Kashmir is on the boil once again. Even though mainstream media continues to harp on Kashmiriyat, it is plain to observers that Kashmir, for now, has been lost to Jihadi elements. Be it the abysmal turnout for polls in Srinagar which were preceded by widespread violence and arson, or the video wherein a PDP worker was made to chant anti-India slogans at gunpoint, or the now common sight of ISIS and Pakistani flags being waived in Kashmir, Kashmir in 2017 is reminiscent of the turbulent years of 1989-90.
It is amply evident that the PDP-BJP government in Jammu & Kashmir has failed completely and that the BJP, other than reaping petty political gains by de-fanging PDP of its separatist sentiments has gained nothing by leading the government in Jammu and Kashmir.
The current round of violence, coming after the lawlessness that followed Burhan Wani’s death last year has seriously dented the prospects of peace returning to the valley for some time. Instead of talks about tourism, infrastructure and peace, it is time to acknowledge that Kashmir is entering a phase of long, cold and perhaps bloody winter.
For all its talk of action and taking decisive steps, observers are at a loss to understand Modi government’s approach towards Kashmir. In spite of multiple efforts to endear itself to Kashmiris, it is clear that it is the Jihadi elements that rule the roost in Kashmir and that Modi’s love for Kashmir is unlikely to be reciprocated by ordinary Kashmiris who are living under the shadow of Jihadists’ guns. That having been said, the government can not be credited with any innovative steps that can enforce calm in the valley and bring the bloodletting to an end.
Modi government, for all its talk of giving the army a free hand, has failed spectacularly in setting the narrative on Kashmir.
Far from giving the army a free hand, the government is battling the courts on the issue of pellet guns and the so-called liberals on techniques (such as tying a stone pelter to the jeep) adopted by the armed forces. In short, the blow hot, blow cold policy followed by the government has confused the masses and has emboldened the Jihadi elements in the valley.
It is surprising that Modi government is not even considering imposing Governor’s rule in the state by dismissing its own government. While there are undoubtedly sentimental reasons why BJP would want to hold on to power in Srinagar, it is evident that the existing mechanism has failed completely. The state government has been singularly unsuccessful in enforcing law and bringing normality to Kashmir. It is clear that the administration has been lost to Jihadi elements who are going from strength to strength while the State government is dependent on the Army to impose its will. At the same time, under pressure from Jihadi and Secessionist elements, the State government is unable to give the armed forces a free hand to save the state from the clutches of certain doom. Governor’s rule, for starters will enable the Central government to intervene and bring back a sense of normalcy in the state. Perhaps, petty political gains are clouding Modi government’s vision and preventing it from biting the bullet.
Given the dangerous situation in the valley, it is perhaps time for the government to show some spine and take decisive steps, viz. imposing martial law in the affected areas. Learnings from the experience in Punjab need to be applied to bring Kashmir back from the brink. For all its talk on article 370, the government has not taken a single step to facilitate its removal. Now, more than ever is the time to translate words into actions.
Kashmiriyat died the day when Pandits were forced out of the valley. It is good to remember Kashmiriyat fondly, as one remembers a dead person but is of no other use. Kashmir must be populated with Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Biharis, Bengalis, Tamils and all communities of India. Generations of Kashmiri youth have been lost and will be lost to India, if we fail to pay attention to Kashmir’s demographics. Again, the decision of the government to settle Rohingya refugees in J&K smacks of doublespeak and lack of concern for national security. Subramanian Swamy might not be off his rocker when he suggested that J&K be depopulated, but such a decision would need firm resolve, something that the government and our political establishment sorely lacks.
The government is also seemingly losing the plot when it comes to shaping the national narrative on Kashmir. How is it that Mainstream media is able to repeatedly get away with a one sided portrayal of the situation in the valley? How is it that soldiers, who are fighting terrorists and hardcore Jihadis are being asked to be gentle and humane in their dealings with anti-national elements? How is it that there are still demands for repealing AFSPA in the state? Is it not the government’s job to frame national consciousness around Kashmir? Other than poetic statements like ‘Jahan hue balidaan Mukherjee, woh Kashmir hamara hai’, what is the government doing to frame a national response to the situation in the valley? Or is nationalism restricted to social media and standing up for national anthem?
For more than 3 decades now, Kashmir has been burning. Successive governments have completely failed to bring peace to the region. For all its antics, it seems that Modi government is no different in this respect.