Published on 22 Dec: The popular narrative around the current Indian political scenario was blamed on the ‘Hindi heartland’ of the country. However, the recent state assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan have outrightly shown the rejection of hegemony of the national-party, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The right-wing dominated ideology ruled Madhya Pradesh for the last fourteen years, Chhattisgarh for fifteen years, and in Rajasthan for the last term with a sweeping majority in the 2013 elections.
The recent results have only proved a sense of fear and, simultaneously, an urgency to reject Hindutva ideal-based-politics. It seems like a watershed mark on the Indian politics; has restored the constitutional morality of a secular nation by defying a major political party—based on religious lines—which believes that ‘Hinduism’ is synonymous to ‘Indian national identity’.
May 2014 broke grounds when a ‘Hindu-Nationalist party’ won and formed the central-government with the clear majority. Since the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, in 1984, India has been governed only by coalition governments. In 2014, the conflicted state of Jammu and Kashmir was also not spared from the ‘Modi wave’, and a coalition was formed between the local People Democratic Party (PDP), and BJP in December. As soon as BJP gained a stronghold in Kashmir, the motive and the method cleared the clouds of doubt; the party used hyper-masculine ways to deal with the militancy and terrorism in Kashmir, which involved unprecedented use of violence.
Now, this raises the larger question—what is ‘terrorism’—as told by the government of India? How can Indian state-sponsored violence but the government forces, in the name of maintaining civil-order, is acceptable? And the ‘other’ sorts of violence are condemned? Though, the end result of both being the violation of human rights.
Being an ‘Indian’ citizen, I cannot deny the wrongs that have been done to the people of Kashmir since the past three decades. Indian media portrays the one-sided violence committed by the armed-militants; no one talks about the state-sponsored violence, conducted by the Indian army—authorized under the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act (AFSPA)—and government forces. On 14 June 2018, a report was released by the United Nations (UN) on the human rights violation in the Indian-administered-Kashmir, which was ‘vehemently’ rejected by the Indian government, and displayed BJP’s concern towards such a crucial political issue.
One of the initial significant markers of a ‘fascist-state’ is its disdain for any alternative voices that might become popular. However, the ‘dream alliance’ of BJP-PDP broke down on 19 June 2018, after the frictions over tactics to deal with violence. In contrast to the agenda of ‘dream-alliance’, the violence has increased under the BJP rule, in coalition with PDP, in the state; especially after the death of a popular militant figure, Burhan Wani in 2016. The year 2018 has been the deadliest year for Kashmiris in about a decade. According to human rights groups, 535 people have been killed so far this year, which includes 246 separatist fighters, 144 Indian soldiers or police personnel and 145 civilians. After subsequent ‘prime-time debates’, the violence has been normalized in Kashmir and quality of life is severely affected. It is merely the human right to live a life of dignity and integrity, however, which seems a far-fetched dream now.
Now the question is—what is the way ahead?
We need a platform for all the stakeholders to carry out a peaceful dialogue. Indian state’s concern should be greater for losing lives rather than losing a piece-of-land. Be it BJP or Indian National Congress (INC), the solution for the Kashmir-issue seems to be beyond the purview of politics of Indian parties. A solution should be sought after keeping into account the historical background of the region, reconciling it with the present-day situation and demands of the people. Most importantly, an urgency needs to be created in terms of ending the violation of basic human rights and providing the natives of the region with adequate support to resume their lives normally.
As Mridu Rai in her book, ‘Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects’ argues that, “…Indeed, as many modern ideologies of Kashmiriyat also remind us, when north India was rocked by religious violence surrounding the trauma of partition, Gandhi looked northwards to Kashmir as a ‘ray of hope’ and a source of inspiration.” It only goes on to explain how the Muslim-majority population of Kashmir had rejected Muslim League’s version of statehood based on Islamic commonality, but it did not accept the mainstream Indian Congress’s idea of the nationhood either.
In this context, a political party whose ideals are that of unifying the nation on the basis of religion is doomed to fail in its function. Despite the recent trends of co-opting Kashmiris into its ambit, their main agenda seems to be clear and that is to use it as a tool to maintain its power over the disputed territory, so as to exercise control over the neighboring state of Pakistan. However, recent assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh have opened a gateway for possibilities of fruitful dialogue and betterment of the situation in Kashmir.
Vartika Pande is a freelance policy analyst working with the RightWalk foundation currently on the educational policies in Uttar Pradesh. Having gained her masters degree in Political Science from Delhi University, she went on to work with the government of Andhra Pradesh and ex Union Law and Justice Minister, Dr. Ashwani Kumar. A visionary with the intention to make society more just, equitable and inclusive.’