The held Kashmir simmers as all BJP strategies to control the situation have backfired. As it is, senior BJP leaders are repeatedly emphasising the party’s commitment to abrogate the Article 370 from the state. According to media reports, BJP President Amit Shah has said the party remains committed to remove the article from the state but their lack of majority in Rajya Sabha is the reason why it has not been done so far. Shah’s comments have been met with some sharp criticism from political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.
National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah says when India got independence, a Constitution was created in which certain provisions were kept by which the state’s identity could be safeguarded.
“It included Article 370 and Article 35A. Unfortunately, some of our leaders made Article 370 hollow for their personal gains,” he said. His father and National Conference President Farooq Abdullah had even declared that the relationship between New Delhi and the state will be over if Article 370 was ever repealed. In any case, it is over.
Pakistan has already announced that it will not accept the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in Kashmir, saying it would be a violation of UN resolutions. The Article 370 is a “temporary provision” with respect to Jammu and Kashmir and restricts the applicability of various provisions of the Constitution by “curtailing” the power of parliament to make laws on subjects which fall under the Indian Union and Concurrent lists.
Meanwhile, Indian security forces have been deployed along the 270-km-long Baramulla to Udhampur highway to enforce a ban on civilian traffic and the road will be kept open exclusively for convoys of security forces every Sunday and Wednesday. Political parties in held Jammu and Kashmir have come together in their opposition to the ban on civilian traffic for two days a week on an important highway.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called on people in the state to defy the ban. “My appeal to people is not to accept this ban. Defy it and travel wherever you want to go. We will challenge this ban in the court as well,” she said.
The People’s Democratic Party’s chief also tweeted videos of her as well as her party leaders protesting against state Governor Satya Pal Malik and his administration over the ban. “This is Kashmir, not Palestine. We wont allow you to turn our beloved land into an open air prison,” she said in meaningful remarks.
Her rival in the state Omar Abdullah also took to Twitter, calling the ban “mindless”. The National Conference leader raised concerns over the inconvenience it would cause. Other leaders including Sajjad Lone, a former ally of the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir, called the ban a “Humanitarian disaster”.
At the same time, the political parties in J&K have criticised the withdrawal of security of their leaders ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, saying it is hampering their political campaign. The move has come following the strict stand taken by the Modi government on ‘inappropriate usage’ of scarce police resources in Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir government has withdrawn security cover of 919 persons since the state has come under the Governor’s Rule on June 20, 2018, thereby freeing 2,768 police personnel and 389 vehicles.
In this connection, Omar Abdullah tweeted: “At a time when the administration has used the excuse of the security environment to refuse to conduct assembly elections this decision is all the more bizarre. God forbid should anything happen to any of these politicians who have had their security withdrawn Governor Malik & his administration will be personally responsible.”
Simultaneously, former Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General D S Hooda has sent recommendations to the Congress that are “broad, strategic in nature on a range of issues including internal security”. General Hooda, who led the September 2016 alleged cross-border strikes in Pakistan following the attack on the Uri Brigade headquarters, has presented a 42-page national security document to Congress president Rahul Gandhi. The document is not public yet. But in its election manifesto, the Congress however had said that, if voted to power, it would review the draconian AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act 1976 – enabling legislation for the implementation of AFSPA. The party said it would make suitable changes to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights. AFSPA is a special law that protects forces against litigation and investigation when they are deployed in an internal security role, allowing them to trample human rights as they please.
The manifesto also said the party would review the deployment of armed forces in the Kashmir valley – moving more troops to the border to check infiltration while reducing the presence of the army and central armed police forces in the valley.
The BJP leaders are out with daggers drawn at the mention of AFSPA and the Congress manifesto.
Meanwhile, many Pakistani civilians are still being killed and injured as Indian forces shell areas in Pakistan across the LoC that separates Indian and Pakistan-administered areas of Kashmir. On the other hand, Indian inmates in jails are beating Pakistani prisoners to death in revenge for the February 14 attack on Indian forces in held Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign ministry has repeatedly told India that it has failed to protect Pakistani prisoners in her jails but to no avail.
With no substantial strategy on the ground, one may see that the Indian government continues to live in a fool’s paradise with regard to held Kashmir.