The BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narender Modi, has said he that would take forward Vajpayee’s policy on Kashmir if elected. Before going further, it is necessary to make clear that all Indian leaders pursue a set policy on Kashmir. Be it Vajpayee, Manmohan or Modi, nothing is going to change. Kashmiris will continue to be persecuted. Vajpayee earned a lot of goodwill for his ‘humane’ approach towards Kashmir. But facts and figures of that era reflect the brutality of his regime.
Why did the `humane’ Prime Minister conduct nuclear tests? The blasts at Pokhran dealt a severe blow to parity in the region, and to restore it, Pakistan had to go to the Chagai hills. Kashmir thus became a nuclear flashpoint in international relations.
Vajpayee almost declared war on Pakistan following the Kargil episode. Troops were moved to forward positions. Pakistan had to respond in similar terms and the two countries lost valuable resources. In addition, the Indian army lost 840 soldiers while laying landmines and demining the areas.
During the humane regime, there was heightened tension between India and Pakistan. The skirmish triggered a massive migration of hapless villagers on both sides of the divide. Many of them have not returned to their native places to this day.
During this regime, monetary rewards for encounter killings were increased. As a result, fake encounter killings increased. To earn rewards, the police and other security agencies would pick up innocent civilians and execute them in staged gun-battles.
The regime witnessed the killing of prominent militant commanders across Kashmir, especially in the south. The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was almost wiped out. But, to sound humane, a Ramadhan cease-fire was also announced. This was the time when the `humane’ Prime Minister had a Chief Minister in Jammu and Kashmir who propagated his `healing touch’ policy. The policy, however, became a philosophy in a few months.
The agenda of the resistance leadership was appropriated. A pseudo-separatist party was created and adequately funded. People were confused. Militant commanders and civilians were getting killed, and the leader of the newly-created party, who assumed the role of Kashmir’s rudali, would go to their homes to shed a few tears.
Vajpayee also appointed S.K. Sinha, the hate-monger, as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. While pursuing his communal agenda, Sinha created a state within a state, and drove a wedge between the two divisions of Jammu and Kashmir. Soon after, demands of a separate state for Jammu region were put forth. The humane Prime Minister watched this in amusement from New Delhi. Sinha was pursuing his `hidden’ agenda.
The regime lured some Hurriyat leaders to contest elections. The amalgam of pro-resistance organizations, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, broke up. This was an achievement for New Delhi, and Vajpayee performed this feat for Bharat Mata.
The US President, Bill Clinton, visited India to tell parliamentarians that American diplomacy, not New Delhi, had got Kargil vacated. To defame and malign the resistance movement, thirty-five Sikhs were massacred in cold-blood at Chittisingpora in South Kashmir. But in his introduction to a book, The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, the US president shocked India. He exonerated militants and put the blame of the massacre on Hindu extremists.
India lost no time in seeking a clarification. Clinton, it is said, did not take New Delhi’s calls. But the strong Indian lobby succeeded in persuading the publishers to issue a clarification. The publishers, Harper Collins, routed a correction through Madeleine Albright’s office. However, the first edition of the book carries Clinton’s historic words.
The US took a few hours to condemn the massacre, but refused to accept the Indian government’s accusation that it was the work of Pakistani Islamist groups.
Soon after the massacre, the army picked up five locals from parts of Anantnag and killed them in a fake encounter at Pathribal. The army said they were involved in the massacre. Vajpayee’s deputy, LK Advani, hailed the soldiers for eliminating the terrorists responsible for the massacre. The CBI held an enquiry, and concluded that the encounter was fake.
The draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was framed and passed during Vajpayee’s regime, and Jammu and Kashmir was the first state to invoke it. Why did a `humane’ Prime Minister want a draconian law like POTA for Kashmir?
This is what happened during Vajpayee’s humane regime. Now Modi says he will pursue the same policy. Kashmiris have a reason to feel worried. They must expect more massacres, more fake encounter killings, more draconian laws.