The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) outgoing president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah has sent 10,000 extra paramilitary soldiers to Jammu & Kashmir apparently for “maintaining law and order” in the Kashmir valley. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ communique, the additional 100 companies (each company has nearly 100 soldiers) are sent to the volatile Kashmir valley at the end of the long Amarnath Yatra to “strengthen the CI (counter-insurgency) grid as well as for maintaining law and order”.
This step came soon after the Lok Sabha passed a series of anti-people bills adding teeth to the Indian state’s draconian endeavours to gag the critical voices and suppress dissent, especially of those democratic and anti-fascist forces that have been critical of India’s Kashmir policy. According to a report in The Indian Express on 29 July 2019, the BJP top leadership has called a special meeting of its Jammu & Kashmir leaders in Delhi and the agenda was not disclosed to them. It’s feared that the meeting was called to divulge the BJP’s next moves in Jammu & Kashmir, which may include the agenda of abrogating Article 35A (gives power to the Jammu & Kashmir legislature to define a “permanent resident”) and Article 370 (autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir).
As President’s Rule has been in force in Jammu & Kashmir for more than a year now, therefore, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at its helm, is directly ruling the disputed territory without using any artifice of a state government, which had been historically India’s docile tool to rule over the indomitable Kashmiri people who want freedom from it. Anxiety and uncertainty are looming large over Kashmir, as the people and the local politicians are anticipating some sort of adventurous step by the Modi regime and the BJP over the Articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution.
Politicians, ranging from former chief minister and BJP’s former ally Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party, Sajad Lone, who was once a bitter enemy of the BJP and now its strong ally, Shah Faesal, a former bureaucrat who started a pro-India career in politics, to Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, the oldest political organisation of the valley, have warned the Modi regime to not tamper with Articles 35A or 370. Mufti, Lone and Abdullah categorically warned that the Modi regime will fuel unrest in the valley and isolate Kashmiris further, if — driven by its over-enthusiasm over the BJP’s landmark victory in the Lok Sabha election — it tries to scrap the two articles.
Though the police and administration of the valley are claiming that the additional forces will be used as replacement because 200 companies of paramilitary troops will go for training, the contradictory claim by the government sources to news agencies that the forces are increased to meet the challenge of terrorism during the run-up to India’s Independence Day on 15 August, is fuelling more speculation over India’s real motive behind this ostensible goal. Recently, Prime Minister Modi also spoke on Kashmir during his radio programme “Maan ki Baat” and said that the Kashmiri people are looking for “development” from the government and are eager to join the mainstream, acknowledging that neither he nor his party ever cared about what the Kashmiri people really want, yet, they can pass on any lie in the name of Kashmiri people’s aspirations to hoodwink their voters.
Jammu & Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, a former BJP leader, told militants to kill those Kashmiri politicians who have looted public wealth, thereby abetting violence against the few pro-India politicians of the state who are rendered useless for New Delhi in changed circumstances. As Home Minister Shah is deploying more troops in the valley, amidst rising speculations over an onslaught on Article 35A or Article 370, there is also a general observation that the Election Commission may declare a farcical legislative assembly election in Jammu & Kashmir after the Amarnath Yatra ends on 15 August. The legislative assembly election will see a massive victory of the BJP in Jammu and parts of Kashmir as the party will ensure that the few pro-Indian parties are sidelined and the polling is done forcefully through the paramilitary to secure an easy victory, which it can use to consolidate power in the troubled zone.
Kashmir happens to be the most militarised zone on earth, where basic human rights are denied to the common people and the military forces enjoy legal immunity, which safeguards them from any form of prosecution for excesses or human rights violation. Though the militarisation and excesses on the Kashmiri people started since the annexation of Kashmir by India and reached its peak between 1989 and 2012, under the Modi regime, the state violence has intensified manifold and the unapologetic brutality displayed by the Indian forces is celebrated unashamedly by the government and its sycophants. The gloating over the bloodshed of Kashmiri people has earned the BJP and Modi laurels of fame from their core voter base — the upper-caste Hindu elites and urban middle class — who share the same jingoistic vision of the Hindutva fascist camp to which the party belongs.
