Statesmanship needed in J&K

Historically, Jammu & Kashmir represents the culture of both Islam and Hinduism. The exercise of forming the government in Jammu and Kashmir is posing a delicate situation as no single party can form the government on its own. The Bharatiya Janata Party, for all its broad development propaganda totally failed to make any dent, except in Jammu where it got 42 per cent of the votes polled as against Kashmir where it got a miserable 1 per cent and Ladakh, even where Buddhists are in large numbers, its share was marginal. The  BJP has got out of the total 87 seats, 25 seats in the Jammu region but nil in Kashmir region.

So here is the unfortunate situation where no party has not only got a majority but the two regions of J&K have voted differently. The PDP, with 28 seats, has to have a coalition with other parties like the National Conference (15) and Congress (12). But there are too many personality clashes amongst the leaders of these parties to obtain a workable solution. That apart, they will be falling over each other to retain their support in Kashmir Valley with the resultant absence of participation from Jammu, the majority Hindu area. 

Historically, J&K represents the enviable civilisation and culture of both Hinduism and Islam for centuries. Which place is so holy and fortunate enough to have the holy strand of hair of Prophet of Islam and at the same time also the Shiv linga of Hindus which is an occasion for Amar Nath yatra every year, and a temple dedicated to Shankaracharya — the greatest exponent of Hinduism?

With such a complex situation, a workable solution can only be the coalition of the PDP and the BJP— however distasteful it may be for people like me, who believe that the BJP policy of development propaganda is a chimera ,and rue its inability to openly condemn the ugly communal activities of Mohan Bhagwat and his disciples who are bent on spreading communal poison. Notwithstanding my personal views, the peculiar circumstances of Kashmir require a special strategy.

It is for this purpose that the odd suggestion of the BJP/PDP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir may perhaps be a better solution for avoiding Governor’s rule. In this the personality of the PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is very important. He has worked with the BJP in the NDA government in 1990.

I believe talks are on between the National Conference and the BJP, with efforts to rope in some Independents. But this combination will hurt the sentiments of people of Kashmir, who have thrown out the National Conference. Of course, the BJP is trying its best at this solution because it hopes that it will get its chief minister from the Jammu region, who will inevitably be a Hindu.

I believe this scenario is the most dangerous one for J&K and will make any permanent solution impossible. I have no hesitation in saying that both on principle and practical politics, the chief minister of J&K has to be from the Kashmir region and a Muslim.

This is not communalism but the appreciation of ground reality of the historical, peculiar situation of J&K. In a similar situation in pre-Independence India, in Punjab general elections in 1946, the Congress had the largest number in coalition. But the Prime Minister (as he was then called in the states) was the Muslim Unionist Party leader Khizar Hayat Khan.

The BJP / PDP combine will bring a representative character and will be a source for removing the misunderstanding between the two regions. Of course, before the PDP and the BJP can enter into a pact some absolute pre-conditions will have to be accepted by the BJP. Uptil now, small partisan politics has made the BJP adopt policies which are not permissible under our Constitution, namely the abrogation of Article 370. The result has been its total alienation in the Valley. The results clearly show that sentiment still prevails — notwithstanding Modi’s repeated visits to the Valley with his trumpet of development programme and slyly avoiding to mention Article 370. It still brought zero result for the BJP in the Valley. The BJP must understand that the dignity and self respect of the people of Valley of Kashmir is tied to the non-abrogation of Article 370.

It is not as if Article 370 is the only exception. Article 371 provides for special responsibility of the Governor for establishment of a separate development for Saurashtra and Kutch (in Gujarat) and Vidarbha in Maharashtra for equitable allocation of funds for the development of the area. No objection by the BJP was ever raised to this even when Modi was the Chief Minister. 

Article 371G, introduced by Constitution (55th Amendment Act, 1986) provides that no Act of Parliament in respect of ownership and transfer of land shall apply to the State of Mizoram, unless the legislative Assembly of State of Mizoram by a resolution so decides. This provision is identical to Article 370 of the Constitution regarding J&K. The BJP was party to the above amendment. Why does the BJP apply double standard in case of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir? 

It needs to be appreciated that retention of Article 370 is a matter of self respect and honour and assertion of their  distinct identity for the people of J&K. Can the BJP not, even when most of Parties in J&K are desirous of finding a lasting solution, be statesmanlike enough to give up its opposition to Article 370 — which no Kashmiri can possibly agree to abrogate?

It is true that if the communal activity of RSS and allied bodies going ahead with their lunatic activities of ghar wapsi, the silent collusion with Hindu Mahasabha in praise of Godse, the murderer of Gandhiji, are not strictly suppressed, Modi’s efforts at coalition with the PDP will be an impossibility.

The BJP must consider the consequences of Jammu and Kashmir not getting a genuine elected majority of the Valley in the Jammu and Kashmir government. This will spread further disillusionment. Notwithstanding that the Army under electoral pressure on the BJP was quick enough to admit and take action against its Army officers for false encounters. But the BJP government at the Centre alone can give confidence to the people of J&K, especially of the Kashmir Valley, that human right violations by the state or the Army will be severely dealt with. This can only be done by the coalition government of the BJP / PDP. Is BJP, especially Modi, willing to show that statesmanship?

(Published in The Tribune Dec 29 2014 )

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