Destroying Kashmir

Published August 17, 2019
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

THE measures unleashed by Narendra Modi’s BJP government on Aug 5 are designed to go beyond the wreck of Kashmiri autonomy. They are aimed at destroying the territory itself. The legal mechanics, crippling as they are, were imposed after the Valley was ‘sanitised’ by the army and paramilitary. Kashmir’s police were disarmed. Its civil service was abolished and all forms of communications cut. This itself is a tribute to the rebellious spirit of the people of Kashmir.

Three legal measures were put in place. The hollowed-out Article 370, guarantee of Kashmiri autonomy, was repealed — except for one provision. Thereafter, the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganising Act, 2019, was enacted. It separates Ladakh and makes it a union territory. Muslim Kargil was joined to Buddhist Leh. Kashmir and Jammu were joined together to form a ‘union territory’, directly ruled from New Delhi through an ‘administrator’ called ‘lieutenant governor’. It will have no control over police or public order. It will have a legislative assembly of severely limited powers.

Since its ancestor, the Jan Sangh, was formed in 1951, with the Rashtriya Swaya­msevak Sangh (RSS) providing the muscle (cadres and even leaders), the Sangh Parivar (family) has been demanding the separation of Jammu and Ladakh from Kashmir.

Its successor, the Bharatiya Janata Party, formed in 1980, took over this policy. Since 1989, L.K. Advani codified this policy in three demands — a uniform civil code (read: scrapping of Muslim personal law), a Ram temple in place of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, and the repealing of Article 370.

Repressive measures cannot stifle the voices of protest.

A major step was taken not only by the abolition of the infamous triple talaq, but also by making it a criminal offence. The Babri Masjid was demolished on Dec 6, 1992; Article 370 remained. Now this has also been accomplished. Narendra Modi can now claim that he has accomplished what A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani could not.

In 2014, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the leader of the PDP, sold his people’s rights to the BJP by entering into a coalition government with it. Their manifesto gave nothing to Kashmir. An RSS man was made speaker, another became deputy chief minister. For the first time ever, the RSS acquired a presence in the valley.

The BJP had sought in the 2014 elections to sweep the polls in Jammu, acquire a few seats in Kashmir, buy some MLAs there and form a BJP government with a Hindu chief minister; a reversion to Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule till 1947. A Muslim Kashmir was an eyesore. It had to be destroyed.

Mufti’s name will ever remain in the annals of treachery. So will those of his three vociferous aides. Their silence today is deafening. The Reorganising Act 2019 seeks to achieve that sordid goal through a legislative measure enacted by parliament and by the government scrapping Article 370.

This will be secured by ‘delimiting’ afresh the assembly constituencies through a handpicked delimitation commission.

Why on earth was this provision at all enacted in a measure like this? It has no place in this sordid scheme. As it is the present election commission’s reputation is about the lowest in that body’s chequered history from 1957 to 1989.

Kashmiris have responded to this onslaught in the same way they did to Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest, at Jawaharlal Nehru’s instance, on Aug 8, 1953. Nehru imprisoned him for 11 years and foisted a bogus case on him alleging a conspiracy to accede to Pakistan. For days, the army ruled the streets of Srinagar.

Repressive measures might prevent street protests. They cannot stifle the voices of protest. No place in the entire subcontinent has such keen memories of the past as Kashmir does. The Emperor Akbar is not their hero, but a usurper. He removed Kashmir’s last independent ruler through force and deceit. The historian Dr Bashir Ahmad Sheikh recorded in the excellent weekly Kashmir Life that Kashmir has more than a millennium of recorded history.

Nehru himself said in the Lok Sabha on June 26, 1952: “Do not think you are dealing with a part of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Gujarat. You are dealing with an area, historically and geographically and in all manner of things, with a certain background. If we bring our local ideas and local prejudices everywhere, we will never consolidate. We have to be men of vision and there has to be a broadminded acceptance of facts in order to integrate really. And real integration comes of the mind and the heart and not of some clause which you may impose on other people.”

That never happened. On May 14, 1948, Indira Gandhi wrote to her father from Srinagar: ‘They say that only Sheikh Sahib is confident of winning the plebiscite.” The cry of ‘azadi’, heard since 1990, has a long history. Such a people’s yearnings can never be crushed.

The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2019

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