Sectarian wage in the offing, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi likely choice for LG in Kashmir

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By Haider Abbas

BJP is now all set to play the Shia card in strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir, where situation has changed drastically following removal of the special status on August 5, 2019. The entire leadership of Kashmir was put under house-arrest and what later followed was submission of Delimitation Commission report in May. The report, however, has led to an obvious furore as Kashmir’s around 70 lakh voters (Muslim dominated ) will be represented by 47 seats and Jammu’s 54 lakh voters  (Hindu dominated) will have 43 seats. For BJP, Kashmir’s monopoly over Jammu is now a passé.

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It is now also declared that by the end of the year J&K is likely to see elections, hence, BJP is planning to set it’s senior leader and former Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to be the next Lieutenant Governor in J&K. This move is to be fraught with many objectives as Naqvi has been one of the old loyalists of BJP with a Shia-Muslim denomination. His stand towards the Babri Masjid demolition and construction of Ram Temple on its site is all too well-known.  He won the Lok Sabha elections from Rampur (1998) which interestingly was also an erstwhile Shia State (pre-independence) on a BJP ticket. Hence, he is the best-foot-forward for the saffron party to be set-into in the otherwise tumultuous union territory as now a typical Shia element. Shia community constitutes 10 percent population of J&K.

It is now in the context of the candidature of Naqvi, that the ‘Abbas’ resonance has also come from the recent blog of PM Narendra Modi as ‘Abbas’ has now become a house-hold familiarity i.e. someone ‘Shia’ who was a family friend of the Prime Minister. It will be only naïve to believe the reference to have been imprudently made so! ‘Abbas’ it may be known is typically carried as a Shia generic though Abbas is a common name inside Muslim communities all across the world. The Prophet of Islam’s own uncle was Abbas Ibn-e-Abd Al Mutallib, whose progenies ruled over greater parts of the world for centuries etc. as Abbasids Caliphs.

Mukhtar Abbas  Naqvi is a homegrown BJP zealot, who time and again has shrugged-off ‘responsibilities’ to not to ‘have seen the news yet’ in the case dropping of charges of murder of Tabraiz Ansari (2019, Jharkhand), and after Pehlu Khan’s lynching (2017, Rajasthan) that “no such incident, as being reported, has taken place on the ground,” he had informed the Parliament. Mukhtar Abbas  Naqvi, if he goes ahead to accede to office, will therefore be a multiple-edged sword which is to confront Kashmir, with the sole purpose to settle-into-with the BJP’s agenda.

The presence of Mukhtar Abbas  Naqvi from the heartland of India, UP, is to be a welcome step to a section of Shia community who supported the BJP in some constituencies under various forums like Rashtriya Muslim Manch or Rashtriya Shia Samaj etc to ‘outcry’ for Shia under-representation inside the JK Assembly. Plus, with BJP at the Center as well as almost throughout the states of India, will also substantially invite Shia aspirants from BJP too and this is what is to add a new dynamic into the Kashmir polity, which otherwise has been the turf-war between National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Congress. BJP will very easily have a field-day in Jammu, as a foregone conclusion, all the while when it is in its resurgence mode, more particularly so after a resounding victory of UP in 2022, and also after the drama unfolding out in Maharashtra, on the question of Hindutva. The upcoming scenario in Kashmir, therefore, now is to find Muslims, both Shia and Sunnis, all likely to gravitate towards BJP in the coming polls.  The long oft political line from Kashmir has also been to find a friendly Center.

As far as Shias are concerned, their involvement in militancy is negligible in Kashmir. The presence of Shia votes, in considerable numbers or what may be called as a deciding-factor are on certain seats like Zadibal, Hazratbal and Sonwar in Srinagar. Pattan, Baramulla in North Kashmir, Beerwah, Badgam in Central Kashmir, apart from the sparsely populated pockets of Shia presence. Now, if the game plan of Mukhtar Abbas  Naqvi is to make way, then the immediate fallout is to witness a whole Shia army affiliates of BJP,  to get activated from Lucknow and other parts of UP, to start to make visits and ‘cry-hoarse’ that NC/PDP/Congress give representation to Shias or else Shias will  make a ‘push-and-pull’ towards BJP.

In post-2014 BJP’s India, there are no qualms of a notable presence of Shias in the BJP, across whole of India, as a settled phenomenon.

Naqvi gambit is to have far reaching consequences, as new realities are on the face of Kashmir, which has never found any public schism between the Shia-Sunni sub-sects of Muslim society. But, this aspect has been making-rounds, in probably every news item, films or commentaries, in the whole world, particularly after US started its war on Iraq in 2003, as soon thereafter, there were many Western scholars who thronged Lucknow ‘hunting for views’ to learn about conflicts between Shias and Sunnis, something which ultimately led to the present day fratricide in post- Saddam Hussain Iraq. A Shia-Sunni riot happened only in Lucknow, and which, have always been politically motivated, for they took place (in Congress era) only before or after the Assembly elections i.e. in 1969, 1974 and 1977.

The pantomime situation in Kashmir is what is building-up right now, but what happens in Maharashtra next is also to be seen, as Shiv-Sena which has been an acronym for even more blatant Hindutva, as compared to BJP, is also likely to enter the political fray in JK, in order to outdo BJP, and that is what may unfold to yet another situation, to the already complex wherewithal, in the overall political landscape of Kashmir.

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The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and a political analyst.

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