Saturday, May 21st, 2022 09:27:11

Kashmir Since August 5, 2019

By Sushil Pandit
Updated: September 22, 2020 1:37 pm

Our Prime Minister is fond of alphanumeric abbreviations. He finds them handy. Not only do they pithily communicate his vision but also make the key highlights easy to recall since they are embedded in the nomenclature itself. For example, as Chief Minister he had announced 5Fs to share his vision for Gujarat’s cotton business- From Farm to Fibre to Fabric to Fashion to Foreign. Likewise, while campaigning to become Prime Minister he pulled out 4Ds as the compelling factors, for the global capital to prefer the Indian economy- Democracy, Demography, Demand and Decisiveness.

Last year, barely a few months into his second term, when Narendra Modi took some epoch-changing decisions for the J&K, it surprised everyone. Neutering of the Article 370 and reorganising the state into two union territories- J&K and Ladakh, looked, truly, like a paradigm shift. Even those who generally have all the answers were left groping for the reasons that may have triggered the August 5 2019 decisions. On November 2, in Bangkok, addressing the Indian diaspora, he did allude to “our parliament eliminating the very source of the seeds of separatism” and received a standing ovation for it. Hasn’t that been for aeons, the narrative of the BJP and RSS? Even if one ignores their bewildering twists and turns on this issue in the recent years.

so, what led to the tectonic change in J&K?

Was it the grand convergence of all the malcontents in J&K, to abuse from within, our democratic and constitutional processes, leaving no other option with Modi but to rewrite the rules of the game?

Or, was it a complete break of trust in all those who led him up the (Mughal) garden path in Kashmir?

Did he, finally, begin to feel the risks of drifting too far apart from the ideological moorings and commitments of his party and government?

All or some of the above?

We may never get to know. But, what almost everybody, friends and foes alike, expected in the wake of this enormous decision, was a swift transformational change on the ground. Swift, because the time is of essence in this war of attrition. At least, the enemy was quick on the draw in responding to our actions.

Pakistan, within 48 hours, expelled our High Commissioner in Islamabad. I don’t recall the last time we had expelled theirs. Not when Pakistan held public receptions for the hijackers of IC 814 and the terrorists released in Kandahar, in exchange for the hostages taken. Not when the Pakistanis mounted an attack on our Parliament. Not when they sent 10 terrorists to target Mumbai in 2008 that cost us hundreds of lives and billions destroyed in our economy. Not when they attacked our air-base at Pathankot or killed 20 of our soldiers in Uri. Not even when they executed a carnage at Pulwama blowing up 40 of our security men.

China approached the UN Security Council thrice, in five months. Both, Pakistan and China, amply proved, if any proof was ever needed that is, as to whose interests were served by the Articles 370 & 35A in our constitution, for 70 long years. But more than that, the extent to which these friends (we are yet to designate them as our enemies) would go to retaliate and harm us.

Substantive changes in J&K, on the ground, are a critical need. The polity that the Articles 370 and 35A bred in the state of J&K, not only created a conducive ground for waging jihad against India. Over the past 70 years, it allowed for building a strong institutionalised edifice for sustaining the stranglehold of jihad in almost all aspects of everyday life in the state. Bureaucracy, judiciary, school education, higher academia, media, police, trade bodies, religious institutions, art, literature, sports, culture… nothing escaped its tentacles. August 5 decisions were a virtual declaration of war on this jihad. Nothing less. Nothing more either. Having grandiosely declared this war, it had to be fought on the ground. Purge the bureaucracy of the black sheep, charge-sheet the guilty politicians, punish the traitors in the police, put the compromised govt servants on notice, shut down the businesses that act as conduit and the campuses that work as trojan horses. You don’t declare a war and then do nothing. It is like getting a court decree for the ownership of a property. What use is such a decree if you don’t move swiftly to take the possession back from your adversary? And, when the adversary is as implacable and as relentless as jihad, inertia is a suicidal concession.

All that that was done in J&K was a comprehensive pre-emption of the plausible violence. Three critical steps were taken:

1) A comprehensive deployment of the security forces.

2) Usual suspects were picked up and packed off.

