The recent (December 2015) verdict of Kashmir elections has been fractured, so to say. While PDP has emerged as the largest single party, the BJP is a close second with substantial percentage of votes. Interestingly BJP has secured most seats and major vote share from the Hindu majority Jammu region of Kashmir. Now the dilemma for the other parties, National Conference, Congress is in which direction to go as for Government formation is concerned.
BJP is a part of the RSS combine which wants to achieve Hindu Nation. It has become quite obvious during the last over six months of Modi Sarkar, that the associated organizations of BJP are actively communalizing the society along religious lines. Those making statements contrary to the values of Indian Constitution (Gita as the national book, those not sons of ram are illegitimate, Godse was a nationalist), the aggressive Gharvapasi campaign (Reconversion to Hinduism), opposing the film PK, on grounds that it promotes love Jihad, have made it amply clear that under Modi’s leadership, BJP patriarch, RSS, wants to make a fast transition towards Hindu Nation and in this direction the religious minorities and Indian Constitution’s values are its major target.
What this agenda will give to the Kashmir as a state and Kashmiri people as citizens needs to be assessed.
One can briefly go through the troubled history of Kashmir to understand this. The Kashmir Maharaja’s decision was to remain independent and the likes of Pandit Premnath Dogra (Praja Parishad, the predecessor of Bhartiya Jansangh, the previous avatar of BJP) also opposed Kashmir’s merger to India on the grounds that Kashmir is being ruled by a Hindu king (Raja Harisingh) so why should it merge with secular India. Later Kashmir was attacked by Pakistani tribal, and the intervention of Indian army took place after the treaty of accession to India with article 370 coming to fore, are too well known by now.
The article 370 gave the special status to Kashmir, giving it autonomy in all the matters barring defense, communications, and currency and external affairs. RSS was totally opposed to it. One of the Hindu Mahasbaha leaders, Shyama Prasad Mookerji raised the flag of opposition to this treaty and demanded total merger of Kashmir in to India right away. During this time India witnessed the ugly face of communalism, in the form of murder of Mahatma Gandhi by a RSS trained pracharak and active worker of Hindu Mahasabha, Nathuram Godse. At the same time RSS–HMS made loud and aggressive noises against the Article 370. This led to a bit of rethinking in the mind of Sheikh Abdullah, who started saying whether he has committed a mistake by acceding to India, as the major premise of his decision was Secular India and these acts showed the erosion of secular values. In this phase of his thinking he was arrested on the charges of sedition and put in jail, leading to great amount of alienation amongst Kashmiris. RSS stuck to its guns and gradually under its pressure the clauses of autonomy started getting diluted. The major example was re-designating Prime Minister of Kashmir to Chief Minister and Sadar-e-Riyast to Governor.
The alienation of Kashmiris was taken advantage of by the US backed Pakistan, which encouraged and supported the militancy in the area. In 1980s with the entry of Al Qaeda elements in to Kashmir the militancy took a communal turn. The hanging of Maqbool Butt further accentuated the violent actions. This led to the fear amongst the Kashmiri Pandits, who were encouraged by the pro Hindutva Governor, Jag Mohan, to leave the valley. This complex fact has been constantly harped by the RSS combine and presented in the communal color. The Kashmiriyat as such is a synthesis of Vedanta, Buddhism and Sufi Islam. Sheikh Abdullah had implemented land reforms in right earnest, changing the complexion of Kashmir society towards democratic direction.
The prolonged militancy and intervention of Indian army, has added to the sour wounds of Kashmiri people. At one time RSS had proposed the prescriptions, which demanded that Jammu be made a separate state, Ladhak be made a Union territory and a separate union territory be carved out from the valley for the Kashmiri Pandits. These are the lines similar to what BJP had been demanding when not in power. This betrays their total communal ideology. Even in these elections the communal polarization, Hindu Jammu versus Muslim valley is what has been propagated for electoral benefit by BJP, and thus BJP has gained the ground on divisive basis. The issue of Amarnath yatra has also been used to polarize Kashmir along religious lines. Opportunistically, during election campaign Modi and company had been talking in a clever way about article 370, while their intentions on the subject are very clear.
This BJP gaining electoral ground in Kashmir is a major blow to the Kashmiriyat culture and is a sign of aggressive policies to abolish article 370 and to bring in the agenda of Hindu Nation. The trajectory of BJP in different states so far is that it allies in the beginning in the name of some common program and then gradually weakens its allies to come one up and grab the total power. What Kashmir needs is a representative Government, which respects the existing Constitutional provisions and upholds the Hindu Muslim unity, in the form of Kashmiriyat a valuable inheritance of Kashmir’s history.
Kashmir is standing on the cross roads. It has suffered a lot due to the militancy and the ways of army in the valley. In case the BJP is in the driver’s seat or in the driving car, the plight of Kashmir will worsen. Surely the next Government must focus on addressing the issues of Pundits, issues of Kashmir youth and evolve a development model for the state where the youth can get employment, pundits’ grievances are addressed and a surge for peace to promote tourism and development should be top most on the agenda. The rising tide of communalism has to be checked, at the same time congenial situations are to be created where separatism, dies its natural death and the peace inside and peace from outside is enhanced by inclusive politics of the state government.