Something is simmering Jammu-Kashmir. But nobody in the valley knows what is cooking. Government Satya Pal Malik does not seem to know. Mainstream political parties do not know it. Secessionist leaders have absolutely no clue about it. The party that is known to know matters, i.e. the Central government, does not make anything clear.
Amidst this confusion, rumours spread in ample measure, and that puts not only the northern-most state but the the entire country on pinpricks. At first there was the speculation that Jammu will be declared a state and Ladakh and Kashmir will be converted into centrally-administered regions, thus dividing the state into three parcels. But of late, sources related to the state government made a counter propaganda that it was all false. Even then, the Centre and the governor administration are washing their hands off the entire situation as if nothing serious was there. Another rumour was that Kashmir was being changed into a union territory, and being brought under New Delhi. Nothing was officially confirmed or denied.
All this uncertainty started with the three-day visit by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to the valley end of last month. No sooner did Doval return from the valley than the Centre deployed additional 10,000 paramilitary personnel, thereby raising fears that the Centre was out for something real. This doubled when news surfaced that the railways and certain government departments had received instructions to stock up on food and fuel. It was following all this that the governor 'revealed' intelligence reports that there was a possibility of Pak-backed attacks on Amarnath pilgrims, and then the Amarnath Yatra was stopped two weeks ahead of schedule. Since 1991-95, the period when extremism was at its peak, and the resumption of the pilgrimage in 1996, it is for the first time that the journey is being suspended. Despite the loss of lives in extremist attacks during 1996, and in 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2017, the pilgrimate was completed with reinforced security, but was not prohibited. However, there is no answer to the question why suspend the travel and send people back in the name of threats of attacks, which had not happened on those earlier occasions. It was not only the pilgrims, but also the tourists who have been evacuated on urgent basis. As if that were not enough, Srinagar NIT suspended classes and over 800 students there, half of who were from outside the state, were asked to leave. Most of the secessionist leaders of the state are either in detention or under house arrest. In addition to this, leaders of the main mainstream political parties, National Conference and PDP, are either under strict surveillance or under restraints. Altogether, a siege atmosphere has already been created in Kashmir valley. It is in protest against this that Congress and National Conference leaderships have demanded of the Centre to allay the confusion.
Together with this, the state leadership of BJP has declared that national flag will be hoistsed in all panchayats of the state on the coming Independence Day. They have also demanded annulment of Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution that accord special status to the state. But the Governor affirmed that there was no such a move. All the same, most people are almost certain that the motive of the current preparations is to set the stage for the repeal of special status of the state, as desired by the BJP leaders.
For the sangh parivar, Kashmir is not only a key geo-political issue, but an ideological war. The vision statement of RSS blames thus: " The State of Jammu & Kashmir, with its oppressive Muslim-majority character, has been a headache for our country ever since Independence……. The problem of Kashmir in fact, is one of our own making, since keeping in mind its unique demographic character, unlike other States, it has been conferred a special status under Article 370 of the Constitution, even after its total accession with Bharat." They are least bothered by the fact that this special status is applicable also to the Hindu-majority Jammu and the Buddhist-populated Ladakh. When attempts were made to scrap the provision granting special status, there were strong protests in Jammu too. What more, former union minister and son of Raja Hari Singh who had helped the accession of Jammu-Kashmir to Indian Union, Dr Karan Singh, still stands strongly in the picture against the move to overturn the historic mission to protect the integrity of the country.
The Centre is in an attempt to repeal Article 35A that limits the right to buy immovable assets and land and to government jobs to the local population and to weaken Article 370. It is in the hope that this article that was implemented through a presidential order in 1954 can be scrapped through another Presidential order. Comparable special privileges are now enjoyed by Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim too. And at the face of stiff resistance, the government had to back out of the earlier moves to annul those provisions. If all those facts are now hidden, and particular interest is shown in the case of Kashmir alone, that is clearly to accomplish the mission started by the founder of BJP's predecessor organization, Jan Sangh, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. The concern across the country now, is where the BJP's march in total oblivion of historical facts and driven by racial hatred, will take the country. Let us pray that the central government and those who steer it have the good sense to pay heed to these.