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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 12, March 14, 2015

Towards Emotional Integration

Saturday 14 March 2015, by Kuldip Nayar

Power makes strange bedfellows. Mufti Mohmmad Sayeed, who heads the Jammu and Kashmir Government, has joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Yet his victory in the State Assembly elections has been primarily on the plank that he will not allow the BJP to enter the Valley. That he has gone back on the electoral promise is not any different from what leaders of other political parties do.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah sounds churlish when he says that the two had a prior understanding. Yet his surprise over their coalition is shared by the naïve who do not know how the political deals take place. This is, however, the first time that the BJP has entered the Valley as a ruler, without winning any seat there.

The presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the oath-taking ceremony only underlines the jubilation of the BJP over getting a niche. This may turn out to be only wishful thinking. A party with Hindutva on its agenda has little chance of any showing at a place where the population of Muslims is more than 95 per cent.

Mufti can claim that he has won the support of the BJP despite his anti-BJP electoral plank. But in the process he has furrowed deep the differences between the Valley, predominantly populated by the Muslims, and Jammu, having a substantially large Hindu population. His desperation to form the government may have aggravated the divide.

It is not understandable why he stated that the separatists, militants and Pakistan have helped him in letting the elections to be held in the State. Left to them they would not have done so. The separatists boycotted the polls, not to help Mufti, but to underline their stance that the polls under the supervision of the Indian Election Commission were a farce. New Delhi had deployed the security forces in such numbers that the elements trying to disturb the scene would have been crushed. Probably, the militants, depleting in strength, did not want to risk getting crushed.

Pakistan is playing a long-term game. It realises that it cannot take Kashmir from India by force. The two wars have shown this. After the defeat in 1965, the then Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, told me in an interview that they have “learnt the lesson from history” and would not challenge India on Kashmir on the battle-field.

In 1971, the war was confined to Bangladesh. Islamabad did nothing to disturb the Kashmir side although it would have meant opening a second front to divert India’s attention. In any case, the war between the two countries is now ruled out because both are nuclear powers.

However, by mentioning separatists and elements from across the border, Mufti has tried to placate the Valley where pro-Pakistani elements thrive. Similarly, his demand for the return of Afzal Guru’s remains is aimed at placating the Muslims in the Valley. Radicals among them are pushing even the pro-Islamabad line on the plea that Pakistan is essentially a Muslim country.

Mufti’s own election campaign was not bereft of an Islamic streak or the identity politics. Over the years, the Kashmiris’ alienation from India on the one hand and the feeling of helplessness of its population in becoming an independent country on the other has left the field open for the Islamic propagandists. The liberals are depleting in strength literally every day.

The main reason is that the Kashmiris have not yet realised that India would never accept another division in the name of religion since the Hindu majority Jammu would like to either integrate with India or become a Union Territory. But New Delhi would never allow yet another Muslim country on India’s border.

The Kashmiris’ demand for independence is suspect since the general perception is that it is another ploy to join Pakistan ultimately. The separatists’ proximity to Islamabad has deepened the suspicion. India’s cancellation of a meeting between its Foreign Secretary and that of Pakistan may have been an overreaction. Yet it was meant to convey that the nearer Islamabad goes to the separatists, the farther it will be from New Delhi.

There was a time when Yasin Malik was acceptable. But his conduct—hostility instead of opposition—has wound up his lobby in India. He has not only hardened himself but definitely changed the complexion of India-Pakistan friendship which he appeared to champion. Mufti has rightly described the PDP-BJP coalition as historic. But if the coalition remains only a method to share power, the long-term perceptive will be lost.

The end is how the State once again becomes secular as was the case at the time of Sheikh Abdullah. The Hurriyat has disfigured its own image by going too close to the State’s Jamaat-e-Islami. Unfortunately, the Hurriyat is not yet realising the mistakes and persisting in taking a stance which mixes religion with politics. Unless it corrects its course it would not count much in the reconciliation process between India and Pakistan.

The visit of Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to Pakistan was one way of conveying that the cancellation of talks between the Foreign Secretaries was a reaction to the situation prevailing at that time, not a long-term policy. This has become amply clear from the talks that Jaishankar had with his counterpart, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, at Islamabad. The two sides must shed pride and prejudice and sit across the table to take up the long neglected agenda: jihad against poverty. There are, in fact, no other more pressing issues for the two countries than ameliorating the living conditions of the people on both sides.

It is a pity that even after seven decades of independence both are bent on wasting the limited resources at their disposal on buying weapons than spending them usefully in welfare measures. Mufti should associate New Delhi with this cause because he occupies such a position that Modi would pay heed to him. Emotional integration of the people in Jammu and Kashmir is essential not only for development but also for the secular ideology.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com