The people of Kashmir now have to prepare for Governor’s rule, after suffering under the BJP-PDP Government. Although the future cannot be predicted, one can only hope that Kashmir sees better governance.
This past week saw the end of the alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP). There have been a number of signs since its inception that this marriage of convenience was inevitably heading towards an early demise. As my friend and colleague from the Congress, Shashi Tharoor, eloquently put it, this entire episode was of a divorce foretold. To take this analogy further, the entire marriage has set the state back decades and in this week’s column, I will examine how the state has been the abused child of this reckless relationship.
A state left burning:The BJP-PDP alliance has presided over one of the worst periods of terrorism and unrest in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The state has been witness to over 800 incidents of terror over the past three years. This has been a dramatic change from 2013 where the state suffered the fewest incidents of terror over the past 28 years. The steady increase in incidences of terror (from 208 in 2015 to 342 in 2017) coincides with the loss of control the BJP has seen in the State since first forming the Government with the PDP. This breakdown of law and order and uptick in terrorist activities in the state has been brought to the stark attention of the Indian populace over the past few weeks.
We have seen the case of Aurangzeb, an army rifleman who was heading home for Eid celebrations, who was abducted and brutally murdered by terrorists. We have also witnessed attacks and the resultant deaths due to terrorism that have seen hundreds of civilians suffer, which was highlighted by the coward assassination of Shujaat Bukhari. Shujaat Bukhari was the chief editor of Rising Kashmir and his murder resulted in the loss of an irreplaceable voice of the state.
During the tenure of this alliance there has been a discernible trend towards hostility and a lack of engagement between the various actors in Kashmir. This was allegedly done in order to send a strong message to the actors that operate in the state, however the numbers show how this policy hasn’t seen any success. In a sensitive state like Jammu & Kashmir it is important for Governments to recognise that ensuring national security and establishing a relationship of trust with the people of the state are not opposing principles but are in fact closely linked. The BJP-PDP Government, however, has singularly failed in this regard and there is much greater animosity and anger in the state than ever before.
Besides these specific incidents, the callous and step-fatherly treatment accorded to Kashmir by the BJP has inspired resentment and hatred from the people of Kashmir as is visible from the instances of violence, public disorder and stone pelting that the region has been marred with over the last few years.
While it appears that the BJP pulled out of its alliance keeping in mind the General Election of 2019, there is no denying that it has left the state burning in its wake. The facts above show that Kashmir is still reeling from the BJP’s inexperience in governing a sensitive, crucial state of India with all the elegance of a sledgehammer and the people of Kashmir have unfortunately been the victims of the BJP’s ineptitude and arrogance.
Adding fuel to funeral pyres: Earlier this year, we were exposed to a horrific crime when it was discovered that Asifa, an 8-year-old Muslim girl was the victim of a brutal gang rape. The BJP or the State Government did not alleviate the pain, horror and disgust from this incidence in any way but instead the entire episode was given a horrific communal colour. The whole incident was shameful, right from local lawyers preventing the police from filing a charge sheet to the Jammu & Kashmir Bar Association calling for a bandh to hand the investigation over the Central Bureau of Investigation.
There were distinct communal undertones to this entire horrific episode and the approach of the State Government and the BJP at the Centre towards this episode was disgraceful. There was little to no criticism by either the State Government or the Prime Minister of the sectarian and of divisive forces that were clearly communalising an incident that should be a matter of shame for all Indians, irrespective of religion. The episode was especially embarrassing for the BJP as the protests in favour of the accused included an organisation called the ‘Hindu Ekta Manch’ and two BJP ministers from the State Government were actually participating at rallies in support of the accused.
The entire episode of the brutal rape of Asifa and the corresponding communal reaction to the same was followed not just by national media, but also by international outlets. The entire world watched the debacle unfold, aghast at how the brutal rape of an innocent girl became a matter of communal politics, with the BJP and the state Government doing little other than playing the fiddle while Kashmir burned.
Presenting a divided front: In The ballad of East and West, Rudyard Kipling says “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” It appears however that the BJP and the PDP have not read this particular poem as the two parties tried to marry their polar opposite views on how to govern Kashmir, resulting in the inevitable car crash they called a Government. One such issue where the BJP and PDP disagreed on is the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The BJP is of the view that AFSPA needs to be in place in the Kashmir to the point where the peace and normalcy is restored in the state.
The PDP on the other hand, favours a withdrawal of AFSPA as they believe peace can only be ensured through good governance, which requires reduced military presence in the region. Whichever side of the fence one is on the matter, it must be remembered that it is very difficult for coalition partners to engage with one another if they disagree about one of the major issues in the state and fundamentally differ on how to tackle it. A similar dissonance between the BJP and PDP was visible with respect to talks with other actors and stakeholders in the region.
As per reports, the PDP was in favour of starting a dialogue with all actors including the Hurriyat Conference. The BJP however was vocally against any such dialogue with Hurriyat leaders as they said they did not want to start any dialogue with those who oppose India. Both the PDP and the BJP unequivocally disagreed on how to engage with these actors and presented a divided front to the other stakeholders that only weakened India’s position at the negotiation table.
What lies ahead: After suffering through close to three and a half years of the BJP-PDP Government, the people of Kashmir will now have to prepare for Governor’s rule. While it is not ideal, the people of Kashmir have been subject to Governor’s rule/President’s rule a number of times since Independence and will be acutely aware of what follows.
Though one can never predict exactly what the future holds, in the months that follow I do hope that the people of Kashmir see better governance than they did under the BJP and PDP. It will, however, take tremendous work and commitment for the state to recover from the damage caused due to this unholy alliance.
(The writer is Jharkhand PCC president, former MP and IPS officer. Views expressed are personal)
Writer: Ajoy Kumar
Courtesy: The Pioneer