Troops in Kashmir when economy in tatters: Modi peddles old wine in a new bottle
The heavy troop movements and deployment in the Kashmir valley has triggered a tsunami of wild speculations. New Delhi reportedly sent 80,000 paramilitary soldiers to the valley following the 10,000 extra men sent recently. It has also abruptly ended the Amarnath Yatra, which was scheduled to finish on 15 August, citing security threat. This huge force deployment and turning Kashmir valley intoholders a bigger military garrison than what it was so far — the most militarised zone on earth — has triggered panic and discombobulated the common people of the valley, as well as political observers in New Delhi.
Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor his deputy, Home Minister Amit Shah, had spoken anything on the present situation or on the utmost confusion their decision has created. The defence ministry alleged violation of ceasefire by Pakistan at the Line of Control (LOC), which divides the Kashmir valley into two parts, occupied by two warring nuclear-powered neighbours, however, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh didn’t issue any statement until now, leaving only the Indian Army chief, who seconds as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) unofficial military spokesperson, to steal the show with his rhetoric over Kashmir. The immature political rhetoric by the army head is also complicating the situation and triggering panic. Kashmiri separatist leaders are using this opportunity to draw international attention towards what they call an “impending genocide” in the valley.
In the meantime, educational institutions in Kashmir, including the National Institute of Technology, have declared mid-term holidays while their campuses are turned into fortified bases for soldiers. The panicked people have started stocking up essentials, including fuel and medicines, while many tried to move out of the valley, however, the high air-fare didn’t allow them to do so. While the Modi regime has assured a total withdrawal of Indian Hindu pilgrims from Kashmir, it didn’t comment on how the labourers from different parts of the country who work in the valley will return to their home states. Most of the Kashmiri students living in hostels have returned to their houses, while many are still trying to understand the gravity of the situation. No one in the valley, from the former chief ministers like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti to the ordinary houseboat owners, can figure out what’s happening and where it’s leading the valley to.
In this utmost chaotic situation, bush telegraph runners are making a kill. Rumours about the trifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh provinces, abolishment of Articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution that guarantee special status to Jammu & Kashmir, imposition of military rule in Kashmir, and, of course, the plan to celebrate India’s independence day by declaring a martial emergency, are doing the rounds. These assumptions have gained viral epidemic status, thanks to social media platforms, and many mainstream media houses, Indian and foreign, are doing stories by randomly picking up these. There is no concrete or serious effort visible from the Modi regime’s part to clear the air of ambiguity, rather, by remaining conspicuously silent, the BJP and Modi-Shah duo are actually playing a dirty political game, whose victim will be none other than the hapless Kashmiri people.
What’s wrong with Kashmir right now? What security threat did the Modi regime come to know about? Why it’s not ensuring that the public is informed and there is no panic on the streets of the persecuted and blood-soaked valley? The adventurism regarding Articles 35A and 370 of the Indian Constitution does pose a risk, however, as the case of Article 35A is subjudice in the Supreme Court, it will be a real breach of privilege if the Modi regime abolishes the crucial article overriding the judiciary, which itself has lost its credibility at the times of Hindutva fascism. These two articles are crucial for the validity of the Instrument of Accession that Maharaja Hari Singh, the last monarch of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir, signed to join the Indian Union as an autonomous entity. Abolishment or withdrawal of any of them or any tampering with the existing framework would invalidate India’s claim over Jammu & Kashmir as the Instrument of Accession will be nullified. As the United Nations consider Jammu & Kashmir a disputed territory, it will be suicidal for the Indian rulers to take any aggressive position that challenges the status quo in these volatile times.
The people of Kashmir have been fighting for their right to self-determination for more than 70 years, yet to no avail. The Indian state repression and suppression of genuine people’s struggles strongly crushes any aspiration of the Kashmiris to attain freedom. The Modi regime and the BJP, with the help of the Hindutva fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), acted as the catalyst force to worsen the Kashmir situation by turning it extremely volatile and precarious. The series of violence and brutal state persecution, which started after the mass protests over the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant commander who had a cult following in the valley, in June 2016, opened a new front against the unpopular Indian rule in the valley.
The demand for Azadi (freedom) was never as viral as it became post-2016. Any scope of reconciliation or dialogue evaporated due to the iron-fist approach of the Modi regime, which eventually helped Pakistan and its ruling establishment to issue an SOS over Kashmir at international platforms. The United Nations condemned Indian atrocities, yet India and the Modi regime shrugged off the criticism with extreme audacity. As the Modi regime has failed to contain the mass discontent in Kashmir and the demand for freedom gained epidemic popularity, which can be matched only with the 1990s, it will evidently take far more violent steps now to prevent an ignominy and to appease its hyper-masculine, Hindutva fascism-incensed voters.
This recent troop movements in the valley, the talks of celebrating India’s Independence Day in the Kashmir valley, despite vehemently opposing the Kashmiri people’s demand for independence and criminalising the term “Azadi” itself in the political parlance, show that the BJP and the Modi regime are trying to cover up for something. What can that be except for a severe economic crisis that has gripped the country severely, slowing down industries and triggering massive job cuts? What can be the real reason for a troop increase in the valley, intensifying tension near the LoC and promoting war-time jingoism through the mainstream media, if not the distraction of public attention?
