All the exit polls have given a clear verdict in favour of the return of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government and this has inspired mixed feelings among the people of Jammu and Kashmir who were divided between Modi-again versus Modi-never-again owing to their geographical and demographical composition. This division was given a new nomenclature “Communalists versus the Secularists,” as if all those who voted for the saffron party of Modi-Amit Shah duo had only communal credentials, while the rest were icon of secularism.
These divisions were not surprising at all, nor should they be for the simple reason that Jammu and Kashmir was brought into the centre of the campaign by the saffron party soon after the suicide bombing attack in Pulwama in which more than 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a matter of minutes on the afternoon of February 14. The Pulwama attack was the worst atrocity committed on the security forces in the past three decades of militancy in Kashmir. It had its own country-wide impact. The executers of the attack knew the kind of impact they had wanted to achieve for themselves.
Three things were to happen; it was to provoke the security forces to launch anti-militancy operations in the Valley with greater intensity with a sole objective of creating a binary in which the militants would be described as Kashmiri youth and thus aggravating the alienation, while for the rest of the country, it was supposed to be a just action against those who helped the suicide bombers to kill the soldiers. This had appeared to be the prime objective.
And, it did happen. The security forces went all out for the Jaish-e-Mohammad militants, for their group had claimed the responsibility for the attack. Some of them were killed in what was described as the “elimination of the militants involved in the attack in less than 100 hours.” Thereafter, the operations have continued in the holy month of Ramzan, too. This is a sort of an all out fight against the militants. At least that is the picture that has emerged so far.
Second, there was Pakistan factor. That could have been the number one factor, and it became so because the whole focus shifted to Pakistan post Pulwama. Pakistan appeared on the radar immediately after the attack, and it had to because the responsibility for the attack was owned by Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group based in Pakistan. This terror group had been responsible for several terror attacks across the country, the last major being attack at IAF base in Pathankot in the beginning of 2016. Pakistan and Jaish were interlinked, and the UNSC endorsed this when the global body designated Jaish chief Masood Azhar as international terrorist on May 1.
Third, of course, is that Kashmir has touched the entire nation. The body bags of soldiers have gone to all the states in the country. Kashmir, accordingly, was linked to the national narrative. And when Pulwama happened and it was followed up by the aerial strike in Balakot, the people in the country felt that the soldiers’ blood has been avenged.
Kashmir Valley, that is almost exclusively Muslim, is unsure what would happen next. The common man’s voice is heard out rarely. The leaders drive a narrative and a sizeable section of the common people in the Valley rarely gather the courage to question the narrative peddled by the leaders. There are strong reasons for them to remain in silent mode or join the tide of the dominant narrative. Only Kashmiris know the reason. Political pundits, even academicians, are seeking to give air to what they call the fears of Kashmiri Muslims as per their own partisan view. BJP is not liked in the Valley is a fact, but sections of the population have their own take on the new government at the Centre. They have their own stakes that are neither defined nor articulated by all those who have access to media and the political spectrum.
Jammu region has its own liking. It has yet to develop its narrative, but has made a choice, that according to exit polls, favours the saffron party. Jammu region, unfortunately, searches for its identity in the anti-Kashmir politics. That is what happens in Ladakh too. Now wait till May 23rd as National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah advised his followers on Twitter.