The more recent past in Jammu and Kashmir has been defined by chaos and disturbance. There are various incidents which can be discussed but I will keep my focus on only a few of these. Ever since the BJP came to power, the wave it created with the help of the Hindutva card swept the whole of India. Even such states where they couldn’t garner enough numbers, their prominent leaders like Amit Shah and Ram Madhav managed to somehow forge alliances. Jammu and Kashmir is one such example of this where the PDP joined hands with BJP in 2014 raising eyebrows across the state. The BJP is a right wing Hindu organization whereas PDP had a perception of being a soft separatist party; even BJP leaders had always condemned it for being “soft on terror” and being a “pro-Pak” party. It was obvious that their union would send shock waves across the political arena of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the first day when Mufti Sayeed got sworn as the new C.M of the state, controversies started hounding the new government and a Pandora’s box opened for the BJP-PDP government in 2016 when three Hizbul militants were Killed in Islamabad district of Kashmir.
After the upheavals of 2017, Mehbooba Mufti tried to anyhow bring back ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir. But, more problems followed her and every time, she succumbed to the authority of New Delhi. Mehbooba earned the sobriquet of a rubber stamp C.M because of her submissive attitude. Certain issues arose on which BJP-PDP were having different views and rift was publicly seen after several statements were made by the leaders of BJP against Mehbooba Mufti. Subramanian Swamy, a BJP MP termed her “a dog’s tail, which will never straighten” and Ram Madhav recently remarked that the prerogative whether to talk with Pakistan or not was not Mehbooba’s.
Things worsened when an eight year old girl named Asifa Banoo from Kathua was abducted and gang raped by the abductors and then killed brutally. The preliminary investigation commenced and the name of a local SPO surfaced. Aasifa’s case had already garnered enough outrage and protests were held in many parts in the favor of Aasifa. The PDP found itself again at the crossroads when the BJP held a different stand on this issue. Mehbooba Mufti assured the people of J&K that the case would be taken to its logical conclusion and justice would be done.
On the other hand, a lesser known fundamentalist Hindu organization, the Hindu Ekta Manch, came to the fore and started a campaign in defense of the rapists and murderers of Aasifa. In one of the protests led by the Hindu Ekta Manch two BJP lawmakers also joined the protests and threatened their own government against pursuing the case. This gave the much needed push to Hindu Ekta Manch and allowed them to spread more fear, hostility and hate in the Jammu region. A simple case of humanity was linked to religion and was colored in the shades of communalism. The government which talks about schemes like, “Beti bachao beti padhao” is not able to find a daughter in Aasifa only because she belonged to a Muslim Bakarwal family. Their humanity and women empowerment all becomes selective when it comes to religion and beliefs of people.
On the other hand, in one of the most goriest and heart wrenching incidents in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir, a young Hotelier named, Ishtiyaq Ahmad Dar, was shot on 9th March right outside the Jamia Masjid by some unidentified causing his immediate death. His murder drew condemnations from everyone irrespective of their religious beliefs. Kishtwar is a place infamous for its communal riots which are orchestrated by fundamentalists; the riot of 2013 is the most recent example in which property worth crores was damaged and several people were also killed. In such a district, people from every section and every belief stood in solidarity with the family of Ishtiyaq Dar and observed a complete shut down against his killing. This development is a tight slap across the faces of those fascist powers whose livelihood is dependent on arson and communalism.
In one part of Jammu, a narrative is being tried to be built against the demand of Justice for the family of a victim, whereas in another part people are demanding the arrest of culprits of the murder of Ishtiyaq Dar. Fascism has failed, communalism has failed and hate has failed. People of the mountainous Kishtwar region have gradually understood that they are time and time again used as the cannon fodder to build political careers. It was because of the mass support to the family of Ishtiyaq Dar that the Kishtwar Police formed an SIT and are very seriously and tirelessly pursuing the case. The right wing fascists should listen to the address of Imam Jamia Masjid Kishtwar which he delivered before the funeral of Ishtiyaq Dar. He clearly condemned the killing and appreciated the support of people of the district from every community towards the demand of justice.
The future of ruling PDP is in jeopardy since it used to enjoy massive support in valley and similarly BJP enjoys a mass support in Jammu. BJP is playing these tactics to strengthen its vote bank and preparing for the elections scheduled to be held in 2020. The PDP will surely find it hard to fight in 2020 given the resentment and annoyance people have against it and cases like Aasifa are only adding to the anger. Definitely, we want justice to be delivered sooner and an exemplary punishment given to the culprits so that nothing as such is repeated again. Will PDP take the case to its conclusion or will they again succumb to the pressure of BJP which they have done very often in the past remains an open question.
—The author is from Kishtwar. He can be reached at: [email protected]