Modi’s Kashmir policy is coming unstuck - GulfToday

Modi’s Kashmir policy is coming unstuck

BRP Bhaskar

@brpbhaskar

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Kashmir-demo-750

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Nine months after scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution, under which Jammu and Kashmir had enjoyed a measure of autonomy, and splitting the state into two centrally administered territories, the Narendra Modi administration has run out of ideas on the way forward.

The changes in J&K’s status were rammed down after imposing an unprecedented lockdown, which involved cutting off communication facilities.

Several leaders of the political parties, which were part of the democratic process for decades, were detained under the harsh Public Safety Act. They included three former Chief Ministers, Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, both of the J&K National Conference, and Mahbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party.

Ms Mufti had headed the last coalition government, in which Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was a junior partner. The two Abdullahs and several minor leaders have since been released. However, Ms. Mufti is still under detention.

Immediately after the crackdown there was talk of holding elections to local bodies as the first step towards restoration of the democratic process. Before any steps could be taken in this regard the coronavirus pandemic came. The series of national lockdowns imposed to check the pandemic subsumed the one in J&K.

No national party raised any serious protest against the assault on the J&K constitutional system, which was based on an agreement between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who had led the state’s freedom movement.

Some Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris challenged the constitutional validity of the Centre’s action in the Supreme Court. It obligingly refrained from looking too closely into them.

Last week the court took up a petition questioning continued denial of 4G connectivity in Kashmir. It was pointed out that this caused immense hardship to the people by barring access to the fast-growing online activities across the country.

The court asked a committee of Central officials to examine the matter.  Former Ashoka University Vice-Chancellor Pratap Bhanu Mehta said the decision had created a new evil. “It implies that the home ministry can be plaintiff, judge, executioner, jury in its own cause,” he observed.

Modi, who had left it to Home Minister Amit Shah to do all the talking on Kashmir in Parliament, said later in an address to the nation that the changes were made to rid J&K of terrorism and separatism.

Available data shows a drop in terror cases since 2018. However, there is nothing to indicate that terrorism is on the way out. 

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the number of terror cases involving casualties dropped from 205 in 2018 to 135 in 2019, and the number of dead from 452 to 283. The decline is probably the result of disruption of the militants’ communication channels.

Despite the continuing communications curbs, so far this year there have been 46 incidents involving 114 deaths. Those killed included an Army Colonel and Major.

Media reports have quoted sources connected with the security establishment as saying several new terror groups under names like The Resistance Front (TRF), Joint Kashmir Front, and Jammu Kashmir Ghaznavi Force have mushroomed.

TRF, which surfaced last October, has claimed responsibility for several attacks on security forces.

Going by published accounts, there are differences of opinion within the security establishment on the nature and significance of the new groups. The Indian establishment views TRF as a Pakistani ploy to get deniability of linkages with it and to bring all terrorist cadres under one umbrella.

The J&K police’s assessment is that Pakistan’s Inter State Intelligence is seeking to secularise the terrorist movement by doing away with names like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen and bring all cadres under a non-religious label.

The emergence of new groups belies Modi’s hope that his heavy-handed measures will put an end to terrorism. On the contrary, the political vacuum he has created appears to have created a favourable climate for militancy to gain new ground.

There has been a marked increase in truce violations along the line of control in J&K. The authorities have linked the spurt in activity along the LOC to Pakistani attempts to infiltrate militants.

The August crackdown was followed by a flurry of diplomatic activity to counter Pakistani attempts to raise the issue in international forums. The government can feel happy that the world has not evinced much interest in the goings-on in Kashmir. But, then, the world has not endorsed his iron-fist policy either.

While Modi has been calling for joint action against terrorism, the US, in the context of its pull out from Afghanistan, has been advising him to talk to the Taliban about India’s concerns.

The coronavirus may help hide the fact that Modi’s Kashmir policy is coming unstuck. But he needs to rethink.

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