A testy relationship at the best of times, the one between the Kashmir-centric People's Democratic Party and the right wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, aptly described as the unlikeliest of marriages, even as it was being solemnized, somehow looks set for even more testier times. Not that either party is thinking in terms of a divorce as yet but the BJP, the ruling party in New Delhi, appears overly keen to flex its muscles. There are far too many straws in the wind to encourage such dark thoughts.
Mind you, I am no astrologer nor even a crystal-gazer. It's just that the saffronites somehow appear to be in a hurry. A situation, if you ask me, that may force the Kashmiri worm to finally turn for its own good and for the benefit of the soil it draws its sustenance from. The PDP, deeply rooted in the valley and its Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, may well need all the skills of a trapeze artist to reconcile the interests of its grassroots valley-based constituency with those of an increasingly belligerent BJP seeking more than its share of the cake for its newfound constituency in Jammu.
Frankly, I didn't find it amusing earlier this week when a BJP leader from Jammu, obviously some big shot in the State party hierarchy, chose to go on record, of all places in Anantnag, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's bailiwick, to pronounce that his party has yet to decide whether to back the PDP candidate for the vacant Lok Sabha seat. Or, significantly, to consider putting up a candidate of its own. After all his "sangathan" had grown so very much and so fast in the valley, quoth he.
The BJP man probably was excited at having held a closed door meeting of "senior BJP workers" at the Khanabal Dak Bungalow near Anantnag, and truly elated that together, he and his men, had made for a roomful of people seated around an egg-shaped table.
Look at the results we achieved in Ladakh and Kargil, the leader gloated, probably speaking of the local elections held in the Leh-Kargil districts some time back. I hope it is not my imagination but Kargil was mentioned with much emphasis, probably to remind those of us living away from Kashmir, of the district's largely Shia Muslim population. Now, I don't have to tell you that the valley Muslim population is predominantly Sunni. Ladakh, for that matter, was mentioned as if it was pocket borough of his party.
This, I maintain, is part of the BJP game-plan to reduce the Valley to bare bones, shorn of Jammu and Ladakh, a 'chhota mota' Muslim enclave, wedged between constituent units that together make for most of the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir which, in the words of the last scion of the Dogra rulers of the State, "acceded, not merged with the Indian Union" at the dawn of freedom in the sub-continent.
Do, please, recall that Prime Minister Modi and his Home Minister have times out of number maintained that the valley is but a constituent of a larger entity and by no means entitled to be described as Kashmir, a traditional synonym for the entire State. Recall also the Ladakh demand for Union Territory status and the support it has found in the corridors of power in Delhi. Consider also the pin-pricks – not just the ones dispensed via pellet guns – that BJP has administered to the Kashmiri leadership including the one,in the days of innocence of the ruling alliance in the State, when a BJP Minister countermanded an order issued by his boss, the late Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
Am sure it won't strain your memory to recall how Mehbooba Mufti's Cabinet colleagues of the BJP stalled proposals by the Chief Minister on the issue of some senior Secretarial appointments and expanding the promotion opportunities of police officials drawn from the Kashmir Police Service on the facetious ground that the items were not on the agenda of the Cabinet meeting presided over by her. Wonder how many – not one to be sure – dare question Modiji springing last-minute decisions (yes, decisions) at Union Cabinet meetings?
And, come to think of it, the BJP man I mentioned in the Khanabal context had a longish take of his own on the police promotions issue. And lest I forget he was very impressed by the deep inroads his party had made in the valley, an acceptance of the saffron party as a part of political ethos there. PDP, NC, Congress beware: the valley is turning saffron. And lo and behold, I saw the same gentleman again on the TV screen declaiming on how Jammuwallahs (meaning Jammu Hindus) were discriminated against in the valley and how Jammuites might have to work out an answer to that. God bless him and his ilk ! If only for his truthfulness.
True Mehbooba Mufti's sense of hurt over the rudeness of her BJP Ministers at the Cabinet meeting left her hurt as it indeed should have. But think of the hoo-ha over the extension of the GST (general sales tax) to the State. Not a thought spared for Constitutional limitations. If only things were that simple , a mere diktat from the national capital would have sufficed.
Or, take the statement I heard from one of the saffron saints questioning the State's right to compensate families or dependents of anyone mistakenly killed or maimed as a militant. The man was outraged even when told that it was just a notification issued under due process of law, inviting objections prior to consideration of each case of miscarriage of law. No, it was just a ruse to dishonor "our martyrs". Our, in the case,is reserved for Jammuite Hindus, assuming all non-Hindus in other parts of the State as elsewhere are unpatriotic. Don't you dare forget that to be a patriot you have to be saffron nationalist.
Frankly, against the given backdrop does it really make sense for do-gooders like Yashwant Sinha, a BJP leader and former Union Minister, now politically marginalized, to be taken seriously when his team visits the valley as peace-makers; doesn't make sense when they themselves acknowledge their non-representative character, enjoying nobody's support ,bereft even of a semblance of official sanction.The Sinha foursome, together, must all be honorable men and women. But about their relevance in the given crisis situation in the State many questions come to mind, the less important of these being: Does anyone in Delhi take the group seriously ?
Why doesn't the group advise the saffron leadership in New Delhi to come off its high horse of nationalist arrogance? Why do the Yashwant Sinha types fight shy of asking New Delhi to sponsor direct talks with all the stake-holders in the State, try to find a middle ground for the talks to take off ? Who knows Pakistan may well become party to such a dialogue in the future. Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh have tried it out- and with some success, too. Why, even Modi has seen merit in direct talks… And not too long ago. Can such initiatives be a possibility now? I doubt it, given the rightward lurch the Trump triumph in the US signals. And to top it, you must reckon with the monumental saffron arrogance.