Olympics come every five years, and so do the Political Olympics in J&K. In a pre-election interview to media, BJP President Amit Shah has stated that if the BJP gains majority in the coming elections, Article 370 will be abrogated. The Twitterati questions are “pray sir, hasn’t BJP been ruling the country with majority government past five years?” But this along with other pronouncements related to J&K, come up during election times. It whips up fervor for the BJP while the main political parties of J&K, National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), take recourse to brandishing knives and resort to vile diatribe in order to rally the radicals, fundamentalists and separatist around them.
With reference to J&K, BJP’s 52-page Sankalp Patra (Election Manifesto) for 2019 Lok Sabha Elections reads, “We reiterate our position since the time of the Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370. We are committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir. We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state. …. We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits and we will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb.”
Jan Sangh, known as the political wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an predecessor of BJP, was raised in 1951. But to say that BJP is committed to abrogation of Article 370 since the time of Jan Sangh, we need to examine what has happened in the past 68 years since 1951 and specifically over the past five years during the BJP-majority rule at the Centre and during the PDP-BJP coalition government in J&K since 2014 and till its collapse on June 19, 2018. It is not difficult to conclude that precious little has actually happened.
It may be recalled that in run up to the last J&K State elections, BJP’s Minister of State in PMO, Jitendra Singh had told media persons in Jammu that the BJP’s stand on Article 370 is “very clear”. He said all issues, including Article 370, which have been part of the BJP manifesto all these years, will be part of their agenda in the state. But simultaneously Hina Bhat, BJP’s candidate from Amirakadal, who was also the vice-president of the BJP’s women wing in J&K, had stated that if Article 370 was touched, it would force Kashmiris to pick up guns again, adding, “But they (BJP) know that Article 370 will not be removed by anyone.” So, is rhetoric for political gains is the buzzword for Articles 370, 35 A and return of Kashmiri Pundits – within the party different voices to appease particular set of audiences only to garner votes?
The Congress will remain mum because it was Nehru who without consulting Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel, brought in Article 370 and covered up this deliberate act later by saying it is a temporary measure. The NC and PDP will continue with their vitriolic. Mehbooba Mufti whose tail appears tethered across the border has recently said, “Why waste time in court? Wait for the BJP to scrap Article 370. It will automatically debar us from fighting elections since the Indian constitution won’t be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir anymore,”adding: “Na samjhogay tho mit jaoge, aye Hindustan walo. Tumhari dastaan tak bhi na hogi dastaano mein (O people of India, you will be erased if you do not understand. Even your tales won’t be written in history)”.
While Mehbooba portrays herself as the mouthpiece of ISI and Hijbul Mujahideen, old boy Farukh Abdullah says abrogating Article 370 will pave way for ‘freedom’ for people of J&K, adding, “They talk of abrogating Article 370. If you do that, the accession will not stand. I swear by Allah. I think this is the wish of Almighty, we will get freedom from them.” Both Mufti and Abdullah behave like J&K is their ancestral property because they know that there is absolutely no chance of J&K going to Pakistan and should that happen as one in hundred million chance, they both would probably be tortured and hanged by radicals, as was Mohammad Najibullah of Afghanistan in 1992. Mehbooba’s father was openly thanking Pakistan for the electoral win of his party in 2014, in presence of Prime Minister Modi.
Mehbooba knows that given the character of opportunistic politics in India, the BJP will not dither from going in for another alliance with the PDP despite the earlier disastrous experience. Farukh knows inquiry into the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits would never be initiated, which could indict and prosecute him. The separatist are having whale of a time despite ‘restrictions’; knowing that the process of law in India follows the circuitous path down the decades with escape doors of political calculations can always be banked upon. Why J&K, remember the 12 special courts announced in 2017 pan-India that were to clean up the political muck within the next 12 months? But what could be expected with one third of the lawmakers themselves having criminal records or face criminal charges? Besides, whichever the government, switching over to the party in power means all sins are washed off.
Article 35A empowers the J&K state legislature to define permanent residents and then give them special treatment, privileges and rights. This special treatment is with respect to employment with the state government, acquisition of immovable property in the state, settlement in the state, right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the state government may provide. But the fact remains that Article 35A came into being vide a presidential order in 1954 and was not added to the Indian Constitution through a parliamentary amendment vide Article 368. Instead, Article 35A was only added via an annexure by superseding the parliamentary process. This renders Article 35A ‘extra constitutional’, so why not address and rectify the folly? Also, Article 35A owes its origin to Article 370(1) (d), which in turn was always meant to be ‘temporary and transitional’.
Chidambram, earning fame on social media as likely the most corrupt politician, colonized 4000 Rohingyas in Jammu as UPA’s Union Home Minister despite Article 370 and India not being signatory to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. The Union Government has done nothing to relocate these Rohingyas out of J&K despite intelligence reports pointing out their involvement in the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist attack on the Sunjwan Army camp in Jammu during February 2018. On the contrary, aadhar cards were arranged for them by the local MLA as per news reports. There was news about India deporting “seven” Rohingyas back to Myanmar in October 2018 and another five in January 2019. However, this happened due political permutations in Assam and northeast; it is drop in the ocean considering the thousands of Rohingyas in India.
Rohingyas appear being distributed in Jammu with sinister motives. In February 2018 it was reported there were 734 Rohingyas settled near police lines in Channi Himmat, 206 near Army station in Sunjwan (which was attacked), 40 near HQ 16 Corps at Nagrota, while graveyards are also being used to settle them. So why has NDA II not moved them out to a refugee camp outside J&K? The Army has said that it will not let terrorism come in Jammu region but Army can only target terrorists to keep the level of violence down. It is the civil administration, both at the Centre and the State that is ambivalent to the radicalization that has crept into the region and increasing. Wahabi clerics have been moved in to radicalize the Bakarwals who have been traditionally loyal to India. Regional papers are advertizing new residential ventures specifying that only Muslims can apply for them.
All this is in backdrop of the continuing national shame of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits living like refugees in their own country. The excuse often quoted is that even moving Rohingyas out of Jammu is not easy, what to talk of Article 370-35A and return of Kashmiri Pandits, because of the quality of our Opposition and the media. But the question is, are these going to become any better? Despite all the propaganda, it is quite clear that the Centre’s J&K policy, if there is one, has been in a mess. Meanwhile the circus of elections is ongoing with plenty notorious characters in the fray and money flowing like water to mould perceptions, dismal growth of industrial output, farmer distress and unemployment notwithstanding. Caste mathematics reign supreme with even foreign envoys studying it keenly and China enjoying her digital invasion of India.
The suggestion of establishing a Ministry of Internal Affairs during UPA II was because of fears it would become too powerful – CAPF assisted coup? Now the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is being fattened with moves to bring the Coast Guards under it and reverting operational control of the 65,000 strong Assam Rifles to MHA. The grapevine is that this is in preparation to anointing Amit Shah as Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister in NDA III – same as LK Advani was in NDA II. But if anything will happen at all with regard to Articles 370, 35A and return of Kashmiri Pandits beyond the expected rhetoric in run up to 2024 general elections, only time will tell.