In one of the 26 cover stories that india today has done on Kashmir, we quoted Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, then in the Janata Dal, as saying, “My feeling after the 1987 election was that the Centre and Farooq (Abdullah) may have won, but they had lost Kashmir.” That was in 1989, and the story was headlined Valley of Tears. Twenty-eight years later, his daughter Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed is chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, in alliance with the BJP; but the litany of dismal failures by the Central government and the local political class continues.
If you’re a politician from Jammu and Kashmir, blame the Centre. If you’re a politician from the Centre, blame the Valley. There are certain unchanging leitmotifs to the trouble in Kashmir— alienated youngsters, out-of-touch local politicians, deadly interference from Pakistan, lack of jobs, rampant corruption, visible new wealth for an elite handful in the Valley and a tone-deaf Centre more interested in short-term manipulation than long-term solutions. What has changed is the extent of radicalisation, the absolute distrust of democratic institutions and increasingly sophisticated methods used to articulate rage. After almost three decades of indoctrination, the Valley has lost much of its cultural and religious diversity, creating a generation that believes its own propaganda—democracy has been stolen from them, they are being oppressed by an occupying army and ‘India’ is no longer interested in their progress.
It is a failure not just of politics, but also of the very idea of India, where all faiths and ideologies are given adequate space. Kashmir was the shining jewel in independent India’s crown, proof that religion could not divide communities forever. But 70 years on, Kashmir’s politics has become toxic, its social fabric has frayed, its culture has hardened and its economy remains underdeveloped, almost entirely focused on handicrafts, horticulture and tourism.
The cover story by Deputy Editor Asit Jolly examines the various causes of the continuing crisis—not just economic and political but also, worryingly, religious. Last month, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kashmir, he told youngsters there that they had a choice between terrorism and tourism. But it is not so simple, not any longer. There is a ferocious commitment of the young to the establishment of Nizam-e-Mustafa (Rule of Islam) in Kashmir. This is contrary not only to the spirit of the Constitution, but also to the Sufi Islam native to Kashmir. Worse, this hardline Islamisation has been encouraged by the widespread expansion of foreign-funded Wahhabi mosques and schools, to which politicians have turned a blind eye.
Our cover story reports on the pressure cooker atmosphere for security forces as also the inflamed aggression of protesters, who are increasingly young and female. It also examines the role of the leadership, specifically Mehbooba Mufti, who now finds herself on the backfoot on all fronts—law and order, economic development, Centrestate relations and dialogue with separatists. There are fractures in the 25-month-old Agenda of Alliance between the BJP and the PDP, the latter’s cadres are drifting towards separatists and there is a deliberate amnesia on the return of Kashmiri Hindus to the Valley. Add to this mix the ratcheting up by Pakistan of supply of terrorists as well as heightened firing on the border and it is clear that there will be no peace in Kashmir. This is a job the Centre has to do. Mehbooba Mufti told india today: “Kashmir hamara hai, aur zameen hamare paas hai, but we should not start thinking, are we losing Kashmir?” That can never be an option. But the answer to that has to be found by her besieged government.