The apprehension that BJP’s entry into Muslim majority Kashmir will prove a game-changer for the region seems to have faded with time. Syed Asma talks to players across the spectrum to understand what it means to have Saffron in Kashmir
On January 25, 1992, a day before BJP’s President Murli Manohar Joshi was to culminate his Ekta Yatra by hoisting Indian national flag at Srinagar’s historic Lal Chowk, a visibly-shaken Yatra Convener Narendra Modi, told something to eager media persons in Jammu that defined the Kashmir of 90’s: “From now on, you are on your own. If you can reach Lal Chowk, we will see you there.”
The blunt statement made by Modi was enough to spark fears among scribes who have been accompanying BJP stalwarts from Kanyakumari, since the beginning of Ekta Yatra.
The next day, on January 26, Joshi along Modi and a handful of volunteers, surrounded by security men, hastily hoisted Indian flag for camera’s sake and left. The fear of being in the middle of deserted Lal Chowk was visible on Joshi and Modi’s faces as the pole of the flag snapped into two in hurry.
With gunshots ringing through air and the threat of getting killed visible, they left Lal Chowk within 12 minutes.
Now fast forward to May 16, 2014. The day Modi led BJP swept to power after winning Lok Sabah elections with record numbers. Not far from Lal Chowk in Srinagar, a group of enthusiastic workers, literally wearing BJP symbols and insignias on their sleeves, burst in to celebration at Press Enclave. They were celebrating Modi’s victory, and making grounds for party’s formal entry into Kashmir – a place that had scarred their leaders not so long ago.
On March 1, 2015, at Jammu’s Zorawar Singh Auditorium BJP men were formally taking oath in presence of Modi and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. There was no sign of fear. No hasty exits, no 12 minute blitzkrieg. Rather a loud and clear message for Kashmir: we are here to stay.
Interestingly, almost the entire separatist camp in Kashmir preferred to stay mute or rather sidelined themselves from making any bold statements regarding the unlikely BJP-PDP merger.
Talking to Kashmir Life over phone from his New Delhi residence Syed Ali Geelani played down the hype surrounding BJP’s entry into Kashmir and the fear psychosis attached. “All pro-India political parties represent occupation for us. So it makes no difference whether it is BJP, Congress, PDP or NC,” assures Geelani.
But Geelani was quick to assert that BJP does things a bit differently and openly than others. “They have clear intentions of changing the demography, culture and impose their RSS ideology on us.”
But when asked that isn’t it a fact people came out in large numbers to vote in order to keep BJP or communal forces at bay, Geelani said, “These parties spent lots of money to lure voters. I am sure people are still as enthusiastic as they have been during 90s to shed their precious blood for Kashmir cause.”
But for Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) chairman Shabir Ahmad Shah, all parties abiding by the Indian constitution are equally dangerous for the resistance movement of Kashmir.
“Saanin Dushmanan Hanze makczi oas duhai sonuy dhan,” (The axe used against us had handle made by us at every time) he explains.
Shah feels that the regional political parties like NC and PDP fail to empathise and support the Kashmir cause. “They are more dangerous than the BJP and Congress.”
For Shah it is Mufti who, in one way or another, has made entry of Indian political parties easy in Kashmir. “First he helped Congress to establish itself in Kashmir now he has introduced BJP.”
Shah sees BJP’s formal entry into Kashmir as part of a larger game-plan that will help Indian right wing party wrest complete control over Kashmir. “They (BJP) want to convert Kashmir’s majority into minority so that if ever plebiscite happens, India could legalizes its occupation of Kashmir,” feels Shah. “We all know Modi is a RSS man and we know how clear their intentions are viz-a-viz Kashmir.”
Perhaps the most vocal voice against BJP-PDP merger among separatists is of JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik’s. He lost no time and called a hurried press conference to pour his heart out. Malik addressed the media by calling Mufti the “most hazardous person” for Kashmir cause.
“Mufti is talking about holding talks with pro-freedom leadership. But we all know several top Hizbul Mujahideen commanders were captured and murdered during his earlier tenure as CM,” said Malik during the press conference.
While talking to Kashmir Life over phone Yasin Malik said, “They are all surrogates of India. We do not have any expectation from any of these parties. The only thing that makes BJP different is their transparent agenda.”
But before hanging up Malik warned, “We may have to face tough time in coming days. But we are ready to face it.”
However senior separatist leader Azam Inquilabi likes to differ as he believes that BJP will not be able to do anything spectacular viz-a-viz Kashmir as world is watching.
“Modi cannot risk fiddling with K-issue knowing the reaction that he may have to face from the world leaders, especially from the Muslim world,” says Inquilabi. “Besides, Modi wants to develop India and bring it at par with the western powers. And to do so, Kashmir needs to be tackled smartly.”
Inquilabi bases his assertion on the recent political development in Kashmir. “See how BJP mobilized voters using Article 370 and how after attaining power, skipped it conveniently. This is how politics works,” Inquilabi points out. “But resistance and resilience will persist.”
But for PDP’s regional rival NC the apparent or what they term as “tactical” silence of separatists over BJP’s entry into Kashmir is disturbing.
“The separatists have in a way have given certain morality to PDP-BJP alliance by saying ‘it does not matter’. Both the moderates and the hardliners have chosen to be mute about this deal,” says Junaid Azim Matto, the spokesperson of NC.
Matto feels that, had it been an alliance between NC and BJP it would have been talk of the town as was our alliance with NDA in the centre.
“Though the motive behind separatist’s silence is unclear but Mufti thanking them (separatists) from a public podium for giving his party conducive environment definitely raises some question,” feels Matto.