Kashmir — A political Cul-De-Sac for Modi

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Osama Zafar Rawana

AS the RSS-BJP duo won a landslide victory in 2019 elections, it found much-needed confidence – and the electoral strength – to fulfill one of the most important / pivotal aspect of their manifesto: the abrogation of Article 370 of Indian Constitution that gave special status to the only Muslim-majority region under the administrative – albeit illegal control –of the Central government in New Delhi.

From the perspective of ultra-right-wing segments of Indian polity / society, the sheer bulldozing of the constitutional bill from the parliament would have ended the Kashmir chapter once and for all.

However, like every other arrogant political leader / party, the RSS-BJP duo gravely miscalculated.

The revocation of IIOJK’s special status – coupled with imposition of curfew and detention of the region’s political class – caused an international uproar.

The draconian measures imposed in the disputed Himalayan region resulted in unprecedented castigation of Modi and his BJP cahoots at the international stage – severely damaging New Delhi’s carefully-crafted, but bogus / false, secular credentials.

The flurry of articles that was published – along with scores of critical reports from international human rights organizations –increased diplomatic / moral pressure on the Hindutva-inspired regime.

The beating that RSS-BJP duo took in the information domain resulted in acute polarization in India’s domestic landscape – with growing criticism of the Modi government.

Furthermore, the inhumane curfew imposed in IIOJK–at a time when Covid-19 pandemic was raging–pushed US and European lawmakers to censure New Delhi.

The criticism, in particular, from UK’s Labor Party and US’ Democrats in Congress, was a cause for concern for the Hindutva-inspired regime.

Even, India’s closest partners – France and Russia – sensitized New Delhi vis-à-vis the brewing humanitarian crisis in IIOJK. Perhaps, India felt the real pinch when Democrats won the keys to the White House.

As Biden assumed the office of US President–and Democrats dominated US Congress – New Delhi felt increasing pressure from its close ally regarding the country’s IIOJK policy.

In such an environment, Indian government realized that it had entered a closed alley – and that it had to extricate itself without backtracking.

Resultantly, Indian media and intelligentsia – duly supported by statements from top government officials–went into an over-drive to project so-called normalcy in IIOJK.

In this regard, several orchestrated trips of foreign diplomats and legislators to the disputed region were conducted; however, almost all of them failed / back-fired.

Meanwhile, IIOJK was reeling under a protracted curfew and witnessing an uptick in violence – effectively busting the myth of normalcy in the disputed picturesque region.

In another attempt at misleading the international community, the Central government in New Delhi conducted District Development Council (DDC) Election – which blew up in the face of BJP regime due to low voter turn-out and ascendency of Kashmiri political parties.

The election conducted under a thick security blanket – in the absence of proper election campaign – didn’t do much good for India’s plans regarding projection of normalcy.

Although BJP government had detained majority of Kashmir’s political class, most of them – especially those who historically had supported India – were released prior to the aforementioned DDC Election.

However, the anti-India / pro-Pakistan political leaders were kept at bay through prolonged illegal house-arrests and detentions.

On the external front, the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent formation of Union Territory Ladakh – an area that China claims – eventually led to the June-2020 clash between People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Indian Army (IA) at Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The humiliation faced by India due to loss of large tracts of the land it controlled – coupled with Beijing’s growing footprint / influence in the region – pushed South Asian countries to question India’s credentials vis-à-vis becoming a regional power.

From Bangladesh to Nepal, from Sri Lanka to Afghanistan, New Delhi’s influence was on a sharp decline, leading to almost diplomatic isolation.

Likewise, this diplomatic isolation further aggravated when all regional / extra-regional powers excluded India from ongoing peace process in Afghanistan – giving the Saffron-Hindu party a reality-check.

Besides, the pressure was also growing on the Modi government to engage Pakistan and initiate a bilateral dialogue to cool-off tension in South Asia.

Since Pakistan maintained a principled position that any talks with India would be premised on the formation of a conducive environment in IIOJK, Indian government–through its pliant media–started leaking stories regarding alleged talks between the two neighbors.

The aim of such leaks was to create an impression that Islamabad had finally accepted New Delhi’s August-2019 actions as a fait accompli.

However, despite the flurry of articles / news reports published in this regard, New Delhi failed to successfully engrain this narrative in the people’s minds – particularly the international community.

After the failure of the aforementioned campaign, BJP used another trick. On June 24, 2021, Modi met with select leaders of IIOJK’s political mainstream to highlight the revival of political activity in the disputed region.

The political leaders invited – Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti among others – were those who had been instrumental in giving legitimacy to the Indian illegal occupation of the disputed region.

Since the so-called Gupkar Alliance was facing political irrelevance in the face of changing dynamics of the disputed region, they acted as tools of disinformation for the Central Government.

RSS-BJP duo – using its proxies in media and intelligentsia – pushed the narrative that the Kashmiri political leadership had reconciled with the abrogation of Article 370 and demanded only the restoration of statehood.

Through this clever ploy, BJP government assumed that it would achieve its objectives and keep Pakistan at bay.

However, from Pakistan’s and international community’s perspective, the primary aim is not the restoration of statehood for the disputed region, but the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions that call for a free and fair plebiscite – giving Kashmiris’ their right to self-determination.

Moreover, the Modi government’s desire to undertake a massive delimitation exercise in IIOJK – to politically disempower the already-oppressed Muslim majority by granting more seats to the Hindu areas of the disputed region – is bound to fail because it will even antagonize the pro-India Kashmiri leadership, creating a myriad of new issues / challenges for the politically-beleaguered and diplomatically-isolated Modi government.

Modi’s sheer hubris has pushed him in a cul-de-sac with no option but to backtrack his draconian steps in the disputed Himalayan flashpoint.

Not only that, his fascist action of August-2019 has put Kashmir back in the limelight–an issue that had unfortunately been placed at the back burner for years.

Indian government must realize that time for cosmetic steps to mislead the international community is over.

It is time for a comprehensive solution of the dispute to extricate the Kashmiris from seven-decades-long constitutional/political limbo. The people of Kashmir have spoken – they don’t want to live with India.

It is high-time that United Nations – formed to protect the helpless and to avoid conflicts – plays its part to allow Kashmiris to exercise their right to self-determination.

—Written by–Osama Zafar Rawana Email–[email protected]

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