Secure under the Westphalian sovereignty rules (the principle of international law which states that each nation-state has exclusive sovereignty over its territory and that external powers should not interfere in another country’s domestic affairs), the BJP government is ring-fencing its policy drift in Jammu and Kashmir.
The principle underlies the modern international system of sovereign states which is all very well as far as global diplomacy is concerned, but with the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Valley, the concern is heightened among a vast swathe of Kashmir watchers.
The BJP leadership has, over the past few years, squandered enough opportunities and lately the Rubicon appears to have been crossed in terms of control over south Kashmir, now held by the security forces. So perilous is the situation that one shudders to think what will happen if the forces are removed.
Four years of BJP rule at the Centre and years of its rule in the state has turned the situation in the Valley similar to the aftermath of a low-tide shipwreck, exposing skeletons that are visible to all. By choosing to unleash majoritarian forces with a subliminal message of Islamophobia and Muslim-bashing, and foregoing all opportunities for a dialogue, the Hindu Right has distanced itself from Kashmir.
I strongly feel that those who take up arms against the country must be dealt with severely, be they Kashmiri militants, Naxals or Northeast rebels who oppose and challenge the idea and idiom of India by taking up weapons.
Nevertheless, we must have space for dialogue to bury the recriminations and bring them back into the fold. In the absence of any dialogue and the return of jackboots in the Valley, this point has unfortunately been overlooked.
In my view, Mr Modi has disregarded eight massive opportunities so far:
Not recalling octogenarian governor N.N. Vohra, who has been in office since the 2008 Amarnath crisis. We need to have someone more agile and adroit to understand the ground situation and provide vital inputs to New Delhi and the local administration. Sending someone like Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd), who was once a corps commander in J&K, would have worked wonders.
Unified Command meetings have never been structured under the aegis of the chief minister. Moreover, these are situational, held as and when the needs arises. Considering the incessant violence that is happening in the Valley, it is imperative that these meetings are held weekly to contain the damage.
The removal of Shiv Mohan Sahai, ADG CID (last), a veteran of the J&K Police and the man who stamped out local militancy, by CM Mehbooba Mufti was perhaps the biggest setback. If anyone knows Kashmir in the security establishment, it is Mr Sahai, now ensconced in Delhi NCCS — a complete waste of a vital resource. The removal of Mr Sahai is a major damper on J&K police morale as he is known to lead from the front; his exploits in Rajouri and elsewhere are a part of local folklore. His last assignment was to monitor the Internet explicitly to catch the terrorist pipelines. The release of stone-pelters by the chief minister added to the existing kerfuffle.
Trial balloon of Article 35A on permanent residency in Kashmir floated by the Centre angered the local populace; it was suddenly pulled out of the Supreme Court when Dineshwar Sharma was made the J&K interlocutor.
The winter lull of 2017-18, after relentless violence over Burhan Wani’s death all through summer, should have been used to structure some sort of dialogue with all parties, including the Hurriyat.
Like Sher and Bakra could never come together for an alliance in an earlier age in Kashmir, the extreme right of J&K’s polity and Indian politics, PDP and BJP respectively, is unacceptable. While Sher signified supporters of Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference, Bakra connoted supporters of Mirwaiz’s family and their Awami Action Committee. Decades ago, before the onset of militancy, Sher and Bakra feuds were a common scene on Srinagar’s political turf, particularly in the congested old city Shaher-e-Khaas.
The growing chasm between the “Hindu” BJP and “Muslim” PDP, which always practiced soft separatism and mainstreamed violence, nullified the agenda for the alliance practically from day one. The South Kashmir strongholds had voted for the PDP against the politics of the BJP. The BJP-PDP divide become ugly after the Kathua rape case.
Unable to control the rise of burgeoning Salafi Wahabism in madrasas where clerics from UP and Bihar are preaching, even as the Internet and its TOR (the onion network, which is a free software for enabling anonymous communications) continues to flourish in spreading of anti-India pro-Islam propaganda. The anti-Hindia (Hindu India) sentiment has peaked and even tourists are being targeted openly now, something not seen even during the worst cycles of violence.