3) Communication networks were blocked.

That’s it. It was obvious that the pre-emptive measures to prevent violence could not be sustained indefinitely. Therefore, at best, they offer a transient window of opportunity, to push through the real change, by altering the ground realities. None of those measures were evident. There was just no follow-up to dismantle the de facto jihadi control. Didn’t the one on the wheel know the subsequent steps? Wasn’t it all thought through, in detail? Or, was it back to India’s centuries old mindset that now even our enemies know all too well- that when we are, finally, in control, we are not only unwilling to wound but also unsure to strike.

These days, the lazy apologists often use a stock alibi to explain this fatal flaw- International pressure. No such luck in this case. The likely diplomatic fallout of the August 5-6 decisions was managed exceptionally well. Pakistan and China didn’t find many takers for their spiel. The P4 in the Security Council rebuffed China thrice in five months. Imran Khan admitted, publicly, that the world, on this issue, had turned their back on them. He bemoaned that even the Muslim countries are unwilling to censure India on Kashmir. This was the finest hour of Indian diplomacy. It was ably led by the political leadership that had rarely looked as resolute in the past, or so it seemed. When the European Parliament (EU) decided to discuss J&K, our EAM, S Jaishankar was in Brussels on August 31 to meet the EU Commissioner. He reiterated to him India’s often repeated stand that J&K was India’s internal issue. That, our parliament has a sovereign right over the Indian constitution and it is no other nation’s business to interfere. He is also supposed to have told him that only once the terrorism unleashed by Pakistan abates that a bilateral dialogue with them is possible, to address all the outstanding issue. The EU Commissioner also agreed that India and Pakistan should bilaterally discuss and resolve the issue. All major powers, barring China, supported India. Most of them, explicitly.

Where we lacked sorely, particularly in the global arena, was the battle of perceptions. In this aspect of the contest, we gifted our adversaries a virtual walk-over. One of the earliest images to emerge from the valley was that of our NSA, loitering in front of the shuttered shops and hurriedly eating off what looked like styrene plates, with some grim looking faces for company. In the war of narratives, circulating such footage is the equivalent of a self-goal in soccer.

Nobody bothers about the likes of Al Jazeera. But,  New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Die Welt, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and even an international journal of medicine like Lancet, gave a us scathing press and went uncontested. This exposes the severe limitations we impose on ourselves when less than a handful arrogate to themselves fighting on all the critical battlefronts. If at all some bright spots emerged, such as Sunanda Vashishth of Houston, in the US Congressional hearing at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, it was entirely at the initiative of the private citizens. The patriotic Indians abroad took up the cudgels, as the self-appointed warriors, to fight like the proverbial David, an enormously funded, zealously mobilised and far better entrenched, a Goliath of an adversary. Campuses of the Ivy league universities became the new battlegrounds. Op ed pages were like the sharpshooters’ fortified bunkers. They were taken over by the media-jihad even before the Indian missions abroad woke up to their lethality. Editors and celebrity anchors abroad were getting all their munition from mostly those Indian journos who are too well known at home to find even a decent job. By the time our strategy mandarins mobilised themselves to join the battle, there were too many fires to fight and too little time on hand.

Perception is the only reality that matters today. This seems to be somewhat lost on our stuntmen who have, lately, acquired the airs of omniscience about themselves. It is such cocky negligence that rendered waste the excellent work done on the ground in Kashmir, in pre-empting violence. This also robbed us of the just accruals from all the hard work that had gone into keeping the comity of nations aligned to our world-view. The leitmotif of this contest was the August 30 Op ed in New York Times by Imran Khan. We eagerly wanted to be also rans but were were, simply, declared a no-show.

