BJP is accused that it can go to any extent to ditch Jammu and appease Jihadists in Kashmir to enjoy a few loaves and fishes of office
J&K unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been at the receiving end for quite sometimes now. It has become an object of contempt and ridicule. Even those who voted for it from time to time have no love lost for it. It appears that they accuse it of “letting the nation down in the sensitive J&K.” They also accuse it of “grievously injuring even the general civil, political, and economic rights and interests of the people of Jammu province.” So much so, they go to the extent of charging it with “outraging the religious sensitivities of the people across the nation and battering the nation’s paramount interests for the sake of personal power and profit.” Not just this, many, without mincing words, accuse it of “joining forces which were hell-bent to change Jammu’s demography and cause Hindu migration from Jammu to create another Kashmir in the sensitive region”. Some even say that the “BJP can go to any extent to ditch Jammu (its own core constituency) and appease Jihadists in Kashmir to enjoy a few loaves and fishes of office.”
“Rank opportunists, politically dishonest, ideologically bankrupt, arrogant and self-centered are most of the local BJP leaders and they have lost touch with the masses,” is the upshot of the whole argument advanced by the critics (read its followers and supporters) against the J&K BJP”. Yet another refrain of these critics is that “they are lucky that they have leaders like PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah at the national level” and that “the BJP would have become a story of the past long back in Jammu and Ladakh, had PM Modi and HM Shah not been at the helm of affairs.” (In Kashmir, the BJP is despised and looked down upon despite the fact it diluted its ideology to please them. And, it’s no secret.) People of Jammu love PM Modi and HM Amit Shah. The reasons are not far to seek. One of the most important reasons is the manner in which they are dealing with separatists and half-separatists in Kashmir and integration Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh into India.
The case in point is the beef party hosted by independent legislator “Engineer” Rashid at MLA hostel at Srinagar on October 8, 2015, for which he invited members of his community.
It’s very difficult to disagree with what the BJP critics say. There are several potent reasons which would make even a naïve to endorse the critics. Indeed, the story of the J&K BJP is uninspiring.
It would be only in order to catalog here some of the grave blunders committed in J&K by the BJP, which came into being in 1980 with AB Vajpayee as its president. I will avoid the details. I will only state the facts with dates and start with what the BJP did in J&K assembly during its budget session in Jammu in 1998.
- Feb-May 1998 Jammu Agitation: Students across Jammu province were agitating since February 1998 with all or nearly all the people of the province supporting them and their three specific demands: Fair share in professional institutions to the meritorious but grossly ignored Jammu youth, establish Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University and establish separate Agriculture University. The Farooq Abdullah Government was almost on the verge of collapse. Such was the nature of the movement. Jammu witnessed massive bandh for 19 days. All activities had come to a grinding halt in the province. To save his government, the Farooq Abdullah Government moved two Bills seeking the establishment of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi and Agricultural Universities in Jammu province. Believe it or not, but it’s a fact that all the 8 BJP MLAs opposed with one voice and tooth and nail both the Bills. It’s a different story that Farooq Abdullah got the Bills passed. Farooq Abdullah even rejected his own party’s suggestion that the “Bills be referred to the Select Committee.”
- Delimitation Banned: The J&K BJP committed the second grave blunder or “betrayed” the people of Jammu province for the second time in 2002. People of Jammu province had been agitating since 1951 for their due share in J&K Assembly based on population, land area, nature of the terrain, and accessibility. Their grouse was that the Congress and Kashmir-based National Conference and Sheikh Abdullah had subverted the Representation of People’s Act of 1951 and given an excessive and preponderant share of representation (over 53%) to tiny Kashmir and rendered Jammu unreal and ineffective in the Assembly, the chief law-making body and a body which decided questions of supreme importance to the happiness and well-being of the people. All the 8 J&K BJP MLAs shocked the people of Jammu province by supporting the Farooq Abdullah-sponsored anti-democratic and anti-Jammu and anti-Ladakh amendment in the Representation of People’s Act that banned delimitation of assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies for at least 30 years. Significantly, the J&K BJP had always pitched for a proper representation of Jammu in the Assembly.
