Mahbooba Mufti’s Comparison of Kashmir with Afghanistan Hardly an Exaggeration

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Terrorism, as per the Indian government’s own data, is on the rise and armed groups have become more active in Kashmir. There were 229 terror attacks in 2021, almost the same as in 2020 and figures for the previous years are not significantly different

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Mahbooba Mufti, PDP leader and former Chief Minister of the state, has recently remarked that the BJP government at the Centre has made Jammu and Kashmir look like Afghanistan. There may be some exaggeration in her statement, but certain truths speak for themselves and need no crutches to highlight.   

Scorecard on terrorism: Former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), A S Dulat, has recently stressed that the menace of terrorism is far from being controlled in the Valley. He said the sophistication of terror attacks demonstrates that armed groups are still strong. He also hinted that these groups have an intelligence network that possibly may have members within the ruling establishment.

Terrorism, as per the Indian government’s own data, is on the rise and armed groups have become more active in Kashmir. There were 229 terror attacks in 2021, almost the same as in 2020 and figures for the previous years are not significantly different. For example, there were 279 incidents of terrorism in 2017, 322 in 2016, 208 in 2015, 222 in 2014, and 170 in 2013, the year before BJP came to power.

The armed groups have changed their tactics and instead of attacking army personnel and infrastructure, they have upped attacks on civilians, especially non-resident Hindus and members of the minority Kashmiri Pandit community. Targeted killings have also increased in Kashmir valley; at least 18 Kashmiri Pandits and non-resident Hindus were killed since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. These figures confirm the abject failure of the BJP government in containing terrorism.

Kashmir has now become a garrison state. Gun-toting army men are seen everywhere in the Valley. In that sense, Mahbooba Mufti has remarked that the BJP has made Jammu and Kashmir look like Afghanistan. Indian Amy here resembles the American “occupational” forces in Iraq or Vietnam. If that can be called an achievement then certainly BJP has been successful in Jammu and Kashmir. For how long such a muscular policy can sustain? The answer to this vital question would be anybody’s guess.

Scorecard on investment: On December 13, 2022, India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai presented investment data for Jammu and Kashmir in the Parliament. As per his statement, over the past four years investments have fallen in the Valley by 55 percent. The data published by the Indian government’s Ministry of Home Affairs further says the total investment in 2021-22 in Jammu and Kashmir stood at $46 million, down from $50.5 million the previous year. This is dramatically less than the $102.8 million spent in 2017-18. The statistics of COVID-19 suggest that this wasn’t the reason for investments drying up. The steepest fall in investments came in the year 2019 when the government abrogated Article 370. These statistics are enough to rubbish the BJP’s claim that it would make Kashmir a developmental paradise.

Democratising the state politics: The BJP government had claimed that Article 370 restricted people’s participation in the political process resulting in the dominance of a few families in the state’s political space. It wowed to end the dynastic rule in J&K. The result of the local self-government speaks volumes on how entrenched Mufti and Abdullah are at the ground-level politics.  Apart from this, there is no sign of improving the democratic processes in the state. It’s over three years now that the Union territory doesn’t even have a legislature. There have been no elections for the legislative assembly for the past seven years. What is seen in J&K is steamrolling democracy and stifling democracy. The Union territory is run by a governor from Srinagar, acting like a British viceroy in New Delhi. The orders come to him from New Delhi, just like a viceroy received orders from London. The administration is in the hands of officials handpicked and sent by New Delhi. They are non-accessible to the local people and have no clue about the local language, their culture and their problems.  

Other noticeable developments: First, constituency boundaries of the legislature have been redrawn unilaterally to give the Hindu-majority Jammu region a greater say in the legislative assembly. This has been done to strengthen the chances of bringing Hindu rule in an electorally Muslim-dominated region.

Added to it is the revision of the voter list, giving voting rights to outsiders, specifically migrant workers and army personnel, to electorally influence the democratic process in favor of the BJP. Such changes made by New Delhi to alter the voter list are greatly resented by the locals.

The other development is that non-residents can buy and own land in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier there were restrictions on land ownership along the lines of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. This is being undone to bring private sector industries into the valley. However, this has hardly yielded any results and the private business sector is reluctant to set up businesses in the region. All these measures have taken Srinagar farthest from New Delhi.

The large presence of the Army sees to it that no one protests in the valley. As a result, political protests have lessened in the state. It is primarily because most local leaders are in some sort of detention, and restrictions on any form of political mobilisation.

There were several arguments advanced by the BJP government to revoke Article 370 and degrade a state into a Union territory to justify its muscular policy. First was to eliminate terrorism and separatism in the Kashmir valley, and second, to bring huge investments to spur economic development. The third was to get rid of the dynastic politics in the state. Some three years down the line, it is seen that none of the BJP objectives seem to be anywhere near getting fulfilled.

The killings and the declining investments contradict two central arguments of the BJP government for the abrogation of Article 370. The fact remains that the Modi government’s change in policy toward J&K has not yielded any results. There is no reason to believe that the BJP’s hardline approach towards Kashmir has helped to improve the situation. Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris are suffering alike under the BJP rule from the Center.

 If at all, the BJP policy is successful then it is only to be seen that it has helped the saffron party bolster its image in the Hindu majority India. The Kashmir policy is giving dividends to the BJP and has translated into its electoral success. 

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com. The views expressed here are author’s personal and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.

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