Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Kashmir’s pro-India politicians stirred new gossips in the power corridors of New Delhi, which got amplified by the mainstream media. While Modi’s servile Hindutva fascist media is showing it as the capitulation of the valley’s political forces, the handful of media houses critical of the regime are terming this as a retreat on part of New Delhi after abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A by muscle-flexing in August 2019.
Modi’s meeting with Kashmir’s pro-India politicians took place on June 24th 2021 at New Delhi, which is a first of its kind after his government revoked the special status—which was ornamental—of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir on August 5th 2019. The valley’s pro-India politicians, who have lost all credibility in the region long ago, came to the meet with the hope of raising their demand for the return to the pre-August 2019 position, which Modi categorically refuted. However, Modi’s meeting with these politicians showed that he has to include them in his Kashmir scheme after calling them “anti-national” elements.
Rather than listening to the demands of the Kashmiri politicians, whose body language exhibited servility and cowardice, Modi used the opportunity to pass on his diktats. The Kashmiri politicians who formed the People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), just before August 5th 2019, have been declaring that they will continue their struggle demanding the erstwhile special status of Jammu & Kashmir through the restoration of Article 370 and Article 35A, which were essential elements of the Instrument of Accession signed by the former monarch Maharaja Hari Singh on October 27th 1947.
But Modi and his ruling Hindutva fascist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made clear on several occasions that it will not allow any rollback to the pre-August 2019 position. This was communicated by Modi on June 24th, also Ravinder Raina, the Jammu & Kashmir BJP chief has dismissed any possibility of returning to the pre-August 2019 arrangement. Abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A had been long-standing agendas of Modi’s BJP. But Modi’s and his deputy, Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s, endorsement of the PAGD brought out memories of their earlier vilification of the PAGD.
The principal agenda of Modi’s meeting with Kashmir’s pro-India politicians, including the decimated Indian National Congress party (INC) was to make them accept the delimitation exercise that the BJP is undertaking to redraw constituencies of the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir–carved out of the erstwhile princely state when it was bifurcated on August 5th 2019. Modi’s critics say that the delimitation exercise is undertaken to increase the strength of the Hindu-majority Jammu vis-à-vis the Muslim-majority Kashmir in the union territory’s rubberstamp legislative assembly for which the elections are due.
Earlier, the BJP used delimitation in Modi’s home state Gujarat by restructuring districts. The BJP’s Gujarat delimitation exercise ensured that Muslims don’t get a chance to determine the election outcome in any constituency, which rendered them politically marginalised in the state. Now, a similar exercise in Jammu & Kashmir will reduce the Kashmiri Muslims voiceless in mainstream parliamentary politics, although most of them have no faith left in the New Delhi-exported version of democracy.
Now the PAGD, which consists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], Jammu and Kashmir Awami National Conference (ANC), Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (NC), Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Jammu & Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM), is trying to rebuild a campaign demanding restoration of the pre-August 2019 status of Jammu & Kashmir, though thousands of Kashmiris lost their lives due to state atrocities since 1989-90 under that “special status”. PAGD constituents like the NC and the PDP, which ruled with the support of the INC and the BJP, oversaw the killing, wounding and torture of thousands of civilians in the valley and connived with New Delhi in dehumanising Kashmiri people.
Now, by citing their imprisonment as a token of their concern for the Kashmiri cause that they have betrayed for years, the NC and the PDP are shedding crocodile’s tears for the valley. They are gradually placing the demand for “full statehood” as the principal axis of Kashmir’s polity. This demand for “full statehood” is cunningly designed to bring a paradigm shift in the United Nations (UN)-recognised disputed region’s politics, where the people have been demanding their right to self-determination.
The imprisonment and house arrests of CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, NC leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, PDP leader and the last chief minister of erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, etc, helped New Delhi to refurbish the shattered credentials of these pro-India politicians and to raise public sympathy for them. Now, using their past imprisonment and purported ordeal, these leaders are driving the movement for “full statehood” of Jammu & Kashmir. New Delhi is expecting that the masses will follow these politicians, considering them foes of Modi, and will get entangled in the struggle for “statehood” than “Azadi” (freedom), which was a nightmare for the Indian rulers.
But the “full statehood” or restoration of Article 370 and Article 35A will be political setbacks for the BJP, which has stoked jingoistic fervour among its feral supporters all over India using the optics of “Kashmir’s integration” with India. The BJP knows it can only rule the valley if it increases Jammu’s share in the legislative assembly. The return to the previous arrangement won’t allow that to happen. Thus, the “full-statehood” demand in the pre-August 2019 format will never be acceptable for New Delhi. Even if Modi restores “statehood” status, it will be never the same as Ladakh is turned into a union territory and won’t be merged with Jammu & Kashmir. But this political movement by the PAGD constituents will help Modi to ensure that the Kashmiris are trapped in the “statehood” struggle rather than the movement for their right to self-determination.
Also, at the same time, the PAGD constituents like the CPI(M) and the NC have filed cases in the Supreme Court demanding the reversal of the August 2019 steps taken by the government. Tarigami and Abdullah father-son duo are expecting a favourable judgement from the apex court when most of the recent Supreme Court verdicts have shown a tilt towards the Modi regime’s policies, including the controversial Ayodhya verdict. In case the apex court orders in favour of the Modi regime, the PAGD will be forced to participate in the election process that’s due to start and the people of Kashmir will be forced to accept India’s verdict, despite their opposition.
Mufti has declared that she will not participate in the polls until the statehood is restored. This soft pressure tactic won’t help in the long run as Modi doesn’t care about the valley. In the days to come, as India is buying peace with Pakistan at the Line of Control (LOC), a relatively peaceful Kashmir will be needed so that the corporate donors of the BJP may have their projects implemented in the valley, take over the control of its natural resources and build settler colonies to change the demography of the valley. However, the Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to leave the valley by the BJP’s leader Jagmohan, often called the “Butcher of Kashmir”, and have been used by the BJP to titillate Hindutva-incensed upper-caste voters, are not getting any chance to return to their houses even when the pro-separatist politicians and common people have been asking them to return for years.
Modi’s meeting with Kashmir’s pro-India politicians took place to ensure that the PAGD, the INC and other political outfits in Jammu & Kashmir will focus on the “statehood” demand to put the “Azadi” demand in oblivion. But in the period of absolute unrest, mistrust and macabre state atrocities unleashed on generations of Kashmiris, can this infantile political demand get mass support in a place like Kashmir? Can the Kashmiris be happy with a “full statehood” after three-decade-long bloodshed, violence and state atrocities? These gimmicks will jeopardise the scope to peacefully resolve the Kashmir dispute through dialogue with different representatives of the Kashmiri people. But as gimmick wins votes, Modi and his coterie will fall back on them and the pro-India Kashmir leaders will oblige New Delhi like faithful agents.