- Why did the BJP support the anti-democratic and anti-Jammu amendment? It supported the amendment to save its “unholy” alliance with the votary of J&K’s greater autonomy, bordering on virtual sovereignty, National Conference (NC) at the national level. Sheikh Abdullah’s grandson and Farooq Abdullah’s son, Omar Abdullah, MP from the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, was then MoS foreign affairs in the Vajpayee’s ragtag NDA Government. That the BJP compromised its ideology and made Omar Abdullah MoS in the highly sensitive Ministry of External Affairs speaks for itself and establishes that the BJP was no different from the Congress, the Mother Of All Ills facing the nation, including J&K. Significantly, Omar Abdullah resigned from the Vajpayee Government in October 2002 and quit the NDA in December 2002 after lambasting the BJP and its “ideology”.
- Printed, Approved Manifesto Not Released: Between 2004 and May 2014, the BJP was not in power at the Centre and the J&K BJP did act like the opposition parties act in India. In 2014, the nation reposed full faith in Narendra Modi and gave the BJP 282 seats. It was after 30 years that any political party could capture the Central Government with such an impressive majority in the 543-member Lok Sabha. But what the J&K BJP did that year was as disturbing as it was dumbfounding. The J&K BJP had prepared its election manifesto for the 2014 J&K Assembly elections. The manifesto was approved and got printed after several meetings held in Jammu and 11 Ashoka Raod, the party headquarters. The date to release the manifesto had also been decided. It contained a para on Article 370. Just then (Nov 14, 2014), a new entrant in the BJP, Hina Bhat of Kashmir, threatened that she, like other Kashmiris, “will pick up a gun if Article 370 were to be scrapped.” Her threat clicked; produced the desired result. The BJP didn’t release its manifesto. This was for the first time since its inception that the BJP didn’t release its J&K election manifesto. The BJP did win 25 seats out of 37 from Jammu province but could get only 22.5% of the total votes polled, as against its 32.5% vote share only 7 months ago (May 2014). The message was loud and clear but the desire of power motivated it to ignore the drastic fall in its vote-share.
- Agenda Of Subversion: 25 seats in its kitty for the first time in the otherwise marginal outfit and the fractured mandate in J&K for the third time in a row were taken by the BJP to mean a God-sent opportunity. It committed one more blunder for the sake of power. It entered into an unholy alliance with the 28-MLA (effectively 27 MLA) pro-Pakistan and pro-self-rule Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of Mufti Mohd Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti in February 2015. It not only gave the office of CM to the PDP on a platter for a full term of six years but it also handed over almost all the crucial departments with political weight, considerable funds, and patronage, including Home, Finance and Planning, Revenue, Law, Education, Tourism, General Administration, Public Works, and Agriculture, to the PDP. Not just this. It, in writing, committed itself to protect Article 370, J&K’s special status, demilitarizing state, facilitating talks with Pakistan and Hurriyat on the so-called Kashmir issue, and merging the identity of the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus with the Kashmir’s majority community. But even all this was not enough for it. The BJP trifurcated Jammu province into three regions of Jammu, (non-existent) Chenab Valley and (non-existent) Pir Panjal Valley to win over the votaries of “Greater Kashmir”. What the BJP conceded as part of the PDP-BJP agenda of alliance, which was termed in Jammu by the nationalists as “an agenda of subversion” and “another rivet in the chain of slavery of Jammu and Ladakh”. What the BJP did was something that even the Congress couldn’t even dare to do.
- Assembly Elections and Mufti View: During the oath-taking ceremony at the University of Jammu’s General Zorawar Singh Stadium, the newly-appointed CM Mufti Sayeed made a shocking comment. He, inter-alia, said: “I want to say this on record that we must credit the Hurriyat, Pakistan and militant outfits for the conduct of assembly elections in the state.” PM Modi was there. All other top BJP national leaders, including LK Advani, MM Joshi, and Amit Shah, were also on the dais. The provocation was grave. It was hoped that the seemingly outraged BJP will take cognizance of his highly objectionable statement and come out of the government then and there, but it was not to be.
- NHPC Power Projects Issue: Just 28 days after the formation of the PDP-BJP coalition government (March 28), the Deputy CM, Nirmal Singh, caused a sort of furor in the nationalistic circles by making a highly controversial statement on the floor of the Assembly. A fierce debate was going on over the status of the NHPC-run power projects in the state. Intervening in the debate to calm down the irresponsible Opposition, the Deputy CM, inter-alia, said: “They (India) use our water and our land, but NHPC made these projects run them”. The NHPC projects were, and are national assets, but the BJP took a line which it had all along opposed. It used the language which was not used even by the Kashmir-based leaders belonging to any