across the Kashmir Valley. The details sought included the name of the mosque, ideological affiliation, name of the local imam and the management head.
Such developments have given rise to speculations and circulation of rumours that the Centre may attempt to do away with the contentious Article 35A (that defines the permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir which enjoys special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution).
All these trends have the potential of instilling panic and anxiety in a population that have lived for decades with violent and chaotic conditions. Sense of panic is not a novelty in Kashmir. Perpetuated by history, unfulfilled political aspirations, a conflict and chronic distrust of New Delhi, it has been a part and parcel of the Valley’s landscape and politics for years.
The Centre’s flawed policies, often peppered by insensitivity, pursued by successive governments in the last 70 years and the mischievous machinations of vested interests in and outside the state have ensured that the Valley remains in perpetual chaos and panic mode. Under the right-wing BJP, which makes no secret about its pathological contempt for all Kashmiris, this panic has surpassed all previous limits.
Is there truth in the speculations about revocation of Article 35A or further augmenting the military method of dealing with Kashmir? The speculations are based on the recent developments over which the government has failed to clear the mist. Are the successive developments merely coincidental or is there a larger pattern and method in this madness?
While the Union government is maintaining cryptic silence as the Valley is sinking into a deeper morass of chaos and uncertainty, the officials at the local level have ended up confounding the confusion in the name of clarifications.
While J&K police officials have called both the extra-deployment of 10,000 troops and the profiling of mosques as “routine” security drills, explaining that the police maintains records of all religious places and that the extra troops were being sent for replacing the troops already operating in the Valley, reports in the national media, quoting unnamed government sources, linked the movement of troops to Intelligence inputs of a major terrorist attack threat in Kashmir Valley.
The extra troop deployment announcement incidentally came two days after visit of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to Kashmir. On Monday, Vijay Kumar, Advisor to Governor Satya Pal Malik, however, added yet another dimension to the issue, saying that the extra troops were meant for the ongoing Amarnath Yatra. As many as 40,000 extra troops have already been deployed for the two-month long pilgrimage that culminates on August 15, our Independence Day.
Speaking to mediapersons, Kumar almost washed his hands off the matter. He said, “If somebody is causing panic or rumour on social media, then I should not be countering it. What is the source of this rumour? It won’t be proper for me to keep reverting every time.”
Can the government be spared of the onus of responding to rumours? A quick recap of recent events would suggest not. The Valley has been in a tizzy for almost two weeks, starting from Governor Malik’s shocking suggestion to militants to kill corrupt politicians instead of security personnel, a remark he later admitted he shouldn’t have made but made no apology for. BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav on a visit to the Valley said that Article 35A and 370 would have to go lock, stock and barrel. Last week, an RPF official issued a communique to staff to stock ration for at least four months, store drinking water for seven days and fill vehicles fully to deal with the issue of law and order for a long period as there is a “forecast of deteriorating situation” in Kashmir. The letter was widely circulated on the social media, triggering panic. The learned Advisor of the Governor may only have to look within the administrative apparatus to see where the source of rumours lies before trying to shrug off responsibility.
Whether by design or by default, the government has allowed chaos and panic to sink in. Refusing to take responsibility, it is further confounding the confusion, confirming people’s suspicions of a sinister plot.
Would the BJP embark on the dangerous course of tampering with the laws defining the special status of the state, at the risk of intensifying the strife in the Valley as well as creating a constitutional crisis? Does it wish to augment chaos in the Valley to ensure low polling percentage in Assembly elections that it can take advantage of to fulfill its ambition of full majority in Jammu and Kashmir? Or, is it hoping to use Kashmir yet again as a prop with an eye on the forthcoming elections to different state assemblies? Is the government going on an over-drive after US president Donald Trump’s Kashmir mediation remarks?
The sense of deepening mistrust in Kashmir of New Delhi under the BJP can be gauged from two traditional adversaries, PDP and NC, making attempts to create a larger political network to meet the prospective challenges in the light of these fresh development. This is the second time that the two parties have joined hands after they staked claim to government formation last December, unnerving the BJP and prompting the Governor to hastily dissolve the Assembly without any sound logic.
That time, the BJP was putting its weight behind its potential Kashmiri ally, Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference and hoping to cobble up a BJP coalition government by effecting defections from other parties. Lone, however, now appears as clueless and as confused by the BJP as the rest. Last week, he rapped the BJP government of engaging in “dangerous adventurism”.
The Valley’s politics reveals an exceptional response to a situation of uncertainty. That is primarily because the situation is exceptional, beyond the usual abnormality quotient that Kashmir is accustomed to.
(The author is Executive Editor, Kashmir Times)