There’s already a brain drain of youth from the Valley; J&K can no longer be seen to be adrift
Call it a marriage of convenience that was doomed from the very beginning but one that at least intended to rescue Jammu & Kashmir from roiling in a cauldron. For the BJP, a post-poll alliance with the PDP, which had won convincingly from Kashmir, was the best bet for attempting an outreach and mainstreaming development in the Valley, something that Central parties had subsumed to vested interests so far. The BJP clearly tried to be the “party with a difference” and invested a lot in its interlocutors who camped there working out the nitty gritties, risking being called power-hungry and greedy. Truth be told, even Kashmiris knew this was an unhappy proposition but who thought the robust muscularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would perhaps get things moving on a new paradigm. Besides, the BJP, which had the solid mandate of Jammu, did not want to squander the verdict within smelling distance of power and sought to use it to integrate Jammu and Ladakh, address its core constituency and remain strategically relevant and vigilant for reining in Pakistan’s ambitions. For the PDP, it was a golden opportunity to at least dent an economy called terrorism through mediating talks, getting the hawks to engage as per the “agenda of alliance” that both sides had signed up for and most importantly reclaim the space that had been ceded to separatists by trying to involve the civil society and set the rules of engagement. The BJP held on despite provocations by the rising spiral of violence and never followed up on the first flush of assertive actions, like the surgical strikes. It even subjected itself to the criticism of being indecisive, confused and emaciated by compromise. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, meanwhile, stuck to the clichéd narrative of not having manoeuvering ability in a Centre-dominated alliance, failed miserably in controlling stone-pelting and targeted attacks against security forces, reneged on every effort to get a sincere dialogue with the separatists going, cried victimhood to fatten up her legitimacy among Kashmiris and further encouraged radicalisation with a lame-duck posture. So when she blamed the “muscular policy” of the BJP as the reason for parting ways, little did she realise that she had emasculated her own political relevance, considering that Track II activist and journalist Shujaat Bukhari was gunned down in Lal Chowk by militants during a unilateral ceasefire, the first in years. If Bukhari, whose brother was also a minister in the PDP Government, could be tenacious about pursuing the practicality of a solution, why couldn’t Mehbooba protect him? The killing was the last straw for the BJP, which had betted on the ceasefire as a pragmatic and compassionate move and which actually had got the civil society out of the closed door and talk about the need for participating in due political processes. But the Bukhari killing meant that militancy would continue to intimidate and hold Kashmir to ransom. The BJP, as a Central party, had to be seen as decisive at this point and could not risk further depreciation or being labelled a non-performer in the run-up to 2019.
Already, Jammu and Ladakh, despite gifting seats, have not much to show in terms of Centrally-aided development, the bulk of it going to Kashmir for strategic reasons. Although Jammu has borne the worst brunt of cross-border firing and escalated violence, there has been no recompense for the refugees who have fled these sensitive villages. Compared to the massive investments on rail connectivity in the Valley, there has been no commensurate infrastructure planning for Ladakh, which has of late been under the arc of Chinese territorial greed. The BJP cannot afford them to slump like neglected children. Going forward, security forces need to give a girded up response to terrorists and commence discernible flushout operations. Meanwhile, Governor NN Vohra, who has a decade-long experience in the Valley, can be entrusted with the job of executing BJP’s development agenda on the ground that can at least help the ordinary Kashmiris regain some control over their lives. There’s already a brain drain of progressive youth from the Valley. Kashmir can no longer be seen as adrift.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer