The Centre stands embarrassed in Kashmir as never before. The Narendra Modi led BJP government, which had been claiming from Day 1 that it has statesman-like solutions to the troubled state and which is also a part of a coalition government in J&K, seems to have completely gone wayward with respect to its handling of the Kashmir conflict.
While its strong arm tactics and its safe passage to RSS workers to infiltrate the state's politics had made people apprehensive that alienation will increase in the valley, the Srinagar bypolls confirmed it all. The Srinagar parliamentary constituency had fallen vacant after Lok Sabha MP Tariq Hamid Karra of the ruling People's Democratic Party resigned both as a parliamentarian and member of the
Mehbooba Mufti led party. The byelections were scheduled on 9 April and none other than National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah was on the fray among others.
Yet on the day of the polling, all that came to light was the mistrust of people that has increased manifold since the PDP and BJP joined hands in 2015 to form the state government. The muscle-flexing ways and undue interference of the Rashtriyaswayamsevaksangh, which is alleged to have organised an arms rally in Jammu among other misadventures, has completely weaned away people from reposing their faith in the democratic system.
9 April registered a new low in the state's chequered history of elections with an abysmal 7% people coming out to vote. This was the lowest polling percentage in the valley since the 1996 elections that were held after many years of president's rule in J&K amid a spate of militancy. While the separatists in Kashmir had previously given calls for election boycott, it rarely worked. Which is why the PDP and in particular, its ally the BJP, cannot transfer blame to the Hurriyat. It is their failings at policy and governance and extreme show of indifference in the face of last year's summer unrest that claimed the lives of scores of people, which is responsible for the mess.
In a classic demonstration of the "empty vessels make much noise" syndrome, the RSS and the BJP, which by the way never missed an opportunity in presenting themselves as the "know-it-all" pragmatists of the Kashmir issue, have reversed the years of efforts of the previous UPA government and its predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee government that had worked diligently to connect the people in J&K to the mainstream and bring relative peace.
On the day of the polling itself, eight civilians were killed by the security forces, which in most cases, allegedly did not observe the standard operational procedures which require them to first lathi charge, then fire tear gas shells, and then resort to fire gunshots at the lower half of the protesters' bodes. In a shameful incident, the paramilitary soldiers tied a man, Farooq Ahmed Dar, in their jeep and used him as a human shield in Beerwah area of Srinagar constituency. Clearly, this unprecedented spectacle, captured by locals in their camera videos and released on the social media, are reflective of the hate language the BJP and the RSS are spreading in Kashmir for electoral gain in Jammu. But what was even more pathetic, general G.D. Bakshi condoned the Army and hailed its "human shield strategy" to evade stone pelters as an "out-of-thebox" method.
The civilian approval across media, if social media reactions are anything to go by, and the bizarre defence of the episode by the prime time news anchors shame us as a nation further and make us ponder if the RSS-BJP'S hate politics is getting the better of us?
Meanwhile, the byelections in Anantnag, scheduled for 12 April, had to be postponed to 25 May and then cancelled altogether, owing to street protests.