Shape of things to come

            Kashmir seems to be on top so far as the BJP-NDA agenda is concerned. Now that would be a welcome step were it not for the negative portents that are inherent in any agenda that BJP has so far as Kashmir is concerned. In fact BJP’s Kashmir policy started on a sour note as one of its ministers who won the election from the state on BJP ticket sounded the bugle on article 370. The statement created quite a furor in local circles and there were cautionary reactions from the rest of India as well. As it has been doing with regard to most controversial statements issued by its party leaders the BJP maintained a non-committal silence on the statement on article 370 by its minister. Though by and large there was a reaction from the main political parties of the state pretty soon the statement was more or less dismissed as a false alarm.

            Then again Kashmir featured in the President Pranab Mukherjee’s speech as well which was a comprehensive overview of the key points of the agenda of the Modi-led government. Here too the main issues regarding Kashmir were skirted and the only mention of this place was in connection with the proposal of resettling the Kashmiri pundits. No mention was made of the human rights violations or any other aspects touching the muslim-majority population. This speaks volumes about where the main thrust of the party lies.

            All this should not come as a surprise. The Kashmir policy of the BJP and it’s behind the scenes mentor the RSS has always been unambiguous. In fact it was one of the mentors of these parties, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukerjee who started the process of dissolution of the special status that had been given to the state of Jammu & Kashmir at the time of its ‘merger’ with the Indian union. Mukerjee was dead set against the special provisions with regard to the state and he died while in detention within the state as he tried to enter it under protest against the visitor permit that was required at the time by any non-state subject to travel to the state. Mukerjee’s death in custody resulted in the scrapping of the permit system and subsequently the change of nomenclature of the Sadr-i-riyasat and prime minister to governor and chief minister respectively. Thus it was this icon of hindutva who started the process of dilution of the article 370 and the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is obvious that for those who consider Mukerjee as a martyr to the cause of total ‘integration’ of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and who have been celebrating his martyrdom every year, completing what Mukerjee started is something that they cannot ignore to do now that they are enjoying an almost unbridled sway at the center.

            History has repeatedly shown that whenever the special status of the state and the various provisions of the constitution that guaranteed it have sought to be modified or subverted, there has been no dearth of local politicians who were willing to act as accomplices.  Only some years had elapsed since the state had acceded to the Indian union, in a manner that is still a matter of debate, when the process against the special status of the state started. A considerable bonhomie existed between the tallest leader on the Indian political scene and his ‘friend’ from Kashmir who enjoyed a degree of popularity among his people that remains unprecedented till date. Yet none of these factors, the ‘friendship’ between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah or the massive support enjoyed by the Sheikh among the Kashmiri masses could guarantee the inviolability of Kashmir’s status. Mukerjee’s death made Nehru panicky enough to ditch both his friend as well as his promises. The people of Kashmir remained helpless spectators while their leader was jailed and subsequently some aspect of the ‘special status’ was done away with. It did not take Nehru much time to find willing collaborators within Sheikh’s own party men. Subsequently the ‘special status’ was further eroded under a succession of puppet governments foisted upon the people of Kashmir and ultimately even Sheikh Abdullah was made to fall in line.

            While all this was happening it was the Congress party which was in power at the center. It should not be difficult to imagine that if Congress could effortlessly erode the special status of the state even though it was not something central to its agenda what will be the state of affairs under a party which definitely views this matter as one of its core issues. Moreover if there has been no dearth of local collaborators in the past finding them shouldn’t be a difficult proposition in the present times when the local politicians owe almost no accountability to a more or less disenchanted populace. Any optimism on this subject is nothing but mere wishful thinking. As for our Janus-faced local politicians they will use the issue to reap a harvest from the center as well as the local population while obviously opposing any changes but actually endorsing and abetting the same.