Reports suggest that the Indian economy’s slowdown is really threatening a wide range of industries and causing job cuts. One of the biggest public sector units (PSU) that employs the highest number of employees — the Indian Railways — has declared that it’s laying-off 300,000 workers and employees from its current strength of 1300,000; more than 40 PSUs await divestment or closure, big PSUs like BSNL, Air India, HAL, etc, are reeling under a severe crisis of funds, and there is no respite in sight for them. Rather than resolving the intensified unemployment crisis, the Modi regime is adding more numbers to the four-decade-high unemployment rates. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her sycophants, who earlier acted have lackeys of Arun Jaitley, have blatantly ignored any advice from sane economists and have aggravated the crisis by pursuing the same course they have been following since 2014.
Starting from the disastrous demonetisation to the implementation of GST and using the PSU banks as a vessel to serve big crony capitalists, who have imposed heavier burdens of Non-Performing Assets (NPA) on the banking sector, the BJP didn’t leave any stone unturned to inflict severe injuries to the Indian economy. The household savings, which form the backbone of India’s investment market, is at a record low at present. Inflation, including food inflation, is constantly rising, burning bigger holes in the people’s pocket. The NPA crisis has made banks become extremely paranoid and they have throttled the small and medium enterprises, as well as startups, by tightening credit flow. This has worsened the economic situation, which even top industry leaders, bankers, etc, including some of the notorious card-carriers of the BJP, are now complaining.
In the meantime, the Modi regime has withdrawn Rs 98,000 billion from the Consolidated Funds of India, which can be called the nation’s saving, to meet its 2019-20 expenditures. While the government earns nearly Rs 12,000 billion from indirect taxes and Rs 10,000 billion from direct taxes per annum, the amount withdrawn is actually quite large and would need future income to fulfil. This blatant loot of Indian people’s money continues without any strong opposition from any parliamentary parties. Now that the government has this amount in its coffer, the BJP will be using multiple subterfuges to distract people’s attention from the real economic threat.
As this economic crisis and loot intensify, the sermon by the NITI Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant, that Indians will have “to sacrifice for a $5 trillion economy” sounds like a sadist verbal abuse. Moreover, the NITI Ayog, which has become a den of Modi’s sycophants to gather and promote his obnoxious corporate-appeasement policies, also claimed that “too much of reforms” triggered the slowdown of the economy. Though this slowdown story has stirred a storm among economists and market watchers, the nonchalant attitude of Modi & Co proves that there is nothing on offer at this point in time as a problem-solver.
While the economy reels under the juggernaut of Modi’s selective corporate-appeasement, promotion of the interests of a handful of big crony-comprador capitalists and their foreign monopoly-finance capital-owned corporate masters, as the investments from other sources fall flat due to a global economic meltdown caused by a crisis in European and American markets, especially over the lack of opportunities of “bubbles” that could provide the finance capital an opportunity to speculate and invest for higher returns, the Modi regime is left with no other option to resolve the tedious and complicated issues of the Indian economy but to distract the mass attention towards Kashmir.
As this “look at the frontiers” campaign by the BJP and the RSS to distract the people’s attention from the burning problem of a gargantuan economic crisis that has engulfed India and shattered its growth opportunities, unfolds, a lot of bloodbaths, state violence, or even a border skirmish can’t be written off from the list of possibilities. Watching and analysing each and every move of the Modi regime, especially the crisis-period strategy before elections (assembly polls are going to take place in BJP-ruled Maharashtra, Haryana, etc), help us fathom the easy equation between a tension with Pakistan or bloodbath in Kashmir and the BJP’s electoral fortune. By fanning xenophobia and using a jingoistic fervour in its poll campaign, the BJP can override any anti-incumbency waves, as the last Lok Sabha election results proved.
How the cocooned opposition and the disarrayed democratic forces can thwart the attempt by the Modi regime to cover-up a great economic slowdown caused by its anti-people economic policies by evoking extreme jingoism in the name of Kashmir and by fanning Islamophobia, is to be seen. At present, none of the opposition parties has the ability or any organisational strength to combat the BJP’s jingoistic drive. They have become reluctant partners in this game and have limited their criticism within the parliamentary periphery only, refusing to reach the people, awaken, unite and organise them against the peril.
In these times, expecting a quick relief from the ordeal will be quite infantile. Kashmir will be at the receiving end and its people will suffer the darkest phase because the Indian economy is destabilised by the Modi regime’s wrong policies, which will need Kashmiri blood to distract the Indian voters and ensure the BJP’s swift victory in the assembly elections. India needs a broader, united and democratic people’s struggle against the pro-corporate Modi regime and its anti-people Kashmir policy, which is used to distract mass attention. The democratic and anti-fascist people’s struggles of different magnitude must unite on a larger scale and expose the crimes and intentions of the Modi regime to ensure its future conspiracies are turned futile from now onwards. It’s the only way the lives of the Kashmiri people can be saved and the Indian economy’s destruction through the pursuance of a neo-liberal economic prescription can be stopped.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker