Presidents Rule: The Reasons Are Not Simple But As Complicated as Kashmir Itself
A tinge of desperation too
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to withdraw support to the PDP government in Jammu and Kashmir, and move towards President’s rule, is not as simple as it appears. Mainly because the reasons leading up to it are complicated, and carry within the web intricacies that are not necessarily visible to those looking on the state from the outside, or the ordinary Kashmiris for whom every day has become a struggle to live.
The decision finds its roots in perhaps three immediate events, and a certain background in what the BJP and the RSS game plan was, and is, for the state. A bit about the background first. The RSS has been always very categorical that there should be no special status for Jammu and Kashmir, that it is just another state of India, and its demography should reflect that of all of India. And this belief has been cushioned in aggressive communal politics, with the Kashmiri and the terrorist and the Indian Muslim trajectory being woven together over the years, and more specifically and virulently during the last four years. The narrative of Kashmir being a Valley populated by blood thirsty terrorists has caught hold of the divisive mind set , with voices like Shujaat Bukhari puncturing the narrative more effectively perhaps than many others.
The BJP formed an alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party to rule the state, and as time turned into years, used its militaristic clout to virtually confine Mehbooba Mufti in the Valley even as the party spread its wings through the state. However, the checks and balances of the border state that remains under international scrutiny was such that several RSS measures, such as segregated colonies for the Kashmiri Pandits, and then for the soldiers, did not get off the ground. However, dialogue was effectively blocked—with Pakistan and with Kashmiri individuals and organisations. New Delhi in a new militaristic assertion of its power blocked all avenues of peace, with the result that the odd stone pelting incidents turned into militancy with death and destruction stalking the streets of the Valley. More and more youth came in direct conflict with the armed personnel, with militancy and Pakistan returning to the Valley after a long lapse. The result has been death and destruction, with soldiers, militants and civilians all being felled by the bullet in what has become a ceaseless circle of violence.
The Asifa incident where the Jammu and Kashmir police played a key role in bringing the conspiracy to light shocked the country, and more so when BJP legislators marched in procession in support of the rapists and the little girls killers. This case was cracked by the police, that is currently on Shujaat Bukhari’s assassination having released a video grab of the three men on a bike seen as possible assailants.
Despite four years the BJP and RSS has been unable to bring the Valley under control. Ruling out dialogue the government decided to depend on the Army and force. Mass arrests, and a spurge in encounters rocked the Valley. But this added to rather than quelled militancy. And in the subsequent battles soldiers too started losing their lives. The UN Human Right Commission has now come out with a scathing report that has placed Kashmir again under the international scanner. And this at a time when the BJP/RSS have not been able to bring the Valley under control, in fact quite the opposite with the number of deaths attracting world attention, and the militants in more control than they have been before in the recent past. The Army is bleeding with more deaths than acceptable, and there is internal pressure now on the government to stem the bloodshed, and talk. Pressure from all, of course except a certain core constituency that has been nurtured by the RSS and wants no let up in the violence until the Valley is brought ‘under control.’ However, constituencies as all political parties should know, cannot make for policy that has to be determined by the larger national interest that in India has been based on justice and rights.
The RSS/BJP has moved into Presidents rule now, perhaps precipitated a little earlier than thought of for three immediate reasons:
- Shujaat Bukhari’s assassination and the ongoing investigation. The photograph released by the Jammu and Kashmir police is an interesting pointer. RSS-BJP leader Ram Madhav surprisingly mentioned this, over and above the murder of soldier Aurangzeb, as one of the reasons for the decision that automatically leads one to the investigation, and the assailants. The who and why is extremely important in a state like Kashmir, particularly in the environment today.
Bukhari’s murder has silence many voices within Jammu and Kashmir. The shock, as intended, with the fear, also part of the assailants and their mentors intent, has doubled up to ensure that much of what happens within the state now will not be countered with the kind of independent, courageous and honest writing of the Bukhari kind. Besides, he was an international personality and an important voice for the Kashmir issue as pointed out earlier by this writer, very critical of violence in all its forms. With President’s rule the Jammu and Kashmir police come under New Delhi’s control.
- The UN Human Rights report has focused attention on Kashmir today. And even if diplomacy might block immediate responses from some of the players it is clear that the UN Secretary General will keep carping on this issue, and a fresh surge of violence—as many Kashmiris fear—involving the state will bring it under the direct UN Scanner, sooner than later. This could snowball into an anti-India resolution as Kashmir always has the potential to, and this coming before the 2019 elections will not work well for the BJP .
Also the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has included the RSS backed Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad—two key organisations—in its list of “religious militant organisations”. On its latest edition of the World Factbook, the CIA has categorised two far right Hindu organisations under political pressure groups—used to describe organisations that are either involved in politics or exert political pressure, but do not contest elections. An angry VHP has of course demanded an apology from the CIA but the American agency has refused to blink. This does bring these organisations under international watch, making it imperative that they remain above the law as it were.
New Delhi, given this, cannot afford two voices emanating from the state government as had started happening in the last few months with Mehbooba Mufti , under increasing pressure from her own colleagues in the PDP, finding it difficult to remain in her silent mode. Now she will be part of the opposition.
- And of course as commonly perceived, the 2019 elections. However, to sail into these the BJP/RSS have one of two options. Increase the intensity of state action against non-state actors, but given the UN report it might not be possible to take this over and above a certain level now. The bloodiness in Kashmir has well nigh reached its zenith, and even a couple of notches more will break the global silence as too many people are being killed already in what the West has always seen as ‘disputed’ territory.
The second option is to open a dialogue under Governor NN Vora, but then this would in RSS constituency’s parlance be a climbdown that might not work for precisely this reason. Hence there is something of a Catch 22 position, with the track record of the BJP/RSS inclining it towards the first option. But as sources said, the jury is out on this one and the next few weeks will determine the course.
But it was clear to the RSS/BJP that it could not go into the 2019 polls with the situation as it is in Jammu and Kashmir. More as National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah has become far more vocal in recent months, both in Srinagar and New Delhi. The Congress too seems to be revisiting Jammu and Kashmir, with party president Rahul Gandhi and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah both increasingly vocal and critical of the governments Kashmir policy.
So President’s rule it is. A Chief Secretary will in all probability be flown in from New Delhi. Vora is trusted by the RSS/BJP but he might be replaced. But again he might not, more so if the decision favours a dialogue of sorts. A tinge of underlying desperation remains.