How many of us remember the post emergency era famous quote that “Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee can win election from any constituency in Pakistan”; whilst he was the foreign minister in Sri Morarji Bhai’s cabinet in 1977? Remember that India had just won a conclusive war in 1971 courtesy of Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s government. The wound of Bangladesh’s creation by virtual amputation of Pakistan’s geographical territory was fresh in the mind of Pakistani masses as well as in the Indian political sphere. It took a decade for Mrs. Gandhi’s politics at home to become fatal. Yet in the case of BJP it seems the national and international politics that they play on the card of Pakistan always seems to suit their purpose rather than resolving any issue. In a way it seems that BJP and Pakistan are more complementary to each other rather than being adversaries as projected by them. However, when the Kashmir issue, the Pakistani political development and the rise of right-wing powers in India is analysed from a historical perspective, the blurry lines on this assertion becomes more clearer (and also more alarming).
Scenario – I : Immediately after independence and for another four decades, India and Pakistan fought three wars with each other; and yet despite these phases of high-pressured hostilities there was no organised insurgency movement in Kashmir. The trouble began in the valley after the rigging of 1987 state’s legislative assembly election in favour of Farooq Abdullah alliance and the Muslim political parties complained that the elections were rigged against them. However, the situation was more political than insurgent; it was only a simmering discontentment.Pakistan grabbed this opportunity and gave its “moral and diplomatic” support to the movement, calling for the issue to be resolved via a UN-sponsored referendum. By that time Congress had lost power at the Centre in 1989 and this is the time that BJP rose from oblivion from a party of 2 to 89 MPs. The party further gave momentum to communal politics and in September 1990, BJP leader L. K. Advani began a “rath yatra” to Ayodhya in order to generate support for the movement. The polarised environment of the country provided much needed breeding ground for the anti-national forces in the valley. Ever since the outbreak of the insurgency in 1989, militant groups have boycotted the polls on the grounds that they can’t be a substitute for plebiscite. Such a situation suited both – BJP to swell its rank in the country and Pakistan to hold its feet strongly on Kashmir issue at international forums. Most events that unfolded in the valley in the near past, whether it be the abduction of the daughter of the then interior affairs minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and release of four terrorists in exchange; or Unfurling Tricolour by then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi, accompanied with Narendra Modi in 1992; or BJP pressurising for the appointment of Jagmohan as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and Farooq Abdullah resigning as its outcome; or the hard core policies of Jagmohan – all suit the politics that BJP usually practices. The resultant vitiation of the valley’s atmosphere has thus been extended to alarming limits.
Scenario – II: The policies and planning of BJP to split the Indian society paid dividend to the extent that BJP formed government at the Centreunder the National Democratic Alliance with Mr. Vajpayee as PM. However, just three months after his famous bus ride to Lahore, India and Pakistan were at war over Kargil by February 1999; it seems that once again Pakistan took advantage of a party in power which suits its purpose. The complexity of BJP-Pak nexus is such that even Kargil war did not deter BJP from holding the Agra summit with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the chief architect of the war. It is different that BJP again sabotaged it through internal members to keep the issue alive until it continues to suit their political discourse.
Scenario – III: Despite of the Kargil war and later initiatives failing, the succeeding government managed to proceed with peaceful negotiations with Pakistan. In April 2005, when the Srinagar to Muzaffarabad bus service restarted, the only news we get from Muzaffarabad from those days was the excitement over the revival of a bus service that had stopped over many decades ago. There was no resistance to the same by Pakistan-supported militants who otherwise vociferously oppose the peace process between the two neighbours. And even though militant groups active in Indian Kashmir warned passengers to stay away from the bus service, no one paid heed to them; also partly because BJP was not in power to violently react to the voice of militants and make it worse. The result was that India was successful inside-lining the “core issue” that has kept the two subcontinent adversaries at loggerheads for over half a century.
