From conflict management to enhancing chaos

By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal. Dated: 7/7/2019 12:17:07 PM

MARGINALIA

"Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat!" That is how union home minister Amit Shah, echoing the word of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, defined the Modi 2 government's policy on Kashmir. The ground reality is a complete mismatch from the phrase.
If there were any doubts, the government has set them to rest with the regressive ban on the movement of civilians on the highway. Over and above the existing curbs on civil liberties and the aggressive muscular policy that blurs the distinction between militants and ordinary citizens, the Jammu and Kashmir government, under president's rule, has now imposed a ban on the plying of civilian vehicles on the 97-km stretch from Qazigund to Nashri on the highway and suspension of train services on Banihal-Qazigund rail section from 10 am to 3 pm for 46 days during the Amarnath Yatra. In a land-locked region like Kashmir, such a ban has huge socio-economic implications. Besides, it militates against the constitutional guarantees of civil liberties to the people. The ban, that appears like a page from the era of slavery under feudal lords, is a far more regressive sequel to the one imposed during two months long election period to facilitate the movement of convoy of security forces. The pattern reveals that it is likely to be repeated in a much worse form in the future.
Democracy and humanity certainly have a different meaning in Kashmir. The gap between the democracy enjoyed in rest of the country and Kashmir is now further being widened. For years, successive governments have celebrated the ability to hold elections in Kashmir as the sole symbol of Indian democracy, irrespective of whether the polls are rendered meaningless if the polling is as low as 1-4 percent. Under the BJP rule, even elections are no longer considered necessary. The prolonged delay in announcing the assembly polls, since the hasty dissolution of the previous state legislature, is a case in point.
The state has seen the smooth conduct of panchayat elections in November-December last and later the parliamentary polls in April-May 2019. Both the local bodies polls and Lok Sabha polls registered a poor voter turn-out in the Valley, specially in most pockets of South Kashmir, making elections a farce. But the BJP in power at the Centre is certainly not guided by that dilemma of electoral morality and legitimacy while dragging its feet over announcing elections for the state, which have been due since December 2018 when Jammu and Kashmir Governor hurriedly dissolved the existing assembly, six months after imposition of Governor's rule in June 2018 when BJP broke the alliance with PDP. The Governor's decision to dissolve the assembly was aimed to stall efforts by political adversaries National Conference and PDP to cobble up an alliance with Congress.
For political convenience and suitability, BJP threw its weight behind the local bodies polls six months ago and more recently also went ahead with parliamentary polls. Unlike other states of the country where assembly polls were due and simultaneous state and parliamentary elections were held in April-May 2019, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed only the Lok Sabha elections. Indian democratic system provides a three-tiered representational governance system. These include parliamentary, assembly and local bodies levels. While assembly elections are the most vital of all the rungs of representational democracy (in the absence of adequately functioning panchayats and local bodies) as they fulfill the needs of the electorate best, this has been singled out and kept in abeyance.
In Kashmir, the recent panchayat and local bodies elections came to be infamously called 'ghost elections'. The exercise was a mock at democracy and ended up in a sheer display of lack of enthusiasm of the voters and invisible candidates. Hundreds of seats went uncontested and voting did not cross the single digit figure in many constituencies. In 1600 seats, no election could be held. During parliamentary elections, the polling percent in some of the segments was as low as 1-2 percent and some polling booths did not register a single voter in South Kashmir, where polling was held unprecedently in four phases.
In the name of democracy and cleansing the corruption riddled system, the Governor's administration is methodically cracking down on mainstream regional political parties by invoking corruption and tax evasion charges against their leaders. If this was an attempt to ensure good and clean governance, Kashmiri leaders would not have been the only ones to face the heat. While political space for all other parties is being systemically shrunk, the BJP is strengthening its cadres not only in Hindu majority Jammu region and Ladakh but also in parts of Kashmir, where abysmally low polling allowed it to hoist its saffron flag in some seats. The odds are that the BJP is trying to shrink the political space in the Valley with the twin purpose of further pushing the Valley into a chaos to ensure low voter turn-out in assembly elections so that it benefits BJP to accomplish its mission of getting an absolute or near majority in the state.
The prolonged delay over assembly polls also exposes the Centre's dubious claims over improved law and order condition. While on the one hand, it has maintained that the security situation is improving under Governor's rule, it avers that the security situation is not conducive for holding of assembly polls. Ever since the fall of state government a year ago and the imposition of Governor's rule, Kashmir remains static and stagnant with its usual blend of restrictions, strike calls, banned internet, disrupted rail services, shut down of educational institutions, crackdowns, raids, arrests, protests, clashes, use of bullets and pellets, funerals, some odd encounters resulting in casualties of security men, militants and civilians. Over and above this, exceptional methods like highway ban highlight the BJP's version of "Insaniyat" in Kashmir.
Whatever it is packaged as, BJP is pursuing a methodical and calculated policy aimed at creating chaos and pushing Kashmir into an irreversibly dangerous zone. The distress in Kashmir today is too acute. It is craving for conflict transformation. For decades, Indian governments have pursued the policy of managing the conflict alternating hardened muscular approach with cosmetic relief. The transition is now being made from conflict management to conflict enhancement.

 

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