The policy of drift in Kashmir has come to such a pass that nobody trusts or believes the Centre any more; the trust deficit is monotypical as the youth take to the gun all over again. It is said so many people are sponging off the Kashmir militancy industry that no one wants it to end.
Funds coming from India, Pakistan and till recently Saudi Arabia meant that the Valley is flush with cash.
The PM had a singular opportunity to at least ensure that peace returned to the Valley, as say in 2012, one of the best years in recent times, if not resolve the Kashmir issue. But he lost it. Perhaps he should learn from his own ideologue and Sangh Guru M.S. Golwalkar.
When Maharaja Hari Singh, under the influence of his rajguru Swami Sant Deo, who floated the idea of Dogristan, chased away Congress president Acharya J.B. Kripalani, sent Viceroy Lord Mountbatten trout fishing and even made Mahatma Gandhi wait before seeing him, Sardar Patel reportedly convinced RSS sarsangchalak Guru Golwalkar to visit him to convince Hari Singh to accede to India. Of course, Gandhiji too played a huge role in convincing Hari Singh.
According to late Madhavrao Muley, who was then Prant Pracharak of Punjab and J&K, Golwalkar could convince the Maharaja about accession with the Indian Union. The Maharaja sent the accession proposal to Delhi and Guruji directed RSS workers in J&K to shed the last drop of their blood for the security of the State. After issuing these directions, he returned to Delhi.
Muley has given a detailed account of this historical fact in the book Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan. He writes: “Union Home Minister Sardar Patel, had told Mehar Chand Mahajan, Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, to prepare Maharaja Hari Singh for the accession of the state to India. Mehar Chand Mahajan conveyed the message to Guruji requesting him to meet the Maharaja and prepare him for the accession. Mahajan had arranged the meeting between Guruji and the Maharaja”.
“Guruji reached Srinagar by air from Delhi on October 17, 1947. The meeting took place on the morning of October 18. During the meeting prince Karan Singh, with his plastered fractured leg, was present while lying on the bed. Maharaja’s contention was that ‘my state is fully dependent on Pakistan. All routes pass through Sialkot and Rawalpindi. Lahore is my airport. How can I have relations with India?”
“Guruji made him understand by saying: ‘You are a Hindu king’. By acceding to Pakistan your Hindu subjects will have to struggle against grave difficulties. It is correct that there is no road, rail or air link with India but it can be set right quickly. In your interest and in the interest of Jammu & Kashmir State it is better for you to accede to India.”
“Prime Minister Mahajan too supported Golwalkar and said to the Maharaja that he was right. We must accede to India. At the end of their meeting, the Maharaja presented a ‘Tosa’ (best quality pashmina shawl) to Guruji and conveyed his readiness to accede to India.”
“After a period of eight days, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession with the Indian Union and thus the princely state of J&K became an integral and inseparable part of India. The then RSS Chief Golwalkar Guruji played a very crucial role in convincing the Maharaja and securing the merger.”
This fact is not highlighted in the public domain, so very little is known about it. But it can safely be said that both Gandhiji and Golwalkar had a role in the accession as they appealed to different strands of sentiment — one to the idea of a secular India and the other to a Hindu King — in Hari Singh.
In such a scenario, it is not difficult to endorse former CM Farooq Abdullah’s train of thought — “The BJP government at the Centre, instead of helping us get out of this vortex of violence and anarchic, communally-polarised situation, is watching as a mute spectator. They seem to have given up on the state and have so far failed in bringing in a workable, practical and sensible way out. When it comes to Kashmir, the present leadership of the BJP is so dogmatic in their approach that they are not ready to listen to reason.”
Yes, what he is saying is pure politics, but everything he has said is also the absolute truth. The truth so unpalatable that no one wants to deal with it.