By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Mahbooba Mufti, the PDP leader, and former Chief Minister has recently made a statement that the BJP has made Jammu and Kashmir look like Afghanistan. There may be some exaggeration in her statement, but there are certain truths that speak for themselves and need not have any crutches to be highlighted.
Scorecard on Terrorism: India’s former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, A S Dulat, has recently highlighted that the menace of terrorism is far from being controlled in the valley. He said the sophistication of the terrorist attack demonstrated that the armed groups are still strong there and have an intelligence network that possibly may have members within the ruling establishment.
The record of terrorism as per the Indian government’s own data claims that armed groups are active in Kashmir. The number of attacks was 229 in 2021, almost the same in 2020. The figures for previous years are not significantly different. For example, there were 279 incidents of terrorism in 2017, 322 in 2016, 208 in 2015, 222 in 2014, and 170 in 2013, the year before BJP came to power.
The armed groups have changed their tactics and instead of attacking the Army, it has increased attacks on civilians, especially non-resident Hindus and the minority Kashmiri Pandit community. The targeted killings have increased in the Kashmir valley. At least 18 Kashmiri Pandits and non-resident Hindus were killed since the abrogation of Article 370. These figures speak of what the BJP government is doing to contain terrorism since August 5, 2019.
The Kashmir valley has been turned into a garrison state. Gun-toting Army men are seen everywhere in the valley. In that sense, Mahbooba Mufti has made a statement that the BJP has made Jammu and Kashmir look like Afghanistan. Indian Amy is giving a semblance of ‘occupational’ forces that the US did in Iraq or Vietnam. If that can be called an achievement then certainly BJP has been successful in Jammu and Kashmir. How long such a muscular policy can be sustained, only an insane can answer!
Scorecard on Investment: India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai on December 13, 2022, presented investment data for Jammu and Kashmir in the Parliament. As per his statement, investments have fallen in the valley by 55 percent over the past four years. The data published by the Indian government’s Ministry of Home Affairs further says the total investment in 2021-22 in Jammu and Kashmir stood at $46m, down from $50.5m the previous year. This is dramatically less than the $102.8m spent in 2017-18. The statics of COVID-19 suggests that this wasn’t the reason for investments drying up. The steepest fall in investments came in the year 2019 when the government abrogated Article 370. These statics are enough to rubbish the BJP’s claim to make Kashmir a developmental paradise.
Score on democratizing the politics in J&K: The BJP government had claimed that Article 370 restricted people’s participation in the political process and led to a few families dominating the political space there. It wowed to end the dynasty rule in J&K. The result of the local self-government speaks about how entrenched Mufti and Abdullah are entrenched at the ground level politics. Apart from this, there is no sign of improving the democratic processes there. It’s about three now the Union territory doesn’t even have a legislature. There have been no elections for the legislative assembly for the past seven years. What is seen in J&K is steamrolling democracy and making every effort to stifle democracy? The Union territory is run by a governor from Srinagar, acting like British Viceroy in New Delhi. The orders come to him from New Delhi, just like Viceroy received orders from London. The administration is in the hands of officers who are sent from Delhi. They are non-accessible to the local people and have no clue about the local language or their problems.
Other noticeable developments in J&K: First, constituency boundaries of the legislature have been redrawn unilaterally to give the Hindu-majority Jammu region a greater say in the legislative assembly. This has been done to strengthen the chances of bringing Hindu rule in an electorally Muslim-dominated region.
Added to it is the revision of the voter list, giving voting rights to outsiders who are in the form of migrant workers and army personnel to electorally influence the democratic process in favor of the BJP. Such changes made by New Delhi to alter the voter list are resented by the locals
The other development is that non-residents can buy and own land in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier there were restrictions on land ownership along the lines of the sixth schedule of the constitution. This is being undone to bring private sector industries into the valley. However, this has hardly yielded any results and the private business sector is reluctant to set up businesses in the region. All these measures taken by the BJP have taken Srinagar farthest from New Delhi.
The large presence of the Army sees to it that no one protests in the valley. As a result, the political protests have subsided in J&K but that’s because most of the local leaders are in some sort of detention, and restrictions on any form of political mobilization there.
There were several arguments given by the BJP government to revoke article 370 and degrade a state into a union territory in 2019 to justify its muscular policy. First was to eliminate terrorism and separatism in the Kashmir valley, and second, to bring huge investments to spur up economic development. The third was to get rid of the dynastic politics in the J&K. Some three years down the line, it is seen that none of the BJP objectives seem to be anywhere near getting fulfilled.
The killings and the declining investments contradict two central arguments of the BJP government for the abrogation of article 370. The fact remains that the Modi government’s change in policy toward J&K has not yielded any results. There is no reason to believe that the BJP’s hardline approach towards Kashmir has helped to improve the situation. Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris are suffering alike under the BJP rule from the center.
If at all, the BJP policy is successful then it is only to be seen that it has helped the saffron party bolster its image in the Hindu majority India. The Kashmir policy is giving dividends to the BJP and has translated into its electoral success.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com