The discussions around the forthcoming assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir have been spiced up after the Bharatiya Janata Party or the BJP riding on a landslide in India’s national elections announced the ‘Mission 44+’. The right-wing party has already trained its guns on the Jammu and Ladakh regions. The recent visit of the BJP president Amit Shah to Jammu region clearly reflected the serious interest the party is evincing this time in Jammu and Kashmir.
No wonder, as part of its time-tested measure, the party has started to raise the salvo of fear psychosis among the people and has also launched a verbal tirade against Pakistan with the avowed intention to whip up the communal passions. Shah’s unequivocal assertion that he wants to send across a message to the world by installing a ‘democratically’ elected Hindu Chief Minister in India’s only Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir is seen by many as an attempt to polarize the atmosphere ahead of polls.
What will be the game plan of the BJP? The question merits an in-depth analysis. We saw in the recently concluded Indian parliamentary elections how BJP managed to polarise the electorate to its advantage. The Muslim vote which had always been of consequential importance was rendered insignificant.
Led by Shah – seen as a chief strategist – BJP won an unexpected 71 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. In the first place, the venom was spread against the Muslim community in the backdrop of the Muzaffarnagar riots. And then an olive branch was offered by many BJP leaders as we saw various leaders of Muslim community expressing their happiness after voting for the party, a fact attested by poll data. Muslim vote was thus split and shared between many parties while as the major portion of Hindu vote was mobilised in favour of the BJP.
A similar mantra may be repeated here in Jammu and Kashmir in the forthcoming assembly polls although the situation is very, if not entirely, different from mainland India. The majority of the assembly segments have Muslim population in abundance but the boycott of polls in pursuance to the call given by the Hurriyat Conference may play a spoilsport and work in favour of the BJP.
A few days ago, the local print media gave a wide circulation to the news that the BJP is strongly mobilizing and wooing the Kashmiri Pandit voters completely in its favour, not only to open its account, but in fact to win a few seats in the valley in the likely eventuality of a poll boycott. Kashmiri Pandits will be encouraged to vote for the BJP and the meager Muslim vote percentage in the assembly constituencies like Habba Kadal, Amira Kadal, Anantnag, Sopore and Tral will be shared between the remaining political parties.
Hurriyat Conference, I believe, is going to face a litmus test in the evolving political scenario. The BJP will not hesitate to release the communal jinn from the bottle to consolidate and win over the Hindu votes. Chaman Lal Gupta’s unequivocal assertion of “eye for eye” policy with regard to Pakistan in the state assembly reflects the mindset. Also, the fact is that the BJP is trying to create its base in Ladakh on a permanent basis given the fact that it won the parliamentary seat of Ladakh in the recently-concluded elections.
I wonder how it will augur for Kashmir, in case the BJP assumes the reins of power. A lobby has already got activated which is working on the return of Pandit community on somewhat Israeli pattern. More recently, the Kaunsar Nag controversy spilled many beans about the emerging mindset within the establishment.
The communal Hindu has got emboldened and no wonder, hundreds of riots have taken place ever since Narendra Modi assumed the reins of power. Given the fact that the BJP has a well defined policy on Kashmir which entails the abrogation of article 370 and the subsequent complete merger of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Union, Hurriyat Conference needs a policy shift.
A few years back, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq perhaps sensed the irrelevance of boycott politics and made a subtle announcement that elections are “non issue” for Hurriyat conference. However, he had to eschew his statement in the backdrop of violent criticism from hardliners. We ought to be reasonable enough to believe that people have reasons to cast votes.
Only an insane person can afford to ignore the historical contours of Kashmir dispute. And I do strongly believe that Hurriyat Conference alone should be given mandate to debate and decide the political contours of Kashmir issue. No second thoughts about that. But on an intellectual plank, I believe that by shutting eyes and giving a free hand to pro-India parties in electoral politics, Hurriyat leaders have, but sadly, lost their touch with the masses at the grassroots level. It requires an out of box thinking to keep you relevant in the fast changing global political scenario.
Controlling the legislature and the subsequent legislation indirectly could have done a world of good for the people at large and infused new confidence in our struggle. And when you own the success in the case of massive boycott of elections (during parliamentary elections), you got to be morally upright to also own your failure in the case of 60 percent and 90 percent participation in the assembly and panchayat elections, respectively.
And more importantly, if you confine your success or failure only to the valley, one cannot but lament the political acumen of our leaders. The strategy needs a policy shift. Further why we tend to shut eyes to the fact that they (lower rung leaders and workers) issue ‘fatwa’ at the time of elections, equate participating in electoral politics with ‘Kufr’ (apostasy) but they don’t encounter any issue visiting and inviting a minister of “heathen” Omar Abdullah Government for the inauguration of model village or to redress their personal grievances.
They hail the boycott but don’t lose a fraction of a second to visit the residence of winning candidates. They don’t feel any shame in sharing the dais with a legislator or a minister. They do this. They have been doing this. Ask them the reasons for this blatant dichotomy and they come up with absurd answers. Yes, there are some honourable exceptions.
The time has come for Hurriyat conference to brace themselves for the challenge, call shots and assert themselves in the emerging political scenario. There is no shame if Hurriyat conference engages the regional forces like National Conference, PDP, People’s Conference and the like for the larger interests of people. The short-term goals like the maintenance of a separate identity have to be wedded to the long-term goal of complete independence.
We should not ignore some harsh realities. The utter helplessness and meek surrender by the Muslim world in the face of Israeli onslaught on Gaza should open our eyes. And those who still harbour hopes with United Nations should come out of any illusion and destroy the castles of hope they may have attached with this world body.
Pakistan, which is a party to the dispute of Kashmir, is grappling with ever increasing internal problems. And more importantly, India has wedded its interests with USA and Israel. The fast changing global political scenario demands effective strategies to sustain our struggle, protect our interests and ensure our relevance at all levels.
There is a silver lining. The unilateral decision by the Indian establishment to call off the secretary level talks with Pakistan has only legitimised the representative character of Hurriyat leadership. The GoI would always portray the Hurriyat Conference as a marginalized voice and ridicule it for its unrepresentative character but making the meeting of Hurriyat leadership with Pak envoy Abdul Basit as the sole reason for calling off the talks, it has inadvertently provided legitimacy to the Hurriyat leadership. A blessing in disguise, I call it.