The Article 35A provides the Jammu & Kashmir assembly with the power to decide who can be a permanent resident of the state, while Article 370 provides it with an autonomous status within the Indian Union, although only on papers. In reality, Kashmir and its dignity have been violated and transgressed by the Indian ruling classes since the 1950s. The BJP has been opposing these two articles ever since its formation and has been promising their abolishment during elections by presenting these articles wrapped in xenophobic packages before its voters, who also want to continue the colonisation of Kashmir.
This political agenda is in sync with the general agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the pinnacle of Hindutva fascism in India. The RSS has always wanted to forcefully change the demography of Jammu & Kashmir. During the peak hours of partition, it had been a collaborator of the last reactionary Dogra monarch Hari Singh in his attempt to change the demography of the Muslim-majority former princely state. The RSS was instrumental in carrying out a large-scale genocide of Muslims in Jammu region to change the demography in September 1947. More than 200,000 Muslims were killed by the RSS-sponsored feral mobs, the monarchy’s dreaded mercenary paramilitary and non-Muslim refugees armed by both of them. Thousands of ethnic Jammu Muslims fled to newly-founded Pakistan and many came as refugees to the Kashmir valley.
The massacre paved the way for an influx of Punjabi refugees from western Punjab (now Pakistan) into the erstwhile kingdom and drastically changed the demography of Jammu. This incident also paved the way for the tribals from Pakistan attacking Jammu & Kashmir in a bid to annex it from Singh’s regime, forcing Singh to seek help from India in lieu of an undemocratic Treaty of Ascension, which handed over Jammu & Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan after the October 1947 war, to the Indian rulers. This ascension to India is loathed by the Kashmiri people, who desired free nationhood and it started a long-drawn conflict, involving the Kashmiri people, India and Pakistan, that has claimed more than 100,000 civilian lives so far.
Though the monarch signed an Instrument of Ascension to India in October 1947, under pressure from the Indian government and the RSS, with a condition of a plebiscite, the adoption of the Indian Constitution on 26 November 1949 nullified all previous treaties and agreements entered by the Dominion of India, curtailing the scope of a plebiscite, which instigated the Kashmiri people. The Constitution, as a consolation of annexation, allowed two minimal privileges to Jammu & Kashmir through Article 35A and Article 370. However, the promise of autonomy remained elusive since then.
The RSS, BJP and other Hindutva fascist organisations have been demanding the abolishment of the Articles 35A and 370 so that Jammu & Kashmir can be reduced to the level of another Indian state. This desperation of the RSS to integrate Jammu & Kashmir is not rooted in anything remotely nationalist, as the BJP would preach; rather, it’s its urge to change the demography of Kashmir, using the Jammu model, to make the Muslims a minority community and dilute their collective resistance struggle. This will help the upper-caste Hindu elites and comprador capitalists to annex Kashmiri land and plunder natural resources by turning the region into a haven of plunder and loot.
Even though the issue of Article 35A is subjudice in the Supreme Court, and the BJP is claiming that it will abide by the court’s order, there is less hope at the grassroots in Kashmir over the outcome of the case in India’s apex court, which has always acted against the Kashmiri cause. The people of Kashmir have prepared themselves for the worst. As the police are seeking details of the local Imams (Muslim clerics who run mosques) under the garb of an anti-drug campaign, the people are anticipating the return of brutal military “crackdowns” that were quintessential of Kashmiri lives in the 1990s. Imams were forced to call out villagers and people out of their houses and assemble in nearby places during such “crackdowns” where they would be beaten and paraded by the Indian forces before a masked informer who will confirm whether one or few among them are militants. The return of such “crackdowns” will reaffirm the fact that the situation in Kashmir deteriorated during the Modi-era, while the prime minister boasted of ending stone-pelting and dissent by demonetising the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in November 2016.
Though the United Nations (UN) considers Jammu & Kashmir as a disputed territory, India claims it as its integral part and denies that the people’s rebellion in Kashmir is merely an internal law and order issue to evade international scrutiny of blatant human rights violations by the state’s forces. The UN’s reports on human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir by the Indian forces are trashed by New Delhi with strong jingoistic rhetoric. Now that the people’s resentment has grown beyond any level of reconciliation, now that the people of Kashmir want nothing less than Azadi (freedom) from India, the Modi regime, which is extremely hostile to the ideas of freedom, self-determination or human rights, is determined to unleash a volley of severe repression and macabre atrocities in the valley that will even put the Zionist Israeli terrorists to shame. The increase in 100 companies of paramilitary to counter a collective militant strength of less than 150 confirms this fact.
Modi and Shah know well that the people of the valley won’t fall for any trap laid by them, be it peace talk or confidence-building measures. The people want only Azadi and so long they would demand Azadi, Modi and Shah can unleash brutal state terror and use the optics to appease its bloodthirsty, jingoistic upper-caste Hindu voters throughout India. The more violence the Modi regime can unleash, the more freedom it will give to the Indian forces to repress and persecute the Kashmiri people, the more popular it will become among the Indian upper-caste Hindu chauvinists from the elite and urban middle class. This will secure Modi’s political future and that of the BJP’s, as Islamophobia and jingoism are its weapons to polarise Hindu upper-caste voters and showcase its government as a strong nationalist one with the ability to take hard decisions.
The Indian rulers have failed to exterminate the Kashmiri people’s genuine struggle for Azadi through brutal military terror. Yet, Modi and Shah continue to enrage the Kashmiri people by using gruesome atrocities and violence. Using rhetoric and Islamophobic propaganda, the Modi regime and the RSS-BJP’s Hindutva propaganda outlets have vilified the people of Kashmir in India and turned the majority of Indian Hindus into pathological Islamophobic Kashmir haters. Even those who oppose the Modi regime’s Hindutva fascist agenda from a liberal-democratic perspective, oppose the idea of a free Kashmir as they suffer from political myopia caused by xenophobia that the Indian rulers have normalised over years.
It’s preposterous to even think that there will be any form of major upheaval in Indian political arena or in the streets of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai over the increase of troops in Kashmir or over the issue of Modi’s fiddling with Article 35A and 370. The dominance of Hindutva fascist narrative in the mainstream political discourse in India makes it impossible to hear or empathise with the Kashmiri narrative. None of the opposition parties in the parliament will dare to raise the Kashmiri people’s cause from a purely Kashmiri perspective. Big-nation hegemonic behaviour will continue to command their politics within and outside the parliament. Using jingoism and utmost Islamophobia, the Modi regime and its servile state machinery will justify tampering with the Constitution and will be able to do away with the minimal rights that the Kashmiri people have enjoyed so far.
The dilution of Article 35A will also severely impact the Hindus of Jammu as well though they have so far supported the Hindutva fascists due to the extreme Islamophobic propaganda they’ve been subject to. The people will Jammu will be the first one to face a spree of the influx of outsiders from other parts of the country and their land, jobs, businesses will be in a perilous position due to such influx. The unrest that will follow in the Kashmir valley will cause severe losses to people’s lives, yet the self-censored media, which acts as the mouthpiece of the military occupation, will glorify the acts of the Modi regime and conceal the grotesque facts from those who would keep on hailing Modi and his coterie for “teaching Muslims a befitting lesson”.
In this complex web of affairs, hullabaloo and bloodshed, the cause of the Kashmiri people, their right over their own lives, land and even their own bodies, will be lost. They must, therefore, act for the sake of democracy, equality and dignity, and strengthen their struggle against the mighty enemy by exhibiting the highest degree of perseverance and by loathing any thought of capitulation. It’s the Kashmiri people’s struggle that can determine their future and the future of Kashmir, not anything else. How the Kashmiri people respond to this new challenge posed by the Modi regime and the Hindutva fascist state machinery needs to be seen.