Building castles on the edifices of destruction in Kashmir

Is there a method in this madness? One week of tumultuous developments starting from the brutal killing of senior journalist and peace activist Shujaat Bukhari on June 14, has changed the texture of politics in Kashmir. To view a pattern, three questions beg an answer. Why and who killed Shujaat Bukhari and who benefitted out of the murder? Why was the ceasefire called off? And, why did the BJP hastily pull out of the alliance. The killing of Shujaat Bukhari is being quoted as a pretext for terminating the ceasefire and disagreement between PDP and BJP over continuation of ceasefire has become the pretext for pulling out of the PDP-BJP alliance. Even without a clear answer to the above questions, the deeper connection between these three major events in Kashmir Valley within a span of one week cannot be missed.

It is difficult to say with any precision who killed Shujaat Bukhari and why. Whether or not the killers benefitted from it is not known, as yet but it has turned out to be a rich harvest for the BJP government which used the pretext of this murder to back out of a ceasefire and peace process, which ironically Bukhari advocated. In using the murder as an excuse, the BJP government at the Centre has exposed its foolishness in playing into the hands of the vested interests trying to sabotage peace efforts. Or, it has betrayed its true intentions with respect to Kashmir.

To answer the question about why was the ceasefire called off, one may have to answer the question as to why the ceasefire was brought about in the first place. It came like a bolt from the blue, preceded by the sudden silence that the BJP adopted over the Kathua rape and murder case after throwing its entire weight behind saving the accused. The two episodic changes in quick succession, close on the heels of BJP’s debacle in Karnataka elections on the face of it seemed like attempts by the BJP, which has nothing more to sell electorally after its abject failure on all fronts of governance and development, for a fresh image make-over. Had that been the case, the BJP would have continued with its bid to usher in peace in Kashmir Valley rather than terminate the ceasefire soon after its expiry date was over. The ceasefire announcement was a welcome surprise, even though it lacked credibility and seriousness. That it came without the burden of pre-conditions was in itself no trivial matter. Despite its severe limitations and the inability of the ceasefire to effect any changes in the Valley in the absence of major confidence building measures as well as an effort to initiate a dialogue, any such intervention is likely to arouse some hopes in the Valley even if it does not help in reducing violence levels immediately. Unfulfilled hopes, eventually, foment and inspire a more venomous backlash. Whether or not this was intended purpose, the ceasefire termination is likely to induce an impact that pushed the Valley into the deeper throes of violence.

As for the BJP-PDP alliance, the final fall was as hasty and ill-intentioned as its formation.

The rise of the Hindu fascist powers in New Delhi, their ideology of communalism and politics of beef and love jehad, the invocation of Article 370, the shockingly shabby response of New Delhi to Kashmir’s devastating floods of 2014 formed the background of the historic but blundered formation of PDP-BJP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir at the fag end of 2014. Both the central and the state governments proved to be a disaster for Kashmir. To be fair, both inherited from their predecessors a Kashmir while it was slipping into chaos but the unholy alliance contributed massively in hastening that descent into misery and hopelessness. The unprecedented hard-line approach, where the lines were obliterated between gun wielding militants, the boys protesting with stones and ordinary civilians, use of bullets and pellet guns killing and maiming people in large numbers and the endless revolving door arrests inspired more anger and have created a situation where the gun has regained its place of glory in the psyche of ordinary Kashmiris, particularly the youth.

Raking up of controversial issues like separate cluster colonies for Kashmiri Pandits, Sainik Colonies, Article 370 and Article 35-A further widened the unbridgeable trust deficit and revealed the lack of common ground between BJP and PDP. In fact, since the formation of this alliance, the tussle continued even over the most basic of development issues including GST and AIIMS and shockingly a case of rape and murder of a minor girl. Not only did such discourses add fuel to the existing fire in Kashmir. They also injected unprecedented venom in the existing communal discourse, particularly in Jammu region.