As the media temperature rose and the image started to get a battering, desperate quackery took over to conjure up some good optics. A Delhi based obscure forum- International Institute of Non-Aligned Studies (IINS) was drafted as a front to invite 27 EU MPs, largely from the Right-wing parties of Europe, who were handpicked for a tour of Kashmir. This hyped up event, on October 28, 2019, raised more questions than answering them. If the UN Security Council, the EU and an overwhelming majority of nations in rest of the world, support India on the issue of J&K, what purpose would be served by a clandestine invitation to over a couple of dozen EU MPs to Kashmir? How embarrassing can it get when some of the Indian MPs were prevented from entering the Kashmir Valley and sent back from the airport itself but EU MPs were chaperoned around to look into a matter that we claim to be, strictly, our internal affair? As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, two more delegations, this time of the foreign envoys based in New Delhi were conducted around the Kashmir valley. What credibility does this leave with our stand that J&K is our domestic issue and therefore, what we do there is our business and not for any outsider to meddle into? Clearly, the nerves were beginning to fray under an adverse press. More was to follow.

On November 9, the Supreme Court settled the contentious Ayodhya issue in favour of a temple. On December 12, our parliament took another momentous decision. Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed to pave the way for the non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship on a faster track. The Opposition, sensed an opportunity to corner the Modi-Shah leadership by dredging the simmering Muslim psyche. By dog-whistling on Kashmir, Ayodhya and CAA as the three consecutive blows to their interests, Muslims, on December 14, were called out for a “decisive battle” by Sonia Gandhi, in her rally at Delhi’s Ramlila Ground. As if on cue, a Shaheen Bagh sprang-up the very next day. Within weeks, hundreds of clones replicated all over the country. McDonaldisation of Shaheen Bagh became a case-study in the rapid scalability of grievance mongering politics. Miscalculations in handling it, among other things, added to the already growing pressure over Kashmir. If you are tempted to conclude by saying that the ‘rest, as they say, is history’, hang on. For Kashmir, history seems to have in its reservoir an inexhaustible stockpile of tragedies and farce, one more novel and unique than the other.

On February 8, a new party in J&K is announced. Altaf Bukhari, the former Finance Minister in the last Mufti government, put together a group of discards and dropouts from NC, PDP and Congress, to form this new party. Mr. Bukhari, aka Mr. Moneybags, was known to have close relationship across the political spectrum, including the Hurriyet. In 2018, his car was found laden with RDX and a cache of arms. That case is, supposedly, under investigation.

On February 14, Mr. Bukhari lands in Delhi leading an entourage of 24 and the Prime Minister meets them for over an hour. He tells them to deepen the democracy in Kashmir by mobilising peoples’ participation. The pictures of this meeting are widely circulated. The very next day, on February 15, the same delegation meets the Home Minister for over two hours and the meeting is, again, widely publicised. Both, the PM and the HM looked eager to bless this ‘new’ initiative called Apni Party.

In between, on February 12, Mr. AS Dulat, former head of RAW, quietly slips into Kashmir to meet Farooq Abdullah who is in pre-emptive detention, at his home, in plush comfort. They couldn’t have met without the consent of the government, unless, of course, Mr Dulat was on a govt errand.

Meanwhile, on February 10, the UT’s administration announced the local body elections. On February 13, 15 and 17, various other related announcements for the elections were made by the UT ‘s administration. On the 18th, the elections were abruptly called off. No reasons were given. Everything was normal in Kashmir. Offices, schools, colleges, marketplaces, traffic and everyday life was far more normal than what is usual in Kashmir. There was not even a perfunctory call-to-boycott by the likes of Hurriyat or the ‘mainstream’ though the difference between the two has all but blurred. Was it the newly minted Apni Party being indulged by new Delhi? If so, this was a clear evidence that the ‘normal’ political processes in the J&K were under restoration.

On March 10, the preventive detention of Farooq Abdullah under Public Safety Act (PSA) was extended by another six months. Three days later, on March 13, he was released unconditionally. As he emerged from his detention, for the waiting shutterbugs, he showed no remorse or earnestness to make amends. He didn’t protest any innocence either. The man looked triumphant. He made demands. A few days later, his son too was set free, unconditionally. It is pertinent to recall that in August 2019, serious charges were made against the families that had alternately ruled Kashmir and had supposedly, brought the state to its utter ruin. Charges, on the floor of the parliament, of huge corruption and stoking insurgency, are not ordinary charges. What about prosecuting them for their crimes? Wasn’t at least a whitepaper detailing their acts of omission and commission in order? But why would you do such a thing if you count on these very families to help you restore the ‘normalcy’ in J&K.

