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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 31 New Delhi July 21, 2018

Modi’s Kashmir Policy has brought Disrepute to India

Saturday 21 July 2018

by Tapan Bose

The cynical break-up of the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir by the BJP without any prior notice is a clear evidence of its plans to continue with the policy of “no dialogue” and harsh suppression of all forms of protest. The policy that the Modi Government has been following is a combination of (a) harsh crackdowns on the agitating youth; (b) undermining the initiatives of all mainstream parties; and (c) taking Kashmir out of the India-Pakistan equation. It seems that having the PDP as a partner was cramping its policy of harsh crackdown on the youth, and now having removed the PDP it will give full authority to its security forces for “disciplining Kashmir”.

The Modi Government’s Kashmir policy has brought disrepute to India. Earlier the inter-national community upheld the Indian state’s legitimacy in Jammu and Kashmir as it recognised that elections were held fairly regularly, even under very difficult circumstances and the State was ruled by elected governments. Modi is seeking global legitimacy through its military crackdown on Kashmiris in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism. The Modi Government is unperturbed by the worldwide condemnation of blinding hundreds of Kashmiris through the use of pellet guns, which even Israel does not use, and tying up Kashmiri civilians in front of military vehicles as human shields. Clearly Modi and the RSS have little regard for international reactions. It seems they feel that by buying weapons from Western countries and offering the latter market access, they can buy up the international community’s silence on what it is doing in Kashmir.

This has not worked. The first ever report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan controlled Azaad Kashmir, is a clear proof of that. The Modi Government’s rejection of the report on the ground that it “violated India’s sovereignty” and its refusal to engage in any discussions on the content of the report has not fooled anyone. Reference to the High Commissioner for Human Rights as a Muslim and questioning his motivation has not gone down well with the international community.

The Modi Government’s refusal to engage in any political dialogue with Kashmiri groups and political parties is evidence of the fact that it views all the parties in Kashmir with suspicion. According to Mr Doval, Narendra Modi’s NSA, the objective of state policy is to prevent Kashmiris from getting involved in any kind of political dialogue. They should not be allowed to express their grievances in political terms. The Modi Government believes that the mainstream parties are politicising Kashmiris by encouraging talks on autonomy and self-rule and thus turning the minds of Kashmiris towards political questions. Modi wants to discourage Kashmiris from thinking politically.

All Kashmiris who ask for a political solution of this seventy-year-old dispute are branded as Pakistani agents. Given the social and cultural make-up of the vast majority of BJP supporters, its acceptance of the lynching of mainly of Muslims but also of Dalits by its followers with local police looking the other way is a clear indication that the security forces will be given total freedom in Kashmir. Modi and Shah are looking at elections in 2019 and they seem to have concluded that hardline Hindutva to be a winning strategy in 2019.

Modi has been investing immensely in defence to fulfil his dream of India becoming one of the biggest military powers. In 2017, India became the fifth largest defence spender with a budget of Rs 3.59 lakh crores ($ 53.5 billion). It overtook the United Kingdom. While the share of defence budget in the Central Government’s expenditure has risen to 16.76 per cent of the overall Central Government Budget, the government’s social spending is at the lowest. There is virtually no money for education, health and it cannot even pay the approved minimum wages to the rural workers under the employment guarantee scheme because of lack of funds. It is not just a financial issue. It is a moral and an ethical issue. Should India be spending such huge amounts on defence, when a vast majority of its people are in urgent need for healthcare, education, housing and sustainable employment?

Eminent economist Amartya Sen said that despite being the fastest-growing economy the country has taken a “quantum jump in the wrong direction” since 2014. He also said that due to moving backwards, the country is now the second worst in the region. “Things have gone pretty badly wrong... It has taken a quantum jump in the wrong direction since 2014. We are getting backwards in the fastest-growing economy,”

As we are aware, India’s commitment to secularism had earned global admiration and respect. The fact that India had devised a way of politically and socially empowering its minority communities was appreciated globally. Researchers were trying to understand how a developing country like India, with such mega diversity and a vibrant democracy, could also achieve remarkable economic growth like an authoritarian country like China. India is no longer seen as a vibrant democracy. Several international political commentators have started to compare the state of democracy in India with the growing authoritarianism and Muslim nationalism in Turkey. Narendra Modi is being seen as India’s Erdogan. India is not any more a democratic success story.

Under Modi there has been a huge setback for India’s international standing as a modern country, which promotes the spirit of scientific inquiry. Apart from Modi’s references to Karna and Ganesh supporting the claim that cosmetic surgery and genetic science existed in India thousands of years ago, his government’s aggressive promotion of the so-called Vedic science has raised serious controversies among the scientists within the country and abroad. It has been claimed that internet and satellite communications existed in India during the days of Mahabharata. The government’s obsession with cow urine and dung has puzzled the scientific community and reduced India to an object of mockery.

There is an urgent need for intervention in this critical hour by the mainstream political parties and Indian civil society to dissuade the Modi Government from pursuing such a flawed counterinsurgency strategy which neatly dovetails with the BJP’s goal of polarising India on religious lines. As we are aware, the Kashmiris will continue to resist and pro-BJP sections of the Indian media will continue to represent them as saboteurs inspired by Pakistan while ignoring the shooting of unarmed civilians pushing the region into an up-and-down cycle of civilian uprisings which will be used to periodically whip up Hindu nationalist sentiment. By pulling out of the government in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP is attempting to entrench the image of Muslims as being ungrateful and unreasonable, while looking to Pakistan for support. This is an integral part of the efforts to reinforce the so-called “sentiment of neglect” suffered by the majority Hindus, alongside consolidating the upper-caste vote-bank by isolating the Dalits.

(Courtesy: Countercurrent.org)

Tapan Bose is an independent documentary filmmaker, human rights and peace activist, author and regular contributor leading journals and news magazines in India, Nepal and Pakistan. His award winning documentaries on human rights and democratic issues include An Indian Story (1982) on the blinding of under trial prisoners in Bhagalpur and the nexus between landlord, police and politicians and Beyond Genocide: Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1986). His film Behind the Barricades; Punjab (1993) on the state repression in Punjab, as with the earlier cited films, was banned and after a long legal struggle was shown. His latest film is The Expendable People (2016), a passionate appeal for justice for the tribal peoples of India, cheated, dispossessed, pauperised and criminalised in their forest homes, made to pay the price for extractive development.

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