The final ‘solution’

  • Ajaz Rasool
  • Publish Date: Nov 10 2017 9:25PM
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  • Updated Date: Nov 10 2017 9:25PM
The final ‘solution’

When the BJP talks of a solution to Kashmir it has decidedly ominous overtones for Kashmiris


It was expected. Kashmir has always been part of the basic ideology of the RSS and its political avatars. So anyone who expected otherwise when the RSS has finally come into its own with the roller coaster victory of its latest, and by far most powerful, incarnation was living in a fool’s paradise. The Kashmir policy of the BJP and it’s behind the scenes mentor the RSS has always been unambiguous. It was one of the mentors of these parties, Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee who started the process of dissolution of the special status that had been given to the state of Jammu & Kashmir at the time of its ‘merger’ with the Indian union. Mukherjee was dead set against the special provisions with regard to the state and he died while in detention within the state as he tried to enter it under protest against the visitor permit that was required at the time by any non-state subject. It was Mukherjee’s death in custody that resulted in the scrapping of the permit system and subsequently the change of nomenclature of the Sadr-i-riyasat and Prime minister to Governor and Chief Minister respectively. Thus it was this icon of Hindutva who started the process of dilution of the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as defined by Article 370 of the Constitution of India and the lesser known but far more significant Article 35A. It is obvious that for those who consider Mukherjee as a martyr to the cause of total ‘integration’ of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and who have been celebrating his martyrdom every year, completing what he started is something that they cannot ignore to do now that they are enjoying an unbridled sway at the centre.

There has always been talk of solving the Kashmir problem be it Pakistan or India, the separatists or the mainstream leaders who have been talking of the same. What all these mean by the solution or for that matter the problem itself could very well be a case-study in semantics. For Pakistan the Kashmir problem is an unfinished agenda of partition, for the separatists it is that as well as a pending right of self-determination and also about reneged promises. The issue has varying meanings for the mainstream depending upon their status at the particular moment. For BJP however the Kashmir problem has always been the special status of the state of J&K. This special status is alargely atavistic remnant of a spurious partial autonomy that was granted to the state at the time of its accession to India. While the local population holds on dearly to this remnant as the only marker that identifies their buried autonomy and self-determination aspirations the BJP has always considered it to be the crutches on which the local separatist sentiments continue to hobble. What is a holy relic for the local population is an impediment to the total integration of the state so far as the BJP is concerned. That is why when the BJP talks of a solution to this issue that has decidedly ominous overtones for the Kashmiris. This is well borne out by the recent accelerated onslaught on the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The onslaught is insidious in nature as the BJP is not only using proxies to achieve its ends rather than making a direct attack but it has also employed an altogether new strategy. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the solution that the party has been talking is not about solving the problem as such but is actually just aeuphemism for totally finishing off the problem. This started with appropriation of the very term ‘Kashmir problem’. Like for instance there were attempts to make the term synonymous with the migration of Kashmiri pandits and the solution was also defined in the same terms being about rehabilitating and repatriating the Kashmiri pandits. Then again it was made synonymous with settlement of West Pakistan refugees. As is apparent both these issues had humanitarian angles which could be used to override the real Kashmir problem. The strategy of taking Article 35A to the court also reduces the issue to a constitutional anomaly and a mere technicality. These are all well thought out manoeuvres aimed at changing the narrative on Kashmir. The strategies are suggestive of the photographic technique of forced perspective, a device that cinematographers often employ to create an illusory scene with emphasis on a particular perspective. Like for instance things can be made bigger or smaller than they actually are; normal sized men are converted into giants or mini-sized humanoids and toy-sized dinosaurs shown to tower over buildings. Exactly the same devices are being employed in Kashmir and the even otherwise rudderless separatist leadership has been caught unawares and have no idea how to respond to this onslaught. To neutralise them further they have been discredited and bogged down by various investigative agencies.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that the separatists as well as the local population have not only been put on a defensive with regards to an article of aconstitution they don’t accept in the first place but are also all set to lose it! There is every possibility that the permanent ‘solution’ that the BJP is talking about has to do with abrogation of this article. For the loss of special status that this will entail will pave way for a demographic change in the region and with the original inhabitants reduced to a minority their aspirations will be reduced to a pipedream. The outlook is this regard is pretty grim. History has repeatedly shown that whenever the special status of the state and the various provisions of the constitution that guaranteed it have sought to be modified or subverted, there has been no dearth of local politicians who were willing to act as accomplices.  Only some years had elapsed since the state had acceded to the Indian union, in a manner that is still a matter of debate, when the process against the special status of the state started. A considerable bonhomie existed between the tallest leader on the Indian political scene and his ‘friend’ from Kashmir who enjoyed a degree of popularity among his people that remains unprecedented till date. Yet none of these factors, the ‘friendship’ between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah or the massive support enjoyed by the Sheikh among the Kashmiri masses could guarantee the inviolability of Kashmir’s status. Mukherjee’s death made Nehru panicky enough to ditch both his friend as well as his promises. The people of Kashmir remained helpless spectators while their leader was jailed and subsequently some aspect of the ‘special status’ was done away with. It did not take Nehru much time to find willing collaborators within Sheikh’s own party men. Subsequently the ‘special status’ was further eroded under a succession of puppet governments foisted upon the people of Kashmir and ultimately even Sheikh Abdullah was made to fall in line.

While all this was happening it was the Congress party which was in power at the centre. It should not be difficult to imagine that if Congress could effortlessly erode the special status of the state even though it was not something central to its agenda what will be the state of affairs under a party which definitely views this matter as one of its core issues. Moreover if there has been no dearth of local collaborators in the past finding them shouldn’t be a difficult proposition in the present times when the local politicians owe almost no accountability to a more or less disenchanted populace. Any optimism on this subject is nothing but mere wishful thinking. As for our Janus-faced local politicians they will use the issue to reap a harvest from the centre as well as the local population while apparently opposing any changes but actually endorsing and abetting the same.