The collapse of the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir is a personal blow for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had overruled hardliners in his party and the larger Sangh Parivar and invested heavily in continuing the alliance with the People’s Democratic Party after Mehbooba Mufti’s father and late Chief Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed passed away suddenly less than a year after the coalition government assumed office.
The fact that the alliance has crumbled more than two years before its time is an admission that his Kashmir policy has failed.
Recent UN Report Reiterates Seriousness of Kashmir Crisis
The Ramzan ceasefire proved to be the flash point in an alliance that was already showing cracks. Mufti’s position became untenable after the Centre revoked the ceasefire and decided to resume anti-militant operations.
There were strong indications from Srinagar that Mufti was planning to withdraw from the coalition. She was to travel to New Delhi this week for a last-ditch effort to save her government. It seems the Bharatiya Janata Party decided to pre-empt her by pulling out of the alliance first. While the BJP may have assuaged its ego by rushing to stay one step ahead of Mufti, the down side is that New Delhi has been left holding the Kashmir baby at a time when the international community is again focused on the troubled situation in the Valley.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al Ra’ad Hussein recently announced that he would urge the UN Council for Human Rights to conduct a “comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir’’. He also released the UN’s first-ever official report on such violations.
It’s cold comfort for India that he talked of both sides of Kashmir, the one under India’s control and the part that is under Pakistan’s administration.
The fact is that even during the 1990s, when militancy was at its peak in the Valley, and India was under intense international pressure on human rights violations, no UN agency ever called for an official inquiry.
Modi Govt Has Pushed Itself to Front Line of International Pressure
While United States President Donald Trump seems less interested in Kashmir than previous administrations, China is subtly turning up the heat on India. And Chinese pressure could prove more difficult to tackle than US interference. The recent suggestion by Beijing’s envoy to New Delhi, Luo Zhaohui, for trilateral talks between China, India and Pakistan is not an off-the-cuff private opinion, as India has dismissed.
Although the suggestion was made in the context of increasing economic cooperation between the three countries under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) umbrella, clearly any trade or commercial activity would require peace in Kashmir. The subtext of the envoy’s remark then is for China to play a leading role in getting India and Pakistan to the dialogue table to resolve outstanding differences, including the dispute over Kashmir.
India has, of course, snubbed the suggestion. But this could be an indication of things to come as Pakistan appeals to its “all-weather friend’’ to help it deal with India.
These are just some of the red flags that have been raised in recent days on the troubled situation in Kashmir. Ironically, by pulling out support from a democratically elected government in Srinagar, the Modi government has pushed itself to the front line of international pressure.
Tough times are ahead for Modi. With J&K under Governor’s Rule, it amounts to virtually giving the Army and other security forces a free hand in the Valley to flush out militants. The dividends from this approach are difficult to fathom.
Muscular Approach Won’t Work in Kashmir
The earlier muscular approach only increased the cycle of violence and alienated Kashmiris like never before. Security experts told The Quint, on condition of anonymity, that what is being fought today in Kashmir is more of a political war against the Indian state, rather than a religious battle. Also, disturbingly, there have been several instances of widespread support from across age-groups in Kashmir, for young stone-pelters.
Therefore, intensifying anti-militant operations will only drive Kashmiris further away from India, making peace an impossible goal to achieve even in the future.
For the two political faces of J&K – Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah – the latest development is a huge blow to their politics. In less than a year, general elections will be held. As things stand today, it looks difficult to conduct a peaceful poll in the three seats in Kashmir, Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag.
India has not been able to conduct a Lok Sabha bypoll in Anantnag till date because of continual violence. The Anantnag seat fell vacant after Mufti resigned to become chief minister. A bypoll was held in Srinagar, but the turnout was a pathetic 7 percent – the lowest ever recorded in the Valley.
If India is unable to hold Lok Sabha elections in Kashmir, it will be an admission to the world that its writ does not run in this patch of land any more. What a tragic confession that would be.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)