Kashmir’s troubled relationship with the BJP

ver since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed government in 2014, it was desperate to abrogate Article 370 and 35A and had revealed this aggressive plan long ago in its 2014 election manifesto. After assuming power with a clear majority, BJP started its work on “Mission 44”. The party intended to secure the majority seats in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) elections and install a Hindu Chief Minister in the Muslim-dominated region.

BJP started its malevolent campaign of communal polarisation with emphasis on the Hindu-dominated Jammu and Buddhist-dominated Ladakh regions. It was successful in forming a coalition government with Mufti Saeed’s PDP which had attained the majority votes in Kashmir Valley. As soon as the BJP formed the government and sought to project its muscularity in the centre, it resulted in an increase in violence across India. Peculiarly, in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP-PDP government worsened the situation further as each of these parties was propitiating its communal constituency.

It’s quite normal for the BJP to leave no opportunity unavailed to solicit rhetoric against Pakistan and demonise the whole population of the Kashmir Valley whenever the lives of the Indian security forces personnel are lost. They propagate such incidents to attract consolidating Hindutva votes across India.

Burhan Wani, a militant leader popular among the youth of Kashmir was killed in July 2016. This event sparked violent protests across the Kashmir Valley which were considered to be the biggest “Anti-India” protests in recent years. Events took a new turn when four militants attacked an Indian Army camp in Uri, killing 17 personnel of the Army. In the wake of the Uri attack, Indian cancelled its participation in the 19th SAARC Summit to be held in Islamabad. Eleven days after the Uri attack, India claimed to have conducted a surgical strike inside Pakistani territory which was strongly rejected by the Pakistan Government. While India was reluctant to share any details of the strike, Pakistan Army took local and international journalists to the Boxer and Hot Spring formation where the Indian authorities had claimed to have struck, but there was no evidence of any military action on the ground. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi employed this claim of the so-called surgical strikes to project his strong image for political benefits. The BJP used alleged surgical strikes to attack Congress and win the Gujrat elections.

On February 14, a suicide bomber who was a Kashmiri young man, blew himself near a convoy of the Indian Army travelling on Jammu-Kashmir highway, killing 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel. The attack gave a severe blow to India-Pakistan relations and resulted in a military standoff between the two nuclear-armed countries.

BJP left no stone unturned to amplify jingoism after the Pulwama attack. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after the attack, said in a rally in Ahmedabad, “Ye hamara sidhant hai ke hum ghar mei ghus kar marenge” (It is our principle to hit the enemy inside its territory).These words spread like a wildfire all across India. Indian Air Force violated the air space of Pakistan on February 26, 2019 and carried out a strike near Balakot. Pakistan Air Force retaliated the very next day and downed two Indian jets in a dogfight over the disputed region of Kashmir. An Indian pilot Abhinandan captured by Pakistan Army, later released as a gesture of peace and to de-escalate tensions, that had put the lives of millions of people in danger.

As the Indian general elections were nearby, the early surveys in 2019 predicted a close competition in elections. But after the Balakot strikes, Narendra Modi presented himself as a hero who had avenged the Pulwama attack to gain votes.

A number of problems in governance, Pakistan’s swift retaliation and capture of an Indian pilot—despite of all these setbacks, BJP gained a majority in Parliament. The Pulwama attack helped reinforce public paranoia and jingoism that led to the majority in parliament and an opportunity to change the whole political game in Kashmir. The BJP Government revoked Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution which they were desperate to do. The whole Kashmir Valley was turned into the world’s largest prison amid fear of violent Anti-India protests. Kashmiri people suffered gross human rights abuses for one whole year.

In a major development on February 25, 2021; India and Pakistan agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and ceasefire along the Line of Control. The guns have fallen silent, but residents of Kashmir and particularly those living across the LoC are still in fear.

The winds of sustainable peace are once again blowing in both countries as they have shown a commitment to the two-decade-old ceasefire. The most common question being heard from the people of the two nuclear armed countries is; Will peace at LoC pave the way for the initiation of a larger peace process between the two arch-rivals?

Irtaza Muhammad
The writer is a freelance columnist.

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