Long spell of Governor’s Rule the least worst solution for the troubled state.
The seeds of the current phase of militancy and insurrection in Jammu and Kashmir were sown by Rajiv Gandhi back in 1987 when the Assembly election was most blatantly rigged to ensure a huge win for the National Conference-Congress alliance. Or rather, more significantly, to quell the challenge from the newly-created virulently anti-Centre Muslim United Front, which was a conglomerate of various independent groups and leaders pressing for autonomy as promised by the Central government at the time of accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India.
Not since the 1977 election in the state, held when Morarji Desai was Prime Minister, had J&K witnessed a free and fair poll. Heavens would not have fallen if the people in the Valley were allowed to exercise their franchise according to their own free will. But an inexperienced and a totally clueless Prime Minister ordered mass rigging in favour of the NC-Congress alliance. Consequently, Farooq Abdullah became the Chief Minister.
But this only fuelled further the anger and frustration of Kashmiris. They were not even free to exercise their basic democratic right “in India”. It gave fillip to the anti-India elements. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, among others, exploited the popular anger to justify violence. Eventually, the Abdullah government was dismissed and Governor’s Rule imposed. India was still paying for Rajiv Gandhi’s folly in extinguishing that fire which was lit more than 30 years ago with the cult of AK-47 getting stronger with each passing year.
We recall the 1987 rigged election and its terrible aftermath only to caution against any such misadventure by the Narendra Modi government in the troubled state. Reports that a few disgruntled PDP legislators were encouraged to cobble together a new coalition with the BJP have not been denied. However, the fact that former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has felt obliged to sound a warning publicly suggests that there is such a move afoot in J&K. She is worried at the loss of party legislators, warning that by breaking her party the BJP might repeat the blunder Rajiv Gandhi committed back in 1987.
On their part, the BJP leaders are gung-ho at the thought of moving back into ministerial chairs yet again after the dismissal of the Mufti government. That a new coalition comprising the BJP, rebel PDP MLAs along with Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference and a few footloose legislators could form the next government is being openly talked about. Maybe that is why the Assembly is kept in suspended animation.
However, it will be sheer folly to experiment with such an opportunistic Jammu-centric coalition. The argument that the state has never been ruled by a “non-family” party is neither here nor there. Such self-serving arguments gloss over the mass alienation of the Kashmiris from the mainstream due to the wrong and arrogant policies of successive Central governments and its endorsement by the puppet regimes in Srinagar. The novel experiment of a ruling arrangement between the Kashmir-centric PDP and the Jammu-centric BJP too has failed.
If the Muslim-Hindu coalition could not bridge the huge divide between Srinagar and Jammu, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to know how ordinary Kashmiris will react to a government headed by a BJP leader from Jammu. A BJP government will be a mockery of the 2014 mandate. Besides, it will be reason for the jihadis and the secessionists to redouble their campaign.
Why play with more fire than Kashmir can cope with? The hard-line has not brought Kashmir any closer to normalcy. If the PDP-BJP experiment ended in fiasco, it will be impossible for a rigged-up coalition to do so.
We know the Modi-Shah duo is capable of taking extraordinary risks for expanding the BJP footprint even in states where the party was cipher hitherto. But foisting a BJP government in Srinagar is extremely dangerous. Besides, there is nothing much to be gained from installing an unrepresentative government in a troubled state over which the Centre anyway has always exercised tremendous control whether or not it has its own “popularly-elected” government or is under the Governor’s Rule.
How fraught is the situation can be gauged from the fact that the Opposition National Conference and the Congress do not press for a fresh election. Under normal circumstances, these parties would have expected to reap rich electoral dividend from an early election. At this point of time, a fresh election is a huge risk. Why further strain the already stretched security forces?
The jihadi campaign in Kashmir has undergone a drastic transformation in recent years with more and more local youths alienated by the lack of educational and employment opportunities and the unmet aspirations for the Pakistan-fuelled azadi campaign embracing the AK-47 culture. Under these circumstances, the foremost task of the Governor ought to be to provide a responsive administration, alive to the daily needs of the people.
Quelling jihadi violence without further alienating lay Kashmiris should be the only priority. It is an arduous task due to daily provocations and excesses committed by both sides. Let Governor N.N. Vohra handle the situation to the best of his abilities without yet another opportunistic alliance making things difficult for him.
Ultimately, without “softening” Pakistan, the fountainhead of jihadi terror, normalcy in Kashmir will not be possible. A fresh election is beginning to loom large in India while Pakistan is in the throes of a Rawalpindi GHQ-created uncertainty despite the 25 July national poll. Therefore, till mid-2019, a thaw in relations between India and Pakistan seems most unlikely. Consequently, any new initiative in J&K must be on hold till after the next Lok Sabha elections.
COURAGE AND SURRENDER
The miraculous escape from the jaws of death of 13 Thai boys, aged between 11 and 14, and their 25-year-old football coach, from deep inside a flooded cave after over a fortnight gripped the global TV audiences. Global media converged on the cave in a remote corner of northern Thailand. But did anyone even for a fleeting moment see anyone protesting, anyone wailing, any sloganeering by the members of the extended families of the trapped? No. All of them sat quietly, nay, stoically as the authorities worked 24×7 to rescue the football team in one of the most arduous operations carried out in recent times.
Now, recall the scenes outside Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Race Course Road house when the IC-184 flight was hijacked. For a week in December 1999 relatives of the passengers laid siege to the PM House, blocking traffic. Worse, the national media focused 24×7 on the foul-mouthed protests as they questioned if the government would sit on its hands if a minister was on board. Foremost in highlighting the morale-shattering protests was a TV group which is viscerally anti-BJP. The promoters of the group were recently indicted for committing a huge financial fraud. Simply put, the Thais displayed a quite resolve and solidarity. We Indians showed a lack of national character and patriotism.