More than a year after the ‘paradigm shift’ of August 2019, it isn’t as if there are no new political initiatives in the UT of J&K. Let me try and explain using an alphanumeric abbreviation of my own. J&K is happily busy with rolling out the D4. Domicile, Delimitation and Democracy are the first three Ds of the D4.

 

Domicile

On March 31 this year, Home Ministry of India issued a gazetted notification. This was to define the domiciled citizens of J&K as different from the citizens in the rest of India. Only those who have stayed in J&K for 15 years or more qualified. Children of those who stayed there for 15 years or more also qualified. Of those Hindus who had to “migrate” from Kashmir in the nineties, only the ones who had registered with the Relief Commissioner (RC) at Jammu qualified. This left out a large number of us who had registered outside J&K or hadn’t registered at all.

Domiciled citizens thus defined were given a monopoly over all the Level-4 jobs in the State government. On April 4, the Home Ministry of India, hastened to amend its gazetted notification, to extend the monopoly of domiciled citizens to all the jobs. This gazette notification was slipped-in in the middle of a complete nationwide lockdown. Forget an agitation, protest or even a formal representation, nobody knows who had ever even suggested such a thing from among the leading political parties or civil society organisations representing various sections of society. The original notification of March 31 ran into over 45 pages full of legalese. Even before its import had fully sunk-in among the unsuspecting, the smart collaborators enjoying the indulgence of New Delhi, managed to get a huge amendment gazetted and published in three days.

Within days, Haseeb Drabu, the former Finance Minister under Mehbooba Mufti, was mocking at us Kashmiri Pandits through an Op ed in Greater Kashmir, for supporting the Modi government’s decisions on Article 370 and reorganisation of the state. He rubbed in by saying “…because the new domicile law disenfranchises Kashmiri Pandits even more than the Kashmiri Muslims”. It took several phone calls, mails, online petitions, social media fulminations and full 45 days of begging and pleading with the leader, by the KPs with a privileged access. Eventually, the J&K RC stepped in with a clarification to further expand of the definition of domicile, to include those lakhs of Hindus and Sikhs who were left out and ‘disenfranchised’ in the haste, to please and privilege the Muslims of the Valley for whom it was apparently meant.

According to the new firman, all those who did not register with the RC all these years must do so now and apply for the domicile certificate within a year, or else.

The simple question, just in case it has escaped your attention, is that why must we raise barriers for the rest of India in the J&K, all over again? Weren’t the 70 years of Article 370 enough? Doesn’t J&K belong to the entire India? Hasn’t every district in the country lost its sons in J&K to defend it against jihad? Is anybody’s claim on J&K superior to the kith and kin of the martyrs of Pulwama? If other states had raised such barriers, there would have been no place for us, the Hindu refugees from the Valley, to settle down and rebuild our lives all over again.

After spending 70 years under Article 370, the erstwhile state of J&K is like an alcoholic that has just entered a rehab. The domicile notifications of March 31 and April 4 are like liquor to that alcoholic in the rehab. It is clandestinely restoring the provisions of Article 370 using another name.

Delimitation

Sheikh Abdullah had arbitrarily kept 43 MLA constituencies for the Valley, 30 for the Jammu region and 2 for Ladakh. This was to advantage the Valley with a disproportionately higher share of political power. Other two regions were not only robbed of their fair share of political power, this anomaly was abused to rob them of their share of resources too. A few tinkering changes, subsequently, were found grossly inadequate. A popular discontent rose in the other two regions for a fairer share. It took the neutering of the Article 370 and reconstitution of the state into two UTs to raise hopes of change. Fresh delimitation based on the 2011 census was initiated this year, in June, to address this issue. Jammu is not happy with it. The reason is the dubious 2011 Census. Even a cursory look at the data shows that the numbers were rigged to inflate the claims of the Valley. The Kashmir valley is not only shown to have an advantage of over 1.5 million population over the Jammu region, the valley is supposed to be growing faster than Jammu by a huge 25% plus. The overwhelming view in Jammu is that when the new census is due in 2021, why go by the 2011 census which is not only dated but also a discredited database. This will only perpetuate the historic anomaly instead of correcting it. Very few in the UT or Central government care for these protests.

