By Col J P Singh,
A little far-fetched it may sound but the fact is that BJP desperately wants to rule J&K for some pertinent reasons, not difficult to fathom, and it is also not difficult to fathom that its dreams may not come true soon. Ever since it came to power in Delhi, geo-political pressures and the national security, of which Kashmir imbroglio is a very significant issue, are upper-most concerns of this Government unlike previous Governments 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.
Dramatic rise of BJP in Jammu region and consequential rise in J&K 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 and the prevalent separatism were the stumbling blocks 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 thereby changing the map and complexion of J&K politics.
Demoting a State which was a largest princely state pre-independence and strategically daunting with a status of as good as an independent state of Kashmiris 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 didn’t. Perpetual distrust and serious threats emanating from Kashmiri leaders such as ‘blood streams will flow’ if the special status is tempered with, 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 state. In many cases Courts’ directions to release some of them were put on hold. Hence a strong distrust built up creating a situation of political tight corner.
Therefore a meeting between the barring faction was the only way to open the dead-lock. Also to promote a vibrant political process such a 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 the 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, larger than Jammu region and Kashmir a miniaturized UT became popular and worrisome. Obviously nothing of the sort happened, nor desirable. Jammu was not represented in the conglomerate and also took loud currency.
This meeting has set the ball rolling for meeting of minds as Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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 may go on but important to analyse is what triggered this significant development when everything was generally alright and what is the message?
Lot of water has flowed in Jhelum ever since 5th August 2019. Developments such as PLA entered Ladakh but deterred, Pakistan rebuffed systematically, QUAD strengthened, militancy reduced drastically, DDC & 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 government reveling, BJP feeling upbeat; such favorable situation just couldn’t be frittered away. This was the time and both factions have used it sensibly.
On camera disclosures after meeting generally contradict each other. That leads to speculation. 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 government 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, gates at Lakhanpur are wide open and those who want 370 from China, no passport is needed to go to Chushul; not said in so many words but somehow conveyed.
National security will always be an important factor in the domestic politics of India because of inimical neighbors. American pullout 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 the security experts and the current government. Even the BJP is concerned about the safety and security of its cadre. It may be recalled that on the very outset of militancy in J&K in 1989, BJP’s top leader Tika Lal Taploo was killed in cold blood in Srinagar in September 1989. Peace and prosperity is linked as much to the political process as to the fortunes of UT residents. It is in this background that the peace and political process is seen in J&K. Restoration of Statehood and elections are also dependent upon peace and stability in the valley. Hence the presence of the National Security Advisor in this meeting gives weightage to the argument. Therefore restoration of Statehood as of now is not the priority of the government.
Srinagar is the epicenter of the entire Kashmir valley and inhabited 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 evident). Hence a heavy weight delegation from Kashmir and Jammu as usual ignored. There is an argument that this meeting wasn’t Jammu vs Kashmir. If it was so, not that Jammu has no issues, Jammu’s even symbolic presence wasn’t warranted. 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. It hurts Jammu. Hence Jammu looks up to its leaders outside BJP to make Jammu relevant in the national politics. But after the meeting, one thing is clear that Kashmir Albatross no longer hangs around Delhi’s neck.
(The author is Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)