Advantage Zero In Kashmir

In northern Afghanistan, as an unrepentant Taliban captures territory, even while so-called peace talks are underway, reporters are entering the tattered make-shift tents of the refugee camps without water, electricity and food, scattered across the hinterland, in about 50 degree Centigrade, with a scorching Afghan sun shining on the stoic masses. Desperate people are once again running to save their body and soul, and women are telling terrible stories which they have not yet forgotten. The terrible stories narrate emotional degradation and sexual slavery under the Taliban before 9/11, like a thousand terrible suns.

The untold stories of women, mothers, daughters, girls and boys, and homes destroyed – they are often the time-tested testimonies of a society under siege. Surely, Kashmir is not Afghanistan, and the Taliban is still far away. But, somehow, its shadow seems to be looming large in the Valley too, as the Americans leave, and the uncertain landscape changes colour into a murky grey, across the line of control.

Experts are therefore reading between the lines as the muscular Modi-Shah regime made its first strategic U-turn recently on Kashmir by inviting its top leaders for talks in Delhi. So, what is brewing?

It’s been two years since the massive military clampdown was imposed on Kashmir on August 4, 2019, with the arbitrary abrogation of Article 370, the dismantling of the state assembly, the arrest of all top political leaders, including three former chief ministers, and hundreds of innocent citizens accompanied by an atmosphere of total terror. The entire Valley was under siege. There were armed barricades across the nooks and corners of a desolate Srinagar, its sublime Dal Lake bereft of a single tourist boat.

Apart from the crippling economic losses which ran into billions, and some businessmen behind bars, what was striking on the empty streets and markets of Srinagar was the absence of women and children. A silent stasis of suppressed mass trauma and alienation had penetrated the deepest layers of Kashmiri society.

At the famous Hazratbal and Jama Masjid, there was nobody to feed the pigeons. The legendary Lal Chowk was steeped in solitude except for the armed barricades. University campuses had their huge gates shut. An uncanny unhappiness stalked this scenic land.

Mothers and children had withdrawn into their homes. There were no kids out there flying kites or playing cricket on the streets; no one was going to school with their back-packs. It was like the Joan Baez song: Where have all the children gone?

ALSO READ: Has The Nation Forgotten Kashmir?

Mothers were not walking out with their children asking them to buy ice-cream or popcorn. Sisters were not playing pranks with their little brothers in open spaces. Children were not playing in the courtyards just across the tense army barricades every few minutes; they were not exchanging notes across the rows of terraces touching each other in old Srinagar with its myriad mappings of inner lanes crisscrossing the inner city.

Windows and doors were tightly shut, internet was shut, the media was shut, lips were shut, hearts were shut, eyes were shut wide-open; this was a ‘shutdown’ much before the sudden ‘lockdown’ in the rest of India in March 2020. This was armed occupation, under army jackboots. This was forced social quarantine. This was a total denial of democracy and fundamental rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

So what do we say of a beautiful city where there are no sounds of children anymore? Where children do not play anymore?

What do you say of a State which shuts its own children into silence, condemnation and exile? For a reporter in Srinagar two years ago, the wounded memories are etched.

Two years later, there seems to be a tangible and tangential linkage between what is happening in Afghanistan, and the sudden and unexpected ‘big move’ being played out recently by the super-duo in the capital.  They, surprisingly and ironically, invited the mainstream political leadership of Kashmir for ‘talks’ in Delhi. Many of these leaders were put in detention by them for prolonged periods after the clampdown; they were called the ‘Gupkar Gang’ by Amit Shah after their release.

This refers to the formation of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) by political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, after the release of their top leaders. Mr. Shah had tweeted, “The Gupkar Gang is going global! They want foreign forces to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir. The Gupkar Gang also insults India’s Tricolour. Do Sonia Ji and Rahul Ji support such moves of the Gupkar Gang? They should make their stand crystal clear to the people of India.”

In response, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who had earlier made a government in alliance with the BJP in Srinagar, said, “Love jihad, tukde tukde and now Gupkar Gang, dominates the political discourse instead of rising unemployment and inflation.”

 “I can understand the frustration behind this attack by the Home Minister. He had been briefed that the People’s Alliance was preparing to boycott elections. This would have allowed the BJP and newly formed king’s party a free run in J&K. We didn’t oblige them,” said another former chief minister, Omar Abdullah.  “The truth is all those who oppose the ideology of the BJP are labelled ‘corrupt and anti-national,” he said. “We are not a ‘gang’ Amit Shahji, we are a legitimate political alliance having fought and continuing to fight elections, much to your disappointment.”

