Mainstream, VOL LIV No 36, New Delhi, August 27, 2016
The BJP’s impatience is hurting it and the country. In Kashmir it is making enemies dangerously
Sunday 28 August 2016, by
Political lawbreaking of a kind never seen in India before was seen in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh recently. Rioting of a kind never witnessed in Kashmir before is wrecking that State now. These disturbing elements have one common cause: the BJP’s haste in wanting to bring every inch of the country under its uncontested hegemony. Democracy has its ways and means, its checks and balances. But strategists of the ruling dispensation are too impatient to tolerate them. Control of power at the Centre emboldens them to flout constitu-tional obligations with abandon.
Capturing the few States under Congress rule has been a priority for the BJP strategists. If they were sensible enough to bide their time, the Congress itself would have obliged them. In Kerala, for example, it was Congressmen who destroyed the Congress’ hopes of victory. In Karnataka, the Congress is doing everything it can to consummate its demise. Similar Congressisms would have given the BJP a walkover in Uttarakhand and other States as well.
But they couldn’t wait. So they engineered dissensions. When nine Uttarakhand Congress-men went public with their rebellion, the obliging Union Government declared that the Harish Rawat Government had lost its majority and imposed President’s Rule. This was just a day before Rawat was to take a trust vote in the Assembly. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Chief Minister must be given his chance to prove his majority on the floor of the House, the Central Government was forced to with-draw President’s Rule. The exuberance of the Congress’ jubilation equalled the intensity of the BJP’s humiliation.
More ignominious was the BJP’s setback in Arunachal Pradesh. It again took advantage of the fact that MLAs are a purchasable commodity in many parts of the country. With some early trading done, Governor Rajkhowa abandoned all constitutional caution and advanced a session of the State Assembly by nearly a month. This led to shameful incidents in and around the Assembly, the convenient imposition of President’s Rule and then a rebel-Congress Government godfathered by the BJP. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reversed it all. With a new leadership which ended dissidence for the time being, the Congress rode back power. Rajkhowa, his skin thicker no doubt, stays in Raj Bhavan waiting for the next chance to wave his ideological fidelity—and damn the Constitution.
If Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh exhibited the ugliness of manufactured power, Kashmir holds up the tragedy of incompetent power. Much of it is inherited. Unlike other parts of India, Jammu and Kashmir has never known anything but hereditary rule—the Maharajas, then Shaikh Abdullah to Farooq Abdullah to Omar Abdullah and Mufti Mohammed Sayeed to Mehbooba Mufti. None of them, with the exception of Shaikh Saheb, enjoyed genuine popularity or had a vision for
the State. That and the legal protection given to Army brutalities contributed to the State’s history of violence and the rise of anti-Indian sentiments, playing into Pakistan’s perennial plottings.
The BJP’s assumption of power in Delhi made Muslim-dominated Kashmir feel uneasy. This was to be expected in the light of increasing sectarian tensions in the country. A wise leadership in Delhi would have taken note of this and tried to win some goodwill before pushing its political agenda. But the BJP was in too much of a hurry to do anything wise. It
actually moved in the opposite direction. It bullied a patently untalented Mehbooba into collaboration and silence. It must have been taken aback when unprecedented violence broke out following the July 8 killing by the special police of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander incredibly young (22) and incre-dibly popular. The violence this time was led by young people driven by a new fearlessness and believing it their duty to face death fighting the state. The practice till recently was for people to lock up their houses and stay indoors when troops arrived to hunt down militants. Now they come out to throw stones at the troops from dangerously close quarters.
This is the worst of times in Kashmir. The authorities show continued unwisdom in tackling the situation. They use Israeli-style pellet guns which ensure that most of the people who are hit will be blinded. They block cable television, close down newspapers, disable phone services. India’s Home Minister blames Pakistan for the crisis in Kashmir. Actually Pakistan has its job lightened by India’s inability to read the signs. Accepting our mistakes is the first step to solving them. We are in fact adding to our mistakes.