Daanish Bin Nabi on why the valley is a ticking time bomb that might explode any second
Since the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahiddin commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani on July 08, 2016, the bloodshed has continued unabated in Kashmir. At least 160 civilians have been killed in state government forces’ action since July 2016. The political dispensation of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has miserably failed to provide any succour to the people of the state.
PDP-BJP’s political failure
The larger than life image of Agenda of Alliance (AoA) that was stitched by the PDP’s Haseeb Drabu and BJP’s Ram Madhav seems to coming crushing down in face of PDP. While BJP has done everything to keep its bargain of AoA; PDP, on the other hand, has lost big time as BJP is not allowing any breathing space to its coalition partner, as far as Kashmir valley is concerned.
Speaking to sbcltr about the failure of AoA, author and political commentator Gowhar Geelani says: “Not only has the AoA failed, the so-called Agenda of Alliance, which the PDP describes a ‘sacred’ document, has become a butt of ridicule. A big joke. Besides many things, the AoA talked about “maintaining J&K’s constitutional position with the Union of India, starting dialogue with all the stakeholders and reconciliation with Pakistan, but not a single promise has been kept.”
Aligning with the right-wing BJP was a political murder not only for the volatile state of Jammu and Kashmir but also for PDP itself. Presently, the PDP is viewed as a“traitor” party in the Valley. It had got votes on an anti-BJP election campaign and Kashmiris by and large had voted to keep BJP out of Kashmir however the PDP betrayed not only the people of Kashmir but its own vote bank base that is south Kashmir.
The Military Approach
Since July 30, 2017, twenty people have died in Kashmir valley— that includes four civilians, fourteen militants, and two state government forces. On my many visits to south Kashmir, I have learnt that state government forces excessive use of force, detention, torture in police station and continuous harassment of youth remains one of the basic answers about why the youth are joining the militant ranks.
“There is the absence of dialogue and outreach at all levels. Militaristic approach is being used with an aim to kill dissent, criminalise a legitimate political struggle, and choke all possible spaces for dialogue. This militaristic policy will prove counterproductive,” says Geelani.
One of the recent militants who joined the militant ranks because of the excessive atrocities is Zubair Turray of district Shopian. Turray had escaped from police station Keegam on May 1 and soon after joining the militant ranks, he released a five minute video clip, detailing the reasons behind his decision of joining militancy. Turray was last arrested in 2014 on stone pelting charges and was slapped with PSA.
“I was slapped with PSA after PSA and even after quashed the last one by high court, I was not released. Instead I was facing illegal detention since three months. Every effort of my father to get me released was failed,” he said later. Qazi Ahmed Yasir has referred to south Kashmir as a “Torture Centre” amply representing the picture of the volatile south and way the PDP-BJP government is handling the situation. “The situation has turned so fearful that people fear leaving their homes after 8pm. Such tactics will win India no war, it will deteriorate the already brewed up situation further,” says Yasir.
He said he has been receiving complaints from many villages in Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama areas where civilians including women have been thrashed severely.
Since 2014, most of the government stated figures starting from Home Ministry to state run security institutions have put the militant figure ranging from 200 to 220. And since year 2014, one almost daily basis one or two militants are killed in encounters. Still the official government figure remains the same. Going by government’s logic the militancy should have ended almost a year back in Kashmir but what we seeing is the resurgence of the militancy in Kashmir.
Special Status Controversy
Since its alliance with BJP in early 2015, the PDP has been at the centre of controversies at the hands of its coalition partner. From the beef ban to attending the Kashmir Martyrs Day (which is a state holiday in Jammu and Kashmir), to the flag controversy, to handling the Hurriyat—the BJP has been nothing but a headache for Mehbooba Mufti. While the state is yet to recover from mass-uprisings of 2016, the BJP has thrown another challenge in face to PDP in form of Article 35-A.
Understanding Article 35-A
Article 35-A is permanent resident law, which disallows any non-J&K resident from settling down in the state and buying land or properties, getting government jobs or voting in the assembly polls. This provision that empowers the J&K Legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state was added to Article 35 through a Presidential order called “The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954” and was issued under Article 370. This was a major Presidential order that superseded the first such order issued in 1950 which had provided a framework for the division of the powers between J&K and New Delhi under Article 370.
Subsequently, the J&K Constituent Assembly convened on October 31, 1951 adopted J&K Constitution on November 17, 1956. The J&K Constitution defined the Permanent Resident (PR) of the state: people who are state subjects on May 14, 1954 or those who have been residents of the state for 10 years and have “lawfully acquired immovable property in the state”. However, it empowered the J&K legislature to make any law altering the definition of PR but only if it is passed by a two-third majority. The PR law wasn’t a new addition but mirrored State Subject law that had been promulgated by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927.
When PPD stitched the alliance with the BJP both the parties agreed not to disturb the “present position on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K” including its “special status”. However, a lesser known NGO – We the Citizen – backed by the RSS filed a petition in Supreme Court for abrogating the Article 35-A. The RSS convictionally believes that only permanent solution to Kashmir dispute is to alter the demography of the state. The first attempt to alter the demography was take in 1947 when in between three to five lakh Muslims were massacred in Jammu province of the state. Veteran journalist Ved Bhasin writes, “There was a large-scale killing of Muslims in Udhampur district, particularly in Udhampur proper, Chenani, Ramnagar and Reasi areas. Even in Bhaderwah, a number of Muslims were victims of communal marauders.”
According to Bhasin, the RSS played a key role in these killings, aided by armed Sikh refugees “who even paraded the Jammu streets with their naked swords”. Some of those who led the riots in Udhampur and Bhaderwah later joined the National Conference and some even served as ministers. “There were reports of Muslims massacred in Chhamb, Deva Batala, Manawsar and other parts of Akhnoor, with several of them fleeing to the other side or moving to Jammu. In Kathua district too there was the large-scale killing of Muslims and reports of women being raped and abducted,” writes Bhasin.
The United Front
The second attempt is being made now for abrogating Article 35-A. Legal luminary. “The PDP-BJP state government has relied on two judgements: Puranlal Lakhanpal Vs President of India & Others, (1962) and Sampat Prakash v. State of Jammu and Kashmir and Another, (1969). Both the Judgements endorse the state government’s views on the matter and benefit all State Subjects of the State,” said Zaffar Shah in an interview.
“But it’s Narendra Modi-led NDA government’s unclear stand on the issue which remains worrisome for the state. So far, Delhi has decided not filing a counter-affidavit in the matter,” he added.
Zaffar was referring to Attorney General for India, K.K. Venugopal, who said, “A conscious decision has been taken by the government of India not to file any counter affidavit in the case because the issues which are raised for adjudication, are pure questions of law.”
The state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met National Conference Patron Farooq Abdullah and National Conference Working President Omar Abdullah and their residence in the heavily guarded Gupkar lane. The motive behind the move was to bring all the parties to together to put a united face in saving the Article 35-A.
Zaffar continues, saying, “by abstaining from filing a counter-affidavit, Delhi has apparently toed a line of the petitioner, which is a dangerous approach, the opposition National Conference warned, and could lead to an irreparable damage to the state’s special status.”
The BJP government has been successful is isolating the Hurriyat leadership in the Valley. The senior leadership of Hurriyat has been put under house arrest while other leaders have been indicted in cases related to “fueling unrest in Kashmir”. The Hurriyat patriarch Syed Ali Geelani, 87, is under continuous house detention since 2010. His office-cum-residence at Hyderpora, Srinagar, has been virtually turned into a sub-jail. The Agenda of Alliance clearly talks about talking to Pakistan and Hurriyat. However, the state government has miserably failed in making New Delhi understand the importance of both the players in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in particular and for the relations between India and Pakistan in general.
On August 12, a complete shutdown was observed in Kashmir valley including Kishtwar and Baderwah on the call of Hurriyat against abrogating the Article.
Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has also warned of street protests if the mainstream regional parties fail to protect Article 35-A. He said: “Hectic efforts are underway by BJP and RSS to do away with special status of the State by challenging Article 35-A in the Supreme Court. The Article is being challenged with the view to alter the demography of the state by settling people from outside the state, with the right to acquire land and property, and vote in the Assembly elections,” Farooq too is under house arrest at his Nageen residence since last few months.
He argued that, “abrogating Article 35-A was basically aimed at reducing 75% Muslim majority of the state into a minority and change the basic character of the state in order to undermine and deeply affect its disputed nature. It is being done under a deliberate plan and is part of the much flaunted “final solution” to the Kashmir dispute by Indian state-led by RSS.”
Civil Society Intervention
Meanwhile, the Kashmiri civil society members held a round table conference debating the pros and cons of Article 35-A. During the round table they also decided to send a memorandum to the United Nations Secretary General, all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and member countries of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to appraise the situation.
In a bid to save her face from the volatile controversy erupting out of Article 35-A, Mehbooba Mufti rushed to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Modi.
Mufti told the media that, “the idea of India must accommodate the idea of Jammu Kashmir.” She has also assured the state residents, saying the PM has given a “100 per cent,” assurance that he would back the PDP-BJP government’s Agenda of Alliance, which says that the status of Article 370 can’t be “fiddled with.”
While the masses met her statement with scepticism, the opposition launched a scathing attack on Mufti, asking her for a detailed explanation. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “excuse us if we no longer believe what Mehbooba Mufti says after she comes out from these meetings. Can PMO India explain ‘assurances’ please.”
Need For Peace
The people of Kashmir want peace but peace with dignity. So far they (Kashmiris) have resisted everything on ground; but the present crisis is beyond their reach due to constitutional nitty-gritty’s. Professor Sheikh Showkat told sbcltr, “fighting for the rights (Article 35-A) is a universal right for every citizen of the world. Kashmiris are doing same in this case also. However, all the political parties (mainstream and Hurriyat) should come forward and have a united front for a common cause. It also remains to be seen how the Modi lead government responds to Mufti’s request.” Given the turmoil the state is in Kashmir remains a ticking bomb, waiting to explode anytime.