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Failed coalition in IHK

Updated June 21, 2018

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A RADICAL experiment has ended in a somewhat predictable but nevertheless spectacular failure. With the decision by the BJP to withdraw from the coalition with the PDP in India-held Kashmir, the violence-torn region has been plunged into fresh political turmoil.

This may be the most dangerous phase yet. When the BJP and PDP formed their unlikely alliance in early 2015, the auguries were not good.

Some hopes were pinned on the aging Mufti Sayeed of the PDP moderating the policy preferences of a right-wing BJP national leadership and a so-called common minimum programme, the coalition’s governance agenda, delivering political stability and economic growth.

But few inside the coalition and virtually no one outside appeared to be convinced by the deal. The BJP’s hawkish and communal electoral campaign helped deliver not just a hung assembly in IHK but an electorate that was sharply divided.

However, the roots of the problem lie much deeper than yet another failed governance experiment in IHK. The previous NC and Congress coalition in IHK had revealed a fundamental, insurmountable problem: Kashmir-based political parties cannot legitimately align with national Indian parties because the aspirations of the Kashmiri people cannot be reconciled with the demands of the federal Indian state.

There is real, deep-rooted and continuing resentment in IHK against the repressive role of the state of India in the region. Despotic laws and a suffocating security presence are inimical to the just and moral political demands of a local population.

While that has been true for decades, in more recent times the right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated at virtually every step of the way that even when the language of the regime is moderate, its intentions as evidenced by actions on the ground are malign.

Indeed, the onset of direct rule in IHK has instantly given rise to informed analysis and political speculation that the Modi government is preparing to unleash a new round of terror in IHK, the reason ostensibly being the BJP’s national aspirations in the Indian general election scheduled for next year.

In reality, there is a genuine and growing freedom movement in IHK that the Indian security apparatus will not be able to crush with force, mass incarcerations or political machinations.

A first-ever report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has highlighted the scale of the repression in IHK and the atrocities committed against a virtually defenceless population.

While Indian repression has undoubtedly contributed to a growing rebellion among the people of IHK, an enduring rejection of federal Indian policies and practices towards the disputed region is what ensures that dissent survives and spreads.

India ought to recognise the inhumanity and folly of its approach to the disputed Kashmir region. In these days of great danger and turmoil, common sense and a calm approach must prevail.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2018

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