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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 33 New Delhi August 4, 2018

Kashmir: Compounding the Perfidy

Tuesday 7 August 2018, by Badri Raina

It should be clear by now that in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party signed the Agenda of Alliance with the People’s Democratic Party as a mere ruse to find a foothold in the governmental structure in Jammu and Kashmir.

It may be recalled that at the time there were those, who had cautioned the PDP about the course it had set its heart on. Given the history of the “nationalist” Hindu Rightwing, especially so with respect to the Jammu and Kashmir State, it was nothing more than a tragic leap of wishful faith to think that the BJP would abide by the stipulations in the Agenda of Alliance with regard to entering into any sort of well-meant dialogue with the separatists or with Pakistan. Its Trojan entry always had other purposes in mind.

Be that as it may, in withdrawing from the alliance India’s ruling party has engaged in yet another ruse. Contrarily to its claim that it did so only to facilitate a free hand for the security establishment—there was hardly any dearth of killings of all sorts while the government was in place—the BJP’s canny goal was to break the PDP, draw a required number of its disgruntled legislators into a new alliance in which the BJP would now be the senior partner, and to install one of its leaders from Jammu province as Chief Minister. This prax is, the trust will yield two conjoint results: one to wreck the PDP and dub its rump as a militant-friendly group, and two, to affect a new and decisive shift in the balance of influence as between the two major provinces of the State. That accomplished, the BJP’s calculation is that such a shift would smoothen the assimilation of the State both via legislative measures and a transformed atmospherics in the region. The security apparatus would be trusted to quell old habits in the Kashmir province as they continue to do as we write.

Sadly, the dethroned Chief Executive has helped these moves greatly by the sort of statement she has made in a fit of understandable anguish at the turn of events, providing the wily erstwhile alliance partner to say “we told you so”.

There is, I suggest, a third important reason why the BJP chose to ensure that the Legislative Assembly was not dissolved. However, things might seem on the face on it, the electors in the Jammu province cannot be trusted not to see the BJP’s years in power in the State as a failure and a story of broken aspirations. The grapevine has it that were elections to be called now, the BJP’s tally would be set to fall at least by a half of its present strength.

Given that Governor’s Rule is not likely to make any discernible difference to the situation on the ground, the people of Jammu and Kashmir may be set to see a continuing stalemate without any recourse to representative governance or redress. Admittedly, it can be nobody’s case that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is conducive to fresh elections, but fresh elections are perhaps the only and the best way to clear the debris left behind by the broken alliance and to assign new responsibilities to a new conglomeration of political forces.

If this is agreed, parties like the National Conference, the Indian National Congress and the PDP must now come together to demand that fresh polls be held in the State. We know that unlike some other Governors, N.N. Vohra is not only upright, above board, and hugely knowledgeable about the State and the conjunction of its pulses, but a democrat at heart. It will be a truly lasting contribution on his part to put his weight behind a democratic revival in the State and to preside over its peaceful and fair conclusion.

Here is something the Sangh would do well to keep in mind: as things have stood over the last seven decades, superficial WhatsApp perceptions notwithstanding, people in the Jammu province do not want to lose Kashmir, and people in the Kashmir province do not want to lose Jammu. One needs to have been born and bred in the State to know the truth of this. That being so, counting bodies, be it militants, civilians, soldiers, will never be the answer to solving the Kashmir imbroglio. Surely, if Trump can talk with Kim, and if Kissinger could be in dialogue with the Vietnamese at the height of the war then, the Indian Centre should find the sagacity and goodwill to talk with our own people without preconditions. If a way was found in Ireland, it can be found in Jammu and Kashmir. All stakeholders to the issue must recognise that without an open acknowledgement of wrongs affected by any and all, and without justice to all those affected, there can be no reconciliation, let alone bonhomie.

The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012. Thereafter he wrote two more books, Idea of India Hard to Beat: Republic Resilient and Kashmir: A Noble Tryst in Tatters.

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