The political worm in Kashmir, long presumed dead or dying, is showing signs of life. Not just that, it has already taken a turn or two, turns for the better, for hope. Yes, even in the air of doom and gloom that has been very much a part of the Kashmir scene for these past three years. That this should be so, causing the slumbering giant (the worm of the story) to bestir itself is by itself an encouraging development. For the Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to drive up to arch foe Dr Farooq Abdulah’s house and for the latter to host a meeting of all mainstream political opponents, daggers probably barely hidden, for a stock-taking, has been a happy augury. Unless you be a no-hoper.
Add to it the separatists’ instant identification with the cause, Kashmir, the valley for sure, and, in pockets elsewhere in the State, people at large appeared to have been brought together to face the challenge: a challenge to their identity posed by a ruling party acolyte, a nondescript RSS-backed NGO, threatening a largely non-existent umbilical cord – Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution , a token but meaningful bond that also provides a fig leaf of respectability to justify the accession of the country’s only Muslim majority princely State to India.
A fig leaf that somehow has always been a bit of an eyesore for Hindu nationalist parties like the RSS,the BJP and its predecessor,the Jana Sangh. The Articles are intended to safeguard the special interests of the State including its status as a Muslim majority State. Mind you, the Articles only sanctified the otherwise conditional accession deed signed by the then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. He had also made it a point, as was borne out many years later by his son, and a towering State politician, Dr. Karan Singh who has confirmed the deed was signed by his father in his presence adding that Kashmir’s was no merger with the Union only its accession.
So what. Why am I supposed to be celebrating in case it is just a question of the worm having opted to turn. The simple reason is that thanks to the popular verdict in the State Assembly elections of three years ago made Mufti Sayeed’s PDP the single largest party from the valley and in the State assembly as a whole. And the duplicitous BJP leadership played on the sentiments of the ageing Mufti Sayeed and subsequently his successor as Mehbooba Mufti’s to tempt them into a coalition in the State, a first time ever for the State BJP to share power in Kashmir. And remember it was not as if the valley parties did not have a presence in the Jammu region in the past; in fact the National Conference, the Congress and the PDP in that order have prospered electorally in the region prior to the last highly communalized BJP campaign in the State three years ago. Given their jealousies and rampant nepotism thre valley parties became as an easy prey to tackle for the BJP; PDP made it with an elaborate list of terms and conditions. And BJP has lived happily ever after in the State. And in fairness to the national party it was said at the time that its reservations on Constitutional issues including the State’s special status, its separate flag etc., would for the present be put on the back-burner. The party’s successive electoral wins in the rest of the country have emboldened it to up the stakes in the State. And the obvious thing to do was to challenge the validity of the two Articles guaranteeing the State’s special privileges.
The primary objective of the party, however, continues to be to alter the demography of the State and a challenge to validity of Article 35 A it believes holds the key to unlock the gates as it were. And the challenge to its validity in the Supreme Court was indeed made and thankfully it finally persuaded the Kashmiri worm to turn and look around and ask questions. And what he sees tells him that similar challenges to the State’s special status within the Union has been unsuccessfully challenged in the Supreme Court twice before. What marks this one out is that for very obvious reasons the ruling dispensation in New Delhi has chosen not to be drawn into the legal controversy, thus avoiding the embarrassment of taking a position against its own coalition government in the State
Thanks to the Apex Court which has undone the BJP ruse by insisting that the Union Government file an affidavit within three months outlining its position in the issues raised by the nondescript RSS frontal outfit. Mehbooba Mufti and the Kashmiri mainstream parties have done well so far by putting up a united front and indeed turned the heat on. This is no military issue, seeking military solutions. It’s a political decision, to be taken at the political level by party so blinded by its communal passions. Mehbooba, as well as Dr Abdullah and the Congress have done well to put their foot down. In other words, gone out of their way to tell New Delhi that governments, howsoever, strong are not free agents, free to go back on solemn pledges whenever it suits their convenience. Am I to believe that the Sangh parivar’s hidden and the not-so-hidden agenda of a Hindu Rashtra, of ultra right majoritarian nationalism is set to gain precedence over the great Indian heritage spread over some two millennia
Mehbooba Mufti and Dr. Abdullah seem for once to be on the same page. It augurs well and ever more so when most separatist leaders too are on board defending the State’s special right guaranteed by the Constitution of India and that of the State itself. If Kashmir’s wasn’t a special case how come the State had a Constituent Assembly of its own? How come it has a flag of its own, additional to the national flag. BJP’s crazy rush to tar the valley with one mighty saffron – stroke is and will remain a pipe-dream. At least I do hope so. Much negativity has been read into Mufti Mehbooba’s observation that if the present drift goes unchecked you may not find many in Kashmir to hold the tricolor aloft. A thought to consider. And reverting to the Chief Minister in conclusion, sort of STOP NEWS. Mehbooba somewhat confidently claimed after her meeting with Narendra Modi on Friday that she was assured by the Prime Minister that Article 370 was under no threat. So far so good. And that was around 5 PM on Friday. Moments later a prominent BJP leader from Jammu told the same channel that the Article will be abrogated. It’s a commitment, he added. Double-speak ? Hope not. Can never tell.