The breaking of this unholy alliance cannot undo the massive damages wrought by it to Jammu and Kashmir’s socio-political landscape. The hands of the clock cannot be set-back nor can the dangerous turn it has pushed the Valley into. Mehbooba Mufti’s brother and new entrant to politics, Tassaduq Hussain, aptly put it some months ago, ‘became partners in crime’ but the warning came too late in the day.

The history of power dynamics between successive central and state governments reveals the excessive manipulation of local politics by New Delhi, rendering the state governments as virtual puppets in the hands of the central government. But even the weakest of governments in the state can act as a feeble buffer to the excessively hardline policy of the central government. What the BJP has done by pulling out of the alliance is to discard that shrivel of an obstruction in pursuance of its objective of shedding all pretence of democracy in Kashmir and pursuing a policy that is unparalleled in its brutality.

Already, since 2014, the BJP government at the Centre has successfully employed far more brutal methods of suppressing Kashmiris, has ably used the Kashmir discourse of militarism, exaggerating the threat of ‘an enemy’ and demonisation of Kashmiris through its multiple levels of propaganda machinery for harnessing votes, capturing power and enlarging its footprints across India. Militarisation and repression were already existing when it took over the reins of power. Impunity was exercised but mostly through denials. Under the BJP dispensation, it simply assumed a bold and brazen form. The admission of torture ever since has come with a sense of pride. Take for instance the case of Farooq Dar, the human shield, and the rewarding of the officer who paraded him around at the risk of making Dar’s life vulnerable and caused him a deep sense of humiliation. That act was celebrated by invoking the soldier’s valour. Similarly, the pellet guns discourse and its justification, smack of celebrating torture. Critique of armed forces is treated akin to blasphemy and all rational questions stonewalled by equating soldier to the highest pedestal of ultra-nationalism and jingoism.

The alliance break-up is likely to exacerbate the sufferings of Kashmiris. Governor’s rule was imposed in the state, a day after the government fell. This gives BJP government at the Centre virtually direct control over Jammu and Kashmir with no regional party acting as even a delicate counter to the hardcore Hindutva narrative. The present governor, N.N. Vohra, who has spent a decade in the state, is a fairly seasoned man. But he is likely to have a successor soon after Amarnath yatra. Already some BJP leaders have started batting for an all-out hardline approach. Jammu and Kashmir BJP state unit president Ravinder Raina speaking about replacing ‘ceasefire’ with ‘only fire’ and calling for an ‘Operation All-Out’ and Ram Madhav speaking about Kashmir situation hampering the development of Ladakh and Jammu have given more than a hint about what the future in the state would be like. One can smell massacres in the Valley and possible communal violence in Jammu region, betraying the sinister moves behind the breaking of the alliance.

Curiously, the man who spelt out the ceasefire and terminated it, Rajnath Singh was as clueless about pulling out of the alliance as Mehbooba Mufti, showing the arbitrary quality of an unjustified action.

If the motive behind the making of the alliance was to share the crumbs of power and pelf, the motive behind the break-up was simply electoral politics. The BJP has nothing else to sell for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in a few months from now – as its development mantra and economic growth promises have miserably failed. Kashmir’s distressing security situation, communalization of Jammu region and demonization of the state’s Muslim population are low hanging fruits for the BJP which it can cash in on during the 2019 elections in a few months from now.

Kashmir narrative peppered with ultra-jingoism and ultra-nationalism is perfect fodder for appealing the sensibilities of BJP’s communal constituency which it is painstakingly trying to enlarge both vertically and horizontally. In ruling Kashmir, if previous central governments have been guided by their acute suspicion of the only Muslim majority state of the country since decades, the BJP is inspired by its contempt for the Muslim majority population. For the RSS-inspired BJP, Kashmir is both a project of long cherished idea of changing its demography and suppressing its Muslim population as well as a means to achieve its larger ambition to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra. A chaotic, violent and unstable Kashmir serves that end. Last week’s events show that BJP is unlikely to pull any full stops in its dedicated bid to push Kashmir into a dark and dangerous zone it may never recover from. It seeks to build its electoral glory on the edifices of destruction and ruins of Kashmir.

News Updated at : Sunday, June 24, 2018