Modi’s Kashmir Policy has brought India to Disrepute

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by Tapan Bose

The cynical break-up of the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir by BJP without prior notice in Jammu and Kashmir is a clear evidence of its plans to continue with the policy of “no dialogue” and harsh suppression of all forms of protest. The policy that Modi government has been following is a combination of (a) harsh crackdowns on agitating youth (b) undermine the initiatives of all mainstream parties, and (c) taking Kashmir out of the India-Pakistan equation. It seems that having PDP as a partner was cramping its policy of harsh crackdown on the youth, and now having removed PDP it will give full authority to its security forces to “disciplining Kashmir”.

Prime Minister Naredndra Modi in a group photograph with soldiers in Srinagar in Diwali 2017

Modi government’s Kashmir policy has brought India to disrepute. Earlier the International community upheld Indian state’s legitimacy in Jammu and Kashmir as it recognised that elections were held fairly regularly, even under very difficult circumstances and the state was ruled by elected governments. Modi is seeking global legitimacy though its military crackdown on Kashmiris on the name of fighting Islamic terrorism. Modi government is unperturbed by worldwide condemnation of blinding hundreds of Kashmiris through the use of pellet guns, which even Israel does not use and tying up Kashmiri civilians in front of military vehicles as human shield. Clearly Modi and the RSS have little regard for international reactions. It seems they feel that by buying weapons from Western countries and offering the market access, they can buy the international community’s silence on what it is doing in Kashmir.

It has not worked. The first ever report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights and humanitarian situation Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan controlled Azaad Kashmir, is a clear proof. Modi government’s rejection of the report on the ground that it “violated India’s sovereignty” and its refusal to engage in any discussions on the content of the report has not fooled anyone else. Reference to the High Commissioner for Human Rights as a Muslim and questioning his motivation has not gone well with the international community.

Modi government’s refusal to engage in any political dialogue with Kashmiri groups and political parties is evidence of the fact that he views all the parties in Kashmir with suspicion. According to Doval, Narendra Modi’s NSA, the objective of state policy is to prevent Kashmiris from getting involved in any kind of political dialogue. They should not be allowed to express their grievances in political terms. Modi government believes that the Mainstream parties are politicizing Kashmiris by encouraging talks on autonomy and self-rule and thus turning the minds of Kashmiris towards political questions. Modi wants to discourage Kashmiris from thinking politically.

All Kashmiris who ask for a political solution of this seventy year old dispute are branded as Pakistani agents. Given the social and cultural make-up of the vast majority of BJP supporters, its acceptance of the lynching of mainly of Muslims but also Dalits by its followers with local police looking the other way is a clear indication that the security forces will be given total freedom in Kashmir. Modi and Shah are looking at elections in 2019 and they seem to have concluded that hardline Hindutva to be a winning strategy in 2019.

Nadrendra Modi with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Modi has been investing immensely in defence to fulfill his dream of becoming a one of the biggest military power. In 2017, India became the fifth largest defence spender with a budget of 3.59 lakh crores ($ 53.5 billion). It overtook the United Kingdom. While the share of defence budget in the central government’s expenditure has risen to 16.76 % per cent of the overall central government budget, the government’s social spending is at the lowest. There is virtually no money for education, health and it cannot even pay the approved minimum wages to the rural workers under the employment guarantee scheme because of lack of funds. It is not just a financial issue. It is a moral and an ethical issue. Should India be spending such huge amounts on defence, when a vast majority of its people are in urgent need for healthcare, education, housing and sustainable employment?

Eminent economist Amartya Sen said that despite being the fastest-growing economy the country has taken a “quantum jump in the wrong direction” since 2014. He also said that due to moving backwards, the country is now second worst in the region. “Things have gone pretty badly wrong… It has taken a quantum jump in the wrong direction since 2014. We are getting backwards in the fastest-growing economy,”

As we are aware, India’s commitment to secularism had earned global admiration and respect. The fact that India had devised a way of politically and socially empowering its minority communities was appreciated globally. Researchers were trying to understand how a developing country like India, with such mega diversity and a vibrant democracy could also achieve remarkable economic growth like an authoritarian country like China. India is no longer seen as a vibrant democracy. Several international political commentators have started to compare the state of democracy in India with the growing authoritarianism and Muslim nationalism in Turkey. Narendra Modi is being seen as India’s Erdogan. India is not any more a democratic success story.

The oath taking ceremony of BJPDP government in March 2015

Under Modi there has been a huge setback for India’s international standing as a modern country, which promotes the spirit of scientific inquiry. Apart from Modi’s references to Karna and Ganesh supporting the claim that cosmetic surgery and genetic science existed in India thousands of years ago, his government’s aggressive promotion of the so-called Vedic science has raised serious controversies among the scientists within the country and abroad. It has been claimed that internet and satellite communications existed in India during the days of Mahabharata. The government’s obsession with cow urine and dung has puzzled the science community and reduced India to an object of mockery.

There is an urgent need for intervention in this critical hour by the mainstream political parties and Indian civil society to dissuade Modi government from pursuing such a flawed counterinsurgency strategy which neatly dovetails with the BJP’s goal of polarising India on religious lines. As we are aware, the Kashmiris will continue to resist and pro-BJP sections of the Indian media will continue to represent them as saboteurs inspired by Pakistan while ignoring the shooting of unarmed civilians pushing the region into an up and down cycles of civilian uprisings which will be used to periodically whip up Hindu nationalist sentiment. By pulling out of the government in Jammu and Kashmir, BJP is attempting to entrench the image of Muslims as being an ungrateful and unreasonable, who look to Pakistan for support. This is an integral part of the efforts to consolidate the so-called “sentiment of neglect” suffered by the majority Hindus, alongside consolidating the upper-caste vote-bank by isolating the Dalits.

(This opinion appeared first in portal CounterCurrents.org. The author, Tapan Bose is an independent documentary filmmaker, human rights and peace activist, author and regular contributor leading journals and news magazines in India, Nepal and Pakistan. His award winning documentaries on human rights and democratic issues include An Indian Story (1982) on the blinding of under trial prisoners in Bhagalpur and the nexus between landlord, police and politicians and Beyond Genocide: Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1986). His film ‘Behind the Barricades; Punjab’ (1993) on the state repression in Punjab, as with the earlier cited films, was banned and after a long legal struggle was shown. His latest film is The Expendable People’, (2016) a passionate appeal for justice for the tribal peoples of India, cheated, dispossessed, pauperised and criminalized in their forest homes, made to pay the price for extractive development. He has been a frequent visitor to Kashmir and reporting on the state of human rights from 1990s.)

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