Comings and Goings

Kashmir is done, well done, in fact, in its now much diminished state as a Union Territory. No wonder the capital city, Srinagar, showed little interest in gubernatorial comings and goings earlier in the week.  The departure of the Lt Governor, G.C. Murmu and the induction of, instead of a fresh incumbent, Mr. Manoj Sinha, a three-time Lok Sabha member and a Minister in Modi’s first cabinet in 2014, hardly evoked any interest.  The on-again-off-again curfew in Srinagar had of course, ensured that the Raj Bhavan reshuffle goes unnoticed.  The bureaucrat predecessor of Mr. Sinha had meanwhile landed a prestigious job as Auditor and Comptroller General of the Government, in appreciation perhaps of how “well” he had presided over the process of down-sizing Jammu & Kashmir this past year.  Mr. Sinha is obviously expected to provide political cover to the happenings on the ground where the situation perhaps is still very challenging.  Not that Mr. Modi doesn’t know how to beat challenges, ruthlessly.

And when it comes to Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in the country he has shown his willingness to be ruthless. The BJP Government in Delhi generally and Mr. Modi in particular are experiencing a new political high in Delhi.  The Ram Temple issue behind them they will now feel free to finish the unfinished task in Kashmir.  Not that the BJP has not shown its hand in the Union Territory.  In fact, I would not be surprised if the Centre marks out August 5 as a very special day, next perhaps only to Independence Day, according to their priorities.  Minutes before he entered the awesome tent for the Bhoomi Poojan in Ayodhya Mr. Modi was seen prostrating himself in front of the Ram Lalla idol.  That single frame beamed by Doordarshan was not just an act of devotion but a powerful message to the country of his party keeping its word on building a temple, an ideological promise delayed by years of coalition dharma and courtroom battles.  Read together with the political overhaul in Jammu & Kashmir on the same day last year, “fulfilling” its other promise of ending the state’s special status has, indeed, to go by the party spokesmen, highlighted its readiness to fulfil its promises.  For the Sangh Parivar August 5 marks the realization of an awesome dream, the end of a journey and the start, hopefully for the parivar, of another.  August 5 this year signals for the party a consolidation of the gains of the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir this day last year and a triumphant reassertion of its willingness to fulfil its other “commitments” of the saffronites.

The presence of the RSS Chief, Mr. Mohan Bhagwat signaled the essential unity of the Hindutva family.  Bhagwat of all the saffron bigwigs present was accorded the honour to address the Janambhoomi meeting, next only perhaps to Mr. Modi himself – a rare honour considering that Modi does not usually like sharing such honours.  But this obviously was a moment of triumph for the Sangh Parivar, which could well claim the authorship of the Ram Janambhoomi dispute.  On the ground, though, the sudden silence of the opposition to the anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 and the laying of the foundation of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya does not by any means signify acquiescence of it all.  But the fact that India that is Bharat continues to be home to many diversities.  The sense of majoritarian triumphalism may well be wholly misplaced.  Even the Supreme Court which gave the verdict that has now paved the way for the Ram Temple described the 1992 destruction of the Babri Masjid as illegal.  The demolition case ironically continues to be in the court.  The BJP has its agenda well set out in Jammu and Kashmir, and at the heart of it obviously is to somehow discredit the Muslim majority character of the State. The stretching out of the delimitation process in the Union Territory, especially the Valley, looks pathetic even as Mr. Murmu tried not to loose any time in according state citizenship to many who, strictly speaking were not qualified. Kashmir in any case is not the only State in the Union with strict rules governing citizenship laws. But then the Muslim majority of the State has always been thorn in the side of Hindu extremists. It is forgotten that the law was enforced by the last Hindu Maharaja of the State to protect the interests of its subjects. The BJP of course has its own standards. Thus some states may even now are very comfortable with their individual restrictions in this regard. Thus several states, to name Himachal Pradesh and the North Eastern States are very comfortable with their domicile laws. In fact the BJP has on several occasions in the past lost no time in assuring such States that the domicile laws would not be altered. But it is the large presence of Muslim population in states like Assam that irks. Kashmir with a Muslim majority, to that extent, however, remains an absolute ‘No No’. Moves have been afoot for a while now to balance it out in Jammu & Kashmir.