THAT Kashmiris across the political spectrum have rejected India’s unilateral steps to strip the occupied region of its special status last year is quite clear. However, the criticism particularly stings when even those Kashmiri politicians once considered staunch loyalists of New Delhi slam the Indian state for its ham-fisted policies in the disputed area. Former chief minister of India-held Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti recently unleashed a devastating critique of the right-wing BJP clique in New Delhi after being released from 14 months in detention. Ms Mufti said she would only raise the Indian flag once the banner, constitution and special status of the held region were restored. Moreover, in a direct hit, she compared the rulers in New Delhi to “robbers”. This is not the first loyalist Kashmiri leader to break ranks with India and criticise it for its ill-advised policies in the held region. Farooq Abdullah, another former chief minister of occupied Kashmir and a veteran pro-Delhi politician, has also lambasted the Indian government, saying the abrogation of IHK’s special status sparked the confrontation with China along the Line of Actual Control. Mr Abdullah had also been incarcerated after the disturbances in IHK last year, despite decades of service to New Delhi.
If this is the level of anger India’s ‘friends’ in Kashmir are feeling, one can only imagine the alienation of the average Kashmiri. However, the BJP mandarins remain unmoved, and seem convinced that their colonial onslaught will succeed. This delusional approach must end. The people of Kashmir want nothing to do with the Indian occupation and want a constitutional, democratic solution to their seven-decade nightmare. Instead of pursuing a stubborn course, the Indian state should approach the Kashmiris with respect and listen to their concerns. But the BJP government isn’t exactly known for its compassionate, humane approach to politics, and is more at home with brutish tactics. Perhaps IHK will have to wait for a more sensible government to take power in New Delhi in order to resolve the impasse.
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2020