Srinagar: Could it be the lack of ruling experience that is behind the BJP’s bungling of Kashmir? The contradictory statements made by its ministers do suggest that the party is yet to make head or tail of the situation it confronts in Kashmir.
On Tuesday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu insisted that the “problem of violence” was limited to the five districts of south Kashmir. His party president, Amit Shah, had on May 21 said that the problem was restricted to “three-and-a-half districts”. The Chief of Army Staff appointed by the BJP government said in an interview on May 28 that violence was restricted to four districts of south Kashmir.
If these numbers that do not tally are not enough, there is also much confusion on what exactly is going on in Kashmir. The army chief says there is a “dirty war” going on, and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav says “everything is fair in love and war”. On May 25, Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said that army officers should be allowed to take a decision on how to deal with a situation in a “war-like zone”. This was followed by the army chief’s statement about “a dirty war” that army officers on the ground are better able to assess, as the army chief himself is “away from the battlefield”.
Contradicting such claims are the statements of JK Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti that the unrest in Kashmir is limited to “5 percent” of the population, or the statement of Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh that Pakistan is behind the unrest in Kashmir and only a few pro-freedom leaders are instigating stone-pelting crowds.
Commenting on the discordant statements coming from BJP ministers and party functionaries, Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, law teacher at Kashmir Central University, said that this was happening because the BJP had a deficit of ruling experience as well as of knowledge of dealing with Kashmir.
“The current BJP leadership has never ruled in the past. Those who ruled in past BJP governments are not holding offices now,” Hussain said. “That is why we are hearing that there are only three districts or four affected by the political sentiment for Azadi. Let us suppose that what they are saying is true. Why, then, is there a need for AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in the entire state? Let them impose it in the three or four districts only. And if you say that using human shields is right, then why sign the Geneva Conventions? They (BJP) have no idea what they are saying. They do not have any consistent policy.”
In the past, Hussain said, former prime minister and BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee knew how to go ahead with Kashmir as he had experience in dealing with Kashmir. “Vajpayee had been the foreign minister of the Moraraji Desai government. He knew how to deal with Kashmir,” Hussain said. “Now, due to lack of knowledge and experience, the BJP leaders are contradicting themselves on how to deal with Kashmir. They do not have any idea of how to rule Kashmir.”
Former political science teacher at Kashmir University, Noor Ahmad Baba, said the BJP was not issuing statements but only pushing ahead a narrative. “They are trying to show that only a minority population is engaged with dissenting politics. Their aim is to discredit the movement,” he said.
Baba said a similar narrative was pushed in the 1990s to undermine the political movement. “In those days they would say it was a Kashmir-based movement. Then they said it was also in certain areas of Jammu,” Baba said. “Later, to undermine the people’s movement, the state peddled the narrative that the Kashmir problem was due to cross border terrorism, that it was a movement of Sunnis, etc”.
He said the current narrative also feeds the media propaganda. “The media is now more powerful than ever. It is not allowing legitimacy to the political demands of Kashmiris,” Baba said.