Once again, Kashmir is up in revolt. The biggest uprising since 1989-1990 has disturbed six years of relative calm. The Kashmir dispute is now nearly 69 years old. So far, it has defied resolution. It has proved to be an intractable and recurrent problem. In the 2003-2008 period, it seemed that Kashmir was on the verge of being resolved finally between India and Pakistan. The Musharraf regime in Pakistan had struck a deal with India on the dispute's final solution, which would have guaranteed peace and brought autonomy and demilitarization to the state. However, since 2008 Kashmir has unfortunately entered a new phase of uncertainty and civil unrest, with no hope of a solution in sight.
The problem of Kashmir cannot be properly understood unless it is placed in its wider context. It is a legacy of the hasty termination of British rule on the Indian sub-continent. It is a legacy of Partition and bound up with the broader question of Indian Muslim nationhood. That is why the principal parties to the problem are the successor states of India and Pakistan. Although any solution has to be acceptable to the people of Kashmir, a solution that is not acceptable to Pakistan will simply not work.
In addition, the Kashmir problem also gives rise to the additional issue of the final status of Indian Muslims. Until 2014, all analysis and discussion of the Kashmir issue was premised on the assumption that India was a secular country and that Kashmiris under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah, who was a secular socialist opposed to feudal rule, had chosen Nehru's secular republic. The election of the extremist wing of the BJP to power at the Centre in 2014 has undermined the whole basis of Kashmir's accession to India. It has also undermined the choice made by many Indian Muslims in 1947 to stay part of a united secular India. There are many regions in India with large Muslim populations such as Kerala, Lakshadweep, West Bengal, Assam, Hyderabad and many districts in UP and Bihar. The Muslims of these regions must now be asking themselves whether they made the right choice and whether they should have listened to the warnings of Jinnah. They certainly didn't expect to be lynched for eating beef.
India, without Pakistan and Bangladesh, was meant to a multi-ethnic secular country where every ethnic and religious group would have an equal opportunity to progress. As of now, caste Hindus only constitute 60% of the country's population. Muslims constitute 20% (and growing), Dalits 15% and the rest (Sikhs, Christians, Jains and Buddhists) constitute 5%. Yet, it is the party of caste Hindus that now controls the executive arm of the Central Government and the Lower House of Parliament. By inciting riot after riot, this party aims to entrench upper caste domination throughout India and crush minorities. It would outlaw beef consumption, religious conversions and criticisms of Modi, and it would construct the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and Sainik colonies in the Kashmir valley.
The consequences of this new politics for the fragile fabric holding together India remain to be seen. The uprising in Kashmir is the first serious challenge to this new politics. Although the PDP's alliance with the BJP initially reflected the fact that the BJP had emerged winner in Jammu, this alliance must now be seriously reconsidered. The sort of politics being espoused by the RSS-BJP is liable to set on fire the whole sub-continent. The PDP must immediately terminate the alliance and restore the party's credibility.
The external dimension of the new fanatic politics is the most dangerous. The party has given space to dangerous experimenters such as Ajit Doval, who wish to dismember Pakistan for a second time, or to Parikkar, who wish to employ dangerous military tactics to tackle insurgency, such as cross-border raids and shoot-at-sight. Modi's first step after taking power was to call for Pakistan to hand over the parts of Jammu and Kashmir administered by Pakistan. Its increasing belligerence in relation to Pakistan has sidelined all the moderate forces in that country such as the PPP and Nawaz Sharif, who were in favour of peace with India. Pakistan is now preparing for the possibility of an all-out conflict with India and the Army is again back in control of all foreign policy and defence issues. It is for this reason (i.e. the prospect of Indian belligerence) that Pakistan did not disband the Kashmir-centric militant groups and also developed tactical nuclear weapons. Such groups are seen as 'assets' in the event of any war with India, given that they are highly motivated and we have seen how highly motivated militias can be more effective in today's wars than disciplined, professional armies.
As long as this right wing brand of extreme politics remains dominant in India, there is little hope for peace in the sub-continent and every possibility of a large-scale war erupting between India and Pakistan. There will also be little chance of the current unrest in Kashmir ebbing away. In fact, it might get worse and spread to other parts of India, with Dalits and Muslims rejecting second-class status.