Muscle power in Kashmir
Separating the surreal from the real is getting increasingly difficult in Kashmir. The former state, which was turned into a Union territory with a single stroke of a unilateral brush, remains under siege even though six months have passed since the Bharatiya Janata Party revoked most of the special provisions of Article 370. The lockdown is not the only example of the strangeness of the powers that be. The Centre has now brought two of Kashmir’s former chief ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, under the Public Safety Act. Surprisingly, the intervention has not merited judicial scrutiny. Ms Mufti, who has been accused of insidious machinations, has been compared to a queen. Mr Abdullah, on the other hand, is being penalized for the support that he enjoys among a “gullible” people as well as for his ability to convince the electorate to cast the ballot. The condescension for Mr Abdullah and the people of Kashmir is palpable. What right does the BJP have to ridicule the people’s support for a bona fide leader? As for the other charge pertaining to Mr Abdullah’s ability to get people to the polling booth, Narendra Modi and his party seem to be ignorant of the fact that the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, the political outfits led by Mr Abdullah and Ms Mufti respectively, have, over the years, helped strengthen India’s claim to the world that the ballot has not been defeated by the bullet in Kashmir. A democratically-elected Centre penalizing state leaders for their commitment to democracy is an odd, unconstitutional phenomenon. That New Delhi, under the BJP’s watch, is now bold enough to pursue such a discriminatory course must count as another sad chapter in the history of Kashmir.
What has facilitated the trumped-up charges against Mr Abdullah and Ms Mufti is the wilful distortion of their remarks. Truth has been a casualty in another way. The draconian measures nail yet another of Mr Modi’s pledges. While scuttling Article 370, the prime minister had assured India and Kashmir that it would lead to the dawn of an age of integration with the extension of constitutional provisions to the Valley. Mr Modi’s interpretation of integration is undoubtedly singular. Incarceration of civil leaders, police excesses against journalists, a crippled economy and, most importantly, the paucity of trust between the people and the government are the hallmarks of present-day Kashmir. Each of these facets reveals the BJP’s dismal failure to resolve the Kashmir issue.