Col J P Singh
A little far-fetched it may sound but the fact is that BJP desperately wants to rule J&K for various reasons. Ever since it came to power in Delhi, geo-political pressures and the national security, of which Kashmir imbroglio is very significant issue, are upper-most concerns of this Govt unlike previous Govts in the Centre. Therefore it is trying its utmost best to have its political dominance in Kashmir to re-orientate its map and complexion. And it did come around the political power temporarily in coalition with PDP, its ideological opponent altogether, but remained suppressed in the power sharing formula thereby unable to pursue its ‘K’ agenda. Such rise of BJP was seen as existential threat by the Kashmiri regional parties. Hence an atmosphere of distrust cropped up between Delhi and Kashmir. Even NC and PDP who were coalition partners with BJP at various points in time lost each other’s faith and trust. Besides that, BJP knew that discriminatory Article 370 was the stumbling block in its coming to power. Since its abrogation was in its election manifesto, on 5th August 2019, without consulting regional leaders, abrogated it and demoted the state dauntlessly.
Demoting a State which was a largest princely state pre-independence and strategically daunting with a status of as good as a vassal was a bolt from the blue. It didn’t go down well globally. It wasn’t liked in Jammu and nor in Kashmir. Ladakh was the only exception. Hence both regions saw it as BJP push over and politically untenable. Kashmiri leaders vigorously protested and moved the Supreme Court for its restoration. Jammu didn’t react that strongly and slowly accepted it but Kashmir just didn’t. Perpetual distrust and serious threats emanating from them such as ‘blood streams will flow’ if the special status is tempered with, etc, etc, could be the reason why BJP didn’t discuss abrogation of special status of J&K with its past allies or anyone in Jammu. Instead all political leaders were taken into custody who seemingly suffered interminable indignities for a cause and an unremitting ideology which was mired in anachronism. Harsh restrictions were imposed on the public also all over the UT. In many cases Courts’ directions to release some of them were put on hold. Hence a strong distrust build up creating a situation of political tight corner.
Therefore a meeting between the warring faction was the only way to open the dead-lock. Also to promote a vibrant political process such meeting was the much needed necessity. Media reports of American pressure to start democratic process in J&K, reported in Times of India on 9 June, could also have led to a meeting with Kashmiri heavy weights. Even domestic necessity is equally tenable. Delhi’s invitation to some of these political leaders on 24 June 2021 and their acceptance was a tight rope walk for both sides. Since it happened in a cordial atmosphere, it is termed as most significant step to break the ice and win win situation.
All eyes were set on the meeting and its outcome. Future of J&K and of those who will be face to face across the table was at stake to start with. Suddenly a propaganda that J&K is going in for another reorganisation such as Jammu a State, lager than Jammu region and Kashmir a miniaturised UT became popular and worrisome. Obviously nothing of the sort happened, nor desirable. Jammu was not suitably represented in the conglomerate also took loud currency.
This meeting has set the ball rolling for meeting of minds as the PM stated that the idea behind the meeting is to remove “Dil ki aur Dili ki Doori” and is appreciated by the conglomerate. Meetings and bridging the gaps will go on as before but important to analyse is what triggered this significant development and what is the message? Lot of water has flown in Jhelum ever since 5th August 2019. Developments such as PLA entered Ladakh but deterred, Pakistan rebuffed systematically, ceasefire, QUAD strengthened, militancy reduced drastically, DDC and BDC elections held successfully, masses empowered, no stone pelting, illegalities and corruption scrutinised, pandemic successfully controlled, people happy with vaccine delivery, delimitation commenced and urge for a popular govt reveling, BJP feeling upbeat, just couldn’t be frittered away. This was the time and both factions used sensibly.
On camera disclosures after meeting generally contradicts each other. That leads to speculations. My hunch is that the invitees have been told that Kashmir is no more a partisan issue. It is a national issue of utmost importance. Hence it necessitates collective attention. A clear message that this govt and the leadership is committed to resolve it by all means, political, economic, military and democratic has gone in. (unilateral reorganisation, detentions, BDC/DDC elections, termination of permanent Darbar move etc spill the beans). Another message under speculation is that whosoever talks of Pakistan, gates of Wagha Border are open for them, talk of Delhi the gates at Lakahanpur are wide open and those who want 370 from China, no passport is needed to go to Chushul; not said in so many words though but somehow conveyed.
National security will always be an important factor in the domestic politics of India because of inimical neighbors. American pull out from Afghanistan endangers Indian security. After complete take over by Taliban its armed fighters will be out of job. As before, they will head towards Kashmir in large numbers through Gilgit-Baltistan and Muzaffrabad. That is the biggest concern of security experts and the current Govt. It is in this background that the peace and political process is significant for J&K. Restoration of Statehood and elections are also dependent upon peace and stability in the valley. Hence the presence of National Security Advisor in this meeting gives weightage to the argument. Peace and prosperity is linked as much to political process as to the fortunes of UT residents. Therefore restoration of Statehood as of now is not the priority of the govt.
Srinagar is the epicenter of entire Kashmir valley and inhibited by Kashmiri Muslims whereas Jammu is the epicenter of Jammu region but its class composition is a mixed bag. Hence any hue and cry which resonates in Srinagar resonates in Delhi and across the world. Thus Kashmir’s anger is addressed sympathetically and swiftly each and every time. Their supposedly deep wounds are nursed immediately. (This meeting can be seen in that context even though nothing like that is seen). Hence a heavy weight Kashmiri delegation. The discourse wasn’t Jammu vs Kashmir. It was altogether different where Jammu’s presence wasn’t even necessary; not that Jammu has no issues. Ironically whenever Jammu’s issues such as identity and discrimination are taken up, adverse propaganda starts. It is dubbed as divisive, communal and parochial. Lot appears in the media to demolish such views. It happens because Kashmir is pampered whereas Jammu is scuttled. It is a set pattern and may persist. Jammu looks up to its leaders to make Jammu relevant in the national politics. But after meeting one thing is clear that Kashmir Albatross no longer hangs around Delhi neck and Premier Modi’s domestic and international rating grows.