 

Democracy

Restoring the democratic process is the loudest clamour among the out-of-work politicians J&K. Sections of media also play it up as the litmus test of ‘normalcy’. In J&K, the beneficiaries of what passes for democracy, are not the masses in whose name the circus is run. For the longest time, it is for the clients of J&K’s politicians within and across the borders. Gen Ata Hasnain has often said this with remarkable candour, that in J&K, terrorism is sustained by the democracy. Few should be surprised, though. Because, it is exactly the way secular order breeds and sustains jihad, across India. Or, for that matter, the liberal freedoms in our constitution have become the most potent weapon for those who want to destroy the very guarantor of that constitution- the Indian state? This is a classic attempt to take us over, from within. What we fondly call the mainstream politics of J&K has become a veritable trojan horse. Jamatis, Khilafatis, Salafis, Deobandis, Wahabis and various other variants, have their proxies in different parties. They seek the party nominations and fight elections. Just because they go through the charade of pledging allegiance to our constitution and flag, India feels grateful. We behave even more indebted when these thugs become MLAs and Ministers. Once within the system, they compromise it from within to do the jihad’s bidding. The ‘healing touch’ policy of the Muftis’ was an open support of jihad. Their Self-Rule charter is a blatant call for secession by another name. Abdullahs’ Autonomy manifesto seeks to drive J&K in the same direction, with a small detour. Former Hurriyat leader, Sajjad Lone, who became a BJP ally and a Cabinet Minister from the BJP quota, publicly said- “I haven’t changed my ideology. Only the strategy”. Like a masochist on steroids, the Indian state is again seeking the indulgence of the same bunch who have repeatedly bled and betrayed India. This brings us to the 4th D of the D4.

Dil (Jeetna Hai)

This truly is the fourth dimension, in every sense of the word. You can’t see it in what meets the eye. You have to sense it in what drives their mind. What meets the eye are Domicile, Delimitation and Democracy. What drives their mind is to pay a king’s ransom, to win the approval they covet from an implacably hostile jihad.

On the face of it, domicile was palmed off as the great new initiative to empower the wronged Hindus and Sikhs, Dalits and Gorkhas, the refugees from PoK and West-Pakistan. In fact, it was a cruel joke to pull wool over our eyes. Since when has Altaf Bukhari become an advocate for our rights and justice to the deprived and persecuted non-Muslims. The cat was out of the bag on the 31st of March itself when the Hindus and Sikhs were dispossessed in lakhs. The 15th of May corrective was an afterthought, after much pleading and begging, to save themselves from a complete loss of face. Domicile policy is nothing but a blatant re-privileging of the Valley Muslims, brought down to a parity by the neutering of Article 370. Restoring the statehood to J&K will be another step in the same direction. What was discarded on August 5-6, 2019, with a great fanfare, is sought to be restored through the backdoor, by resorting to political chicanery and sleight of hand. In the fond hope that this will win the Hindu hridaysamrat, the hearts and minds of the jihadis.

Likewise, they know that this delimitation exercise, based on a rigged census of 2011, will only reinforce much abhorred status quo. Yet, they go through the motions to hoodwink their gullible voters. Thus, they hope to win over the Valley audience that refuses to lend them their ears.

In the name of restoring democracy, the old cabal is being restored. Yet again in the fond hope that they would be open to collaborate with them again.

The common thread that permeates through all these pernicious initiatives is the suicidal obsession, to win the hearts and minds of those who are committed to jihad against a Hindu majority India.

In the middle of all this, some of us Kashmiri Hindus, aka KPs, are sincerely hopeful that someday soon, the central government run by a Hindu hridaysamrat will acknowledge our genocide and stop calling us ‘migrants’. That the victims and survivors of the Hindu genocide in Kashmir will get justice. That the lakhs of expelled Hindus will be given their share of the valley so that they could go back and rebuild their community where they truly belong. We are hoping against hope because, we are incorrigible optimists.  Do we have an option?

By Sushil Pandit

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