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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 29 New Delhi July 7, 2018

BJP’s Pull-out from J&K’s Coalition Government

Monday 9 July 2018, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

The BJP’s political games are writ large in the Kashmir region soon after its pull-out from the PDP-BJP coalition government in J&K. In fact, to go a step backwards, it was more than obvious that the BJP-PDP pairing was more of a mismatch; yet the power-hungry PDP decided not just to form that alliance with the Right-wing but even to go ahead with it, in spite of repeated humiliations that the PDP’s top brass had to face. In fact, the Kashmiris of the Valley hated this alliance and minced no words, stating they had been betrayed by the Muftis, for to ally with the Right-wing was not just wrong but dangerous. Several Kashmiris told me that they had been viewing on their television sets the lynching and killing of Muslims by the Right-wing goon brigades in the various locales of the country and they were also aware of the RSS agenda to somehow intrude right into the Valley and set up their (RSS) educational institutions.

Now it gets obvious that the BJP will use Jammu as its base to polarise and communalise the situation in that entire region. Perhaps, Amit Shah travelled all the way to Jammu last week, to trigger off just that. Not to be overlooked Lal Singh’s warning along the strain that journalists in the Kashmir Valley ought to learn a lesson from Shujaat Bukhari’s murder...they could meet with that same fate... “draw a line or be prepared to meet the same fate”. In fact, this brings me to ask—Why isn’t the BJP’s Jammu-based politician Lal Singh questioned or detained or arrested? Why do we still insist on harping that Shujaat Bhukari’s killers are ‘unknown’ when politicians like Lal Singh are more than throwing about hints of his killers!

And as the communal virus spreads out in an uncontrolled way in that region, the very fate and survival of hundreds would be at the mercy of the likes of Amit Shahs and Lal Singhs. Not to be overlooked is the fate of those trying to survive in the Kashmir Valley. Of course, it is a highly tense situation for the residents. Leaderless they live, with the supposedly elected leaders made redundant overnight and the local Hurriyat leaders either behind bars or under house arrest or simply cordoned off by the Agencies. No, there is no platform from where the aggrieved Kashmiri can cry out the injustices he or she is faced with. No, there is no forum which can demand some level of transparency and accountability in the ongoing killings. No, there are no human rights watchdog groups who can intervene.

Politicians in New Delhi and in the Valley have failed. Their speeches and promises sound fake and hollow. Their agenda unmasked, their double-speak exposed. Perhaps, the politicians never really wanted the much-needed political dialogue to take off. After all, what prevented them from holding a political dialogue and with that settling the situation?

The politicians want the military might to be used. With that, crushed stand not just human structures but also the ‘whys’ to this turmoil in the Valley, to those uncontrollable cries for azaadi! Mind you, barring historians and social scientists and researchers, the rest of India or even the world is not really aware of the basic fact that the State of J&K has its own very distinct history. Facts and relevant factors have been buried and bypassed or perhaps not allowed to come out in the public by vested political interests. As veteran journalist, Ajit Bhattacharjea—who was also the first Indian journalist to report from the Valley in 1947—had told me during the course of an interview: ‘People tend to forget that Jammu and Kashmir cannot be treated like any other State. It acceded to India on October 27, 1947 on the condition of being given internal autonomy. Though Muslims were in a majority, they supported accession and helped Indian troops resist Pakistan. But gradual erosion of the State’s autonomy planted the seeds of alienation. Now, of course, the situation is messed up , so much so what Pakistan couldn’t do in the last so many years, the fascist forces of India have done.’

It’s about time to re-think of using the military and paramilitary to crush the civilian outcry. Political dialogue should get started immediately because only a political solution will settle the mess that has been compounded by rounds of humiliations and brutalities. The ongoing ‘war crimes’ on the civilian population compounds because of the impunity provided to the forces under the AFSPA.

Before I end this column let me detail what the AFSPA drags along—a draconian law which was enacted in 1958 amid the Naga insurgency, it gives powers to the Army and State and Central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents in areas declared as “disturbed” by the Home Ministry....Security forces can “arrest without warrant” a person, who has committed or even “about to commit a cognisable offence” and even on “reasonable suspicion”. It also protects them from legal processes for actions taken under the Act....And it is clamped in areas which are declared ‘disturbed’ by the government ...And if one were to ask what is a ‘disturbed area’ for the government, it is those areas which the government considers so because of ‘differences’ or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities. And with that the government declares the area/region/State ‘disturbed’—Section (3) of the AFSPA empowers the Governor of the State or Union Territory to issue an official notification in The Gazette of India, following which the Centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid....Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.

It is significant to mention that critics point out that the undemocratic act has failed to contain terrorism in those disturbed areas where it is implemented. The Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee was set up in 2005 to review the AFSPA and make recommendations. It recommended that it should be repealed and the Unlawful Activities Protection Act strengthened to fight militancy. However, no steps were taken to repeal or reform the Act.

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