According to the ‘Ninth Report of the Concerned Citizens’ Group on Jammu & Kashmir’ (July 5 -7, 2021), brought out by Air Vice Marshal (Retired) Kapil Kak, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, senior journalist Bharat Bhushan, among others, there is abject alienation across Kashmir. The report says: “What upset the businessmen most was that some of them were arrested and jailed after the Centre’s policy change in J&K in 2019. ‘Political leaders were arrested but why us? Why were businessmen taken into custody? I am very angry with India. You say there are only about 200 militants in Kashmir and yet you punish all of us for that,’ a business leader complained. He felt that instead of calling political parties from J&K to Delhi, ‘the government ought to invite businessmen, traders and horticulturists to discuss our issues directly with us.’”

According to the report: “A social worker from Pulwama claimed that youth was being pushed towards militancy because of the harassment faced by people at the hands of the army personnel. There are no jobs for the young. ‘They have only two options before them – militancy or committing suicide,’ he said, pointing to a spate of suicides by youngsters in the Valley.”

Surely, in this zero sum game scenario, it is advantage zero on all sides. After two years of a crackdown, all that remains is a cracked mirror. Clearly, the Modi-Shah double whammy is starker in Kashmir, than a thousand terrible suns!

Autonomy for Kashmir: Who stands where?

The autonomy issue and who stands where Kashmir’s accession to India was predicated on it getting a special status in the Indian Union, that the Centre would only be responsible for defence, communications and foreign affairs. This was done by means of Article 370, supposed to be a temporary provision in the Constitution but one that became de facto permament because the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir dissolved itself in January 1957 without abrogating or changing it. Later rulings of the Supreme Court, and one as recently as 2015 by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, have made the article permanent. Article 35A, inserted into the Constitution by a presidential order in 1954, seeks to preserve the demographic status of Jammu and Kashmir by defining permanent residents of the state for the purposes of buying immovable property, getting a state government job, admission to a professional college, scholarship or aid. The validity and expanse of this article is being considered by the Supreme Court now. BJP: The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A is one of the pillars of the right wing’s view of the state and its further incorporation with India. The BJP campaigned aggressively for this aggressively in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 and the Jammu and Kashmir elections of the same year. A status quo prevailed in the Agenda of Alliance that the party came up with when it partnered the Peoples Democratic Party to form a coalition government in the state. That hasn’t kept them from talking about it though. “The prevailing situation in the Valley shows that Article 370 has created a separatist psyche and acts as a breeding ground for separatist emotion.” BJP spokesperson Vijender Gupta in August 2017


The Vajpayee doctrine
The Vajpayee doctrine on Kashmir called for peace, progress and prosperity in the Valley by imbibing the spirit of Insaniyat (Humanity) , Jamhuriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Identity of the people of Kashmir). The doctrine was hailed across Jammu and Kashmir, including by extremists. Vajpayee’s mantra included resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including Jammu and Kashmir, peacefully through bilateral dialogue without any third party intervention. He carried his message of peace to Pakistan during a bus journey to Lahore on February 19, 1999.
Congress: It stands for the much-denuded Article, but takes a fine line on not pushing a strong line on autonomy. “Article 370 (3) read with Art 370 (2) clarifies 370 cannot be repealed without the consent of the Constituent Assembly which does not exist. No brainer.” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari in May 2014 National Conference: All for it. Seeks the pristine autonomy of the pre-1953 era. In June 2000, the state Assembly passed a resolution seeking greater autonomy for the state. Farooq Abdullah was chief minister at the time. The resolution was roundly rejcted by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government of the time, the Union Cabinet saying “it would set the clock back and reverse the natural process of harmonising the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with the integrity of the nation.” Peoples Democratic Party: Is for its own dressed-up version of autonomy that it calls self-rule. In partnerig with the BJP, the Mehbooba Mufti-led party is in a distinctly uncomfortable place on this issue. Separatists: By definition, self-determination or independence is their goal. They do not see autonomy as a goal, much less a desirable interregnum. Most of the current lot in the splintered Hurriyat were part of the Muslim United Front that contested the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections of 1987, their poll manifesto invoking the Shimla pact, Islamic unity and real autonomy. The MUF got almost a third of the popular vote but only four seats in elections that were widely believed to be rigged. The Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference in partnership with the Congress came to power, and the last chance to bring back disaffected elements of the population had been lost, some now say forever.  

Rishi Kapoor backs Farooq, gets trolled

Bollywood star of yesteryears Rishi Kapoor took to Twitter to back Farooq Abdullah. Here’s what happened then: And the bashing started: (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy) // ]]>