THERE couldn’t have been a more apt prelude to Kashmir Day, observed in Pakistan on Feb 5 each year, than the images of the closed-down occupied valley in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit.
The land was on a lockdown to ensure smooth passage for the Indian prime minister, who was visiting to monitor development projects. Businesses were closed and internet services on the phone suspended. True to tradition, several well-known Kashmiri leaders were put under house arrest and hundreds of others also taken into custody in the run-up to the trip.
Srinagar presented the look of a city besieged by soldiers taking control of the roads.
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Mr Modi was ultimately spotted waving emptily at imaginary crowds as he took a safe cruise through the famous Dal Lake.
Since there is no shortage of sane voices in the subcontinent, the tour has been squarely called out for its audacity. It has been dismissed as being the most artificial of its kind — the latest in the make-believe series of the BJP that seeks to show it is firmly in command in held Kashmir.
The party has tried all kinds of gimmicks to sell a soft image of itself on the subject. The cover of decency has repeatedly been blown away and the real, brutal face of oppression revealed.
With much help from the Modi government, the valley today is on fire with a movement that is recognised for its indigenous character and which continues to withstand fierce assaults by the occupying Indian forces.
Mr Modi has been busy trying to thwart the uprising that has assumed new proportions after the killing of freedom fighter Burhan Wani in 2016. However, the BJP government is taking desperate measures that are clearly doomed.
And if the frustration of the administration is reflected in the large number of civilian casualties in recent times, the fear is that with a general election looming in India, the ruling party will be seeking to play up its Hindutva philosophy all the more vociferously to get votes.
To make matters worse, the BJP has a greater urge to promote its narrow, faith-based messages in the face of a Congress that, as recent state elections prove, is resurgent in many parts of India.
The situation in IHK is bad enough, but the latter’s example of how BJP wants to impose the state’s will over all is an even bigger disaster for other regions.
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2019