India Today - - INSIDE - (Aroon Purie)

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.

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