Will HM ride the tiger?

By K.N. Pandita

Home Minister and Prime Minister, both have indicated that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir could be revived over time. The PM has gone half a step further and said it can happen sooner than later. What does this indicate?

Many surmises are made. It could be political rhetoric to keep Kashmir stakeholders in a state of limbo; a ploy to make smooth the functionality of the newly constituted Apni Party or it could mean to tone down the criticism of sections of national and international media both of which have been writing viciously against recent reformative measures of the Modi government.

Yes, at the time of moving the J&K State Reorganization Bill in the Parliament on August 5, 2019, the Home Minister Amit Shah had said in the course of the debate that the statehood of J&K could be revived when conditions become conducive. The impression one gathered was that reversal of the status was workable technically but when would that happen was a matter of conjecture.

Renewed and somewhat reassuring statements by the Home Minister and the Prime Minister on the revival of statehood have come at a time when a new political party (AP) in Kashmir receives an indirect pat on the back from the Union government. We are not privy to what transpired between the AP stalwarts and the topmost leadership in New Delhi. Nevertheless, political pundits agree that procrastination of political stalemate would be inadvisable if not counter-productive. Therefore the inevitable meltdown is noticeable.

The newly formed party carries both positive as well as negative aspects. On the positive side, one can appreciate its initiative of breaking the ice and essaying for a political process in J&K. It means breaking the jinx of terror that stalks the towns and villages of Kashmir since 1990, and the ambivalent leadership conveniently taking shelter behind it, and hence the doublespeak. Nobody can say whether those who left their traditional political parties and have joined hands with the AP have left behind or not the old can of worms. The point that New Delhi must dissect is whether these old faces in the new outfit are on a mission of hunting with the hound and running with the hare. Old habits die hard, goes the saying.

.On the negative side, it is obvious that power rests with the masses of people. Whether this new party enjoys the support of the masses of people is the crux of the narrative. So far there is no palpable reaction from the public. To say that appetite comes with eating is a crude and fragile argument. Till date, we have not seen any sizeable crowds of people in Kashmir welcoming the emergence of a new political party to get rid of the grip of traditional politicians. Will the new party activists succeed in taking the masses of people back to the normal state of rational social behaviour from which they were derailed through brainwashing and penetrative propaganda? The success of the new political party lies in its ability to make people re-evaluate politics sans religion. It is a challenging task, mind you.

Circumstantially speaking, it appears as much little of giving and take as is possible would be the basics of a new political deal. That, however, may bring some equation between the AP and New Delhi but the question is of forging intra-Kashmirian equation. It is yet premature to speculate about that.

Restoration of statehood, as we understand, was within the paradigms of Home Minister’s speech in the Parliament when the State Reorganization Bill was tabled. The crucial phrase in that narrative was “conducive to the general atmosphere.” The term conducive can be interpreted variously. A state of turmoil is “conducive” to militant ideology. Will the antagonistic and disruptive elements in and out of Kashmir allow Kashmir to wriggle out of a state of turmoil and disruption to return to normal life? That is why we assume the formidable task for the Apni Party will be to bring about a metamorphosis of a frozen and cynical mindset, particularly of the teen-aged generation of Kashmiris. Success in this venture is subject to two-pronged strategy viz. blocking adversarial propaganda input and simultaneously initiating a vast and comprehensive reformatory-cum-developmental agenda. For three decades in the past Kashmiris have been prepared and trained how to engineer chaos and confusion in the society. The policy of previous regimes was to make them adepts in those machinations.

What has been stated above are the dimensions of a new political initiative. Apart from this, there is another pressing question. What were the reasons for breaking the statehood of J&K and reorganizing it as two Union Territories? Home Ministry has been somewhat evasive and no cast-iron reason was produced. For example, the claim that development had remained static in J&K and there was large scale unemployment. Both reasons are repudiated by the opposition. It says that J&K enjoys the highest income per capita in the country. Likewise, taking into account the number of state employees vis-à-vis the population figures J&K has the highest percentage of state employment.

The truth about re-organization is that thirty years of insurgency and counter-insurgency did not bring J&K anywhere closer to an atmosphere that could be called “conducive” in letter and spirit. PDP-BJP second coalition dragged the state to the brink of disaster. The mainstream political parties, nicknamed as Indian proxies by our detractors, began openly supporting disruptive/separatist forces. Farooq said he would walk behind the Hurriyat and Mufti Mahbooba said not a single person would take up the Indian flag. Only the writ of the Jamat-i-Islami was running under a mask in the state. It had penetrated the core of administrative machinery. PDP shrewdly made its BJP coalition partners the Lotus Eaters de-activated after throwing a few crumbs to them. Days before the hammer stroke fell on August 5, an understanding of sorts had been forged among PDP, NC, Congress, the Left and other fringe groups, all having trained their guns towards New Delhi. What were their plans are known either to them or the Indian intelligence agencies, but the rumour at that time making rounds was that a JK Government in Exile was likely to be announced in Muzaffarabad by Salahu’d-Din with valley leadership remaining mute and not confronting it.

The question is this. Does the Home Minister feel that this scenario has faded away and there are now bouquets waiting for him in Srinagar? If not, then why does he want to ride the J&K statehood tiger? Would he not wait to assess the impact of his 20478 plus 279 crore rupees developmental project for the UT of JK to land safely from the tiger?

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