It was neither a match made in heaven nor a match made for each other. It was an unlikely amalgam of glaring contradictions reeking of ideological incongruity and strategic differences that made the coalition falter with uncertainty every step of the way. How could a party with strong nationalistic credentials and one that had always advocated a no-nonsense policy on Kashmir, kowtow to a regional dispensation intent on furthering a partisan, covertly religious agenda that hovered dangerously close to the line of sovereignty in the sand? The expectations were unrealistic. So, finally, when the inevitable rupture of the BJP-PDP alliance in J&K occurred on 18 June, after a politically excruciating tenure of 40 months, it was more of a relief than a setback for the BJP; an opportunity to regain the loss of credibility that it had suffered with its core constituency and a chance to revert to its stated policy.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s outgoing remarks further underlined the intrinsic contradictions of the two parties vis-à-vis the Kashmir problem: PDP wishes that people should be talked with as per PDP’s “healing touch” policy, Pakistan should also be talked with. “No muscular policy can be followed…I believe that the reconciliation for which Mufti Sahab had formed an alliance…we did with all our might. We will continue our efforts towards dialogue and reconciliation.”
This statement encapsulates everything that is wrong with our disastrous Kashmir policy.
The term “healing touch policy” has a noble connotation but a strategy that is hardly appropriate to the ground reality of Kashmir. Kashmir is a swamp that needs to be drained; a morass where Pakistani trained terrorists still run riot, where street violence reigns supreme and where the basic tenets of a democracy are in peril: it is the only state that has indulged in an inexcusable act of ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits.
The dangerous impasse of the state was there for all to see in the outcome of the recent Ramzan ceasefire that had been initiated by the Central government at the urging of Mehbooba Mufti. The terrorists did not return the show of goodwill, but instead unleashed a bloodbath across the Valley.
Between 17 May and 16 June (the period of the ceasefire) terror incidents in Jammu & Kashmir skyrocketed to 73 up from 20 the month prior. Casualties also increased significantly, with 22 terrorists and nine security personnel killed in the same period compared to 14 and five respectively in the previous month.
Reconciliation cannot be a one-way street. It demands reciprocity. Amity is not possible when the response to the compassion of our soldiers who valiantly rescued hundreds of Kashmiris trapped by floodwaters in 2014, the goodwill of our Prime Minister, who announced a Rs 80,000 crore economic package for J&K and the calm restraint of our security personnel, is a volley of hard stones that maim and kill. Violence as a mode of protest is untenable in a democracy. Only when Kashmiris abandon this crude form of protest and make use of the ballot box can true reconciliation occur.
Second, with regard to the role of Pakistan, a serious rethink is necessary. On 12 February the CM tweeted: “Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary if we are to end bloodshed.”
False. Pakistan is the spoiler in the Kashmir equation. It is time that all stakeholders realised that Pakistan is the problem, not the solution. Seventy years of trying to engage Pakistan in a civilised conversation on Kashmir has not yielded tangible results and has only aggravated the problem
Pakistan must be deleted categorically from the Kashmir problem. Only then can we find a lasting solution to the Kashmir imbroglio. But for that to happen a clear message must be sent out to the political establishment in Kashmir, especially leaders like Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah: “The answer to Kashmir lies in talking to New Delhi, not Islamabad. There can be no two ways about this.”
Citing national security as the prime reason for the BJP’s decision, national general secretary of the BJP Ram Madhav stated: “Terrorism, violence and radicalisation have risen and fundamental rights of the citizens are under danger in the Valley. Shujaat Bukhari’s killing is an example…In order to bring control over the situation prevailing in the state, we have decided that the reins of power in the state be handed over to the Governor.”
Governor’s Rule would facilitate the scaling up of counter-insurgency operations, especially in the four districts of South Kashmir—Shopian, Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama which have seen a resurrection in terrorism in the last two years.
Periods of laxity only serve to allow the separatist and anti-India forces to consolidate and escalate their nefarious activities. A healing touch can be applied only when the scourge of terrorist violence is completely wiped out from Kashmir and violence as a tool of protest has been abandoned.
But till then the need of the hour is a consistent, firm no-nonsense policy that includes deleting Pakistan from the Kashmir equation, robust military action against terrorists and lawlessness and dialogue within the framework of the Indian Constitution (that means no Pakistan and no azaadi).