Militant terror and insurgency-related violence has killed over 20,000 civilians and security forces in Jammu & Kashmir inthe last 25 years. This data of total civilian and security forces deaths recorded from 1988 to 2013 shows that the peak in deaths occurred in 1996 (1709 deaths) and a second peak occurred in 2001 (1657 deaths). In 2013, only 81 civilians and security force personnel died from the militant terror or insurgency (Source: Fatalities in Terrorist Violence 1988 – 2014, Jammu & Kashmir Data, South Asian Terrorism, SATP). The data convincingly indicates that the Congress led UPA government was successful in bringing peace to the valley which BJP has destroyed once again for its political gain.
N.C. Behera in her book “Kashmir Demystified” rightly mentions that the development in Pakistani occupied Kashmir which they call Azad Kashmir, simply does not figure in the debate on Kashmir, while stories of India administered Kashmir are always used to distort the complexity of the issue.Even the current BJP government neither makes an international approach on the issue of PoK nor does that effectually occur in their national discourse. The only fuel they use for their firebrand nationalism politics are the issues of the people and the events of the region which is, in all its existence part of the Indian state. What is worse, is the fact that they also turn it into an international issue without considering the image-crisis and national security threat it creates for the country.
The secular governments that governed from New Delhi have consistently demanded from Pakistan to end their support to militants and insurgents in the form of weapons and training, and have also repeatedly called for Pakistan to cease “cross-border terrorism”. Yet, they have also always maintained that militancy can be reduced by improving the governance in the valley. Whereas BJP government led politics has also thought of Kashmir, only minus the discourse (and life) of the Kashmiri people.
PM Modi has crossed another line and undone the efforts of previous Indian governments with these hasty pre-emptive air strike in Pakistan after Pulwama attack. Moreover, these airstrikes failed to serve any purpose other than exposing India in the absence of a single causality of militants. Meanwhile independent foreign agencies like Reuter, Associated Press, New York Times, BBC also reported that Indian bombs were off loaded on non-settled area damaging only trees and a crow (site if you can). Pakistan retaliated very quickly and its reaction subsided even more quicker. Wing Commander Abhinandan who was captured by the Pakistani forces was returned immediately without any need for international intervention. And the sheer easiness of this return between two on and off hostile nations shows that what seems like a victory in public perception may well have been choreographed. While their efforts to make a fool of their respective bhavuk janta remains to be tested; it is evident thatPakistan could have never donethis with any successful government in India; it is only BJP who can entertain them on mutual benefit basis.
Moreover, immediately after the airstrikes, the Indian PM and his team not just resumed but escalated their election campaign all over the country. The shameless use of the Pulwama attack and its response being used in BJP’s campaigning is only the more visible aspect of their planning. In effect, the issue that rose out of Pulwama has effected political discourse in two other major forms – firstly, by destabilising the emerging criticism of the Modi-government in popular politics and secondly, by out-manoeuvring the efforts of all opposition parties trying to collectively fight against the rise of right-wing politics.
The circumstantial evidences suggest that the political discourse over the Pulwama terror attack would only benefit BJP in the 2019 General Elections in India and would benefit Pakistan to score diplomatic pointsboth at the domestic and international level. The issue of Kashmir and Babri Majid-Ram Janmbhoomi will remain as it, is since they are bumper harvesting crops of votes for the saffron outfit.
For a peaceful coexistence the Kashmir issue needs a solution through peaceful negotiations by both India and Pakistan; the essential prerequisite is restoration of the honour of our Kashmiri people and restriction on Pakistan based militant organisation. This is only possible when secular polity will prevail on both sides of the fence; else we will not be alive even to be wrongly remembered in history.
Dr Anwar Khursheed
Professor of Environmental Engineering
Coordinator AMU Centres,
Vice-Chairman AMU Alumni Committee
Former Principal FCI & Director Computer Centre
Former University Engineer
Department of Civil Engineering
Z. H. College of Engineering & Technology