With election heat rising, Article 35A is being raked up again and again to stir emotions on Kashmir — the repercussions of which might extend beyond the politics of the country.
All wired-up: Political parties are only adding to an already tense situation in J&K. (Source: Reuters)
Article 35A is a provision which was incorporated in the Constitution of India in 1954. This Article was added by a presidential order. It is now deemed sacrosanct by the people of J&K.
Kashmir has already seen several strikes when the petition challenging Article 35A came up for hearing in the Supreme Court.
Not only does the Hurriyat leadership steadfastly support the case of retaining Article 35A, the Bar Association too is equally committed to fighting the battle legally. Meanwhile, politicians are leaving no stone unturned in their own bids to 'defend' the article.
The problem, however, lies in how frequently the issue features in political slogans nowadays. Article 35A has already become a scoring point for way too many political parties — now, even the local politicians of Kashmir want to milk the issue.
Ever since the BJP withdrew support from the Mehbooba Mufti-led government, she has been trying to rebuild her image by taking stands on the most controversial issues. Perhaps she understands that her core constituency spawns across South Kashmir — the region that had been mostly a no-go zone for her legislators during her tenure. She didn't care about improving the situation when she was chief minister. Mufti did not make an effort to talk to the most aggrieved section of society — the youth — then.
Now, when she finds herself facing elections, she thus has no real achievements to show. Therefore, she relies on speeches which might strike a chord with the alienated populace. She consistently criticises the BJP for its anti-Kashmir policies. Ironically, BJP is the same party Mufti happily embraced to form a government in 2015. In August, 2016, she said, “If Kashmir issue is not resolved under PM Narendra Modi, it will never be resolved.”
And now, she blames the same Modi for all the chaos Kashmir is going through.
But it's not just Mehbooba Mufti. Even Omar Abdullah has joined the bandwagon. He has reportedly been mentioning secession if Article 370 is tampered with. Among the other threats brought up are reversion to the pre-1965 era when J&K had a Sadr-e-Riyasat and a Prime Minister's post instead of a governor and a chief minister.
It appears that these politicians are playing frantically to the gallery. Post-the uprising that followed Burhan Wani’s killing at the hands of the security forces, and the policies that unfolded under the BJP-led central government, alienation in Kashmir has been at its highest.
The politicians want to exploit this alienation, regardless of how it's going to impact the post-election scenario. These politicians have not only raised the bar for separatist sentiments but, in my view, they are actually selling dreams of separatism.
Politicians want to exploit the alienation — regardless of how it could impact life post-elections. (Source: Reuters)
In this setup, I believe, the Hurriyat has little to offer. The mainstreaming of separatism is the new big thing in Kashmir. The entry of Shah Faesal into politics here had added a new realm to Kashmir — he has already touched upon ideas very dear to the common people in his speeches. His party, the Jammu and Kashmir People's Movement (JKPM), has assured voters that if voted to power, it will ensure everyday killings stop and it would play a good mediator's role in resolving the Kashmir issue.
The rise in the popularity of Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) supremo Engineer Rashid has also unnerved many political patriarchs. Rashid is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Baramulla against Akbar Lone of the National Conference (NC) and Qayoom Wani of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), both of whom command support on the ground.
Akbar Lone chanting 'Pakistan Zindabad' in his rallies, perhaps, is a ploy to counter Rashid's popularity in the north — Rashid, significantly, is a legislator who roams about without security and enjoys popularity among ordinary people.
Now, it remains to be seen how far these leaders — facing internal rivals and external pressures — can go in raking up separatist sentiments in J&K. As they already have pushed the bar, the results of these elections will reflect on how voters have responded to these demands of separatism.
Only time will reveal the full story that will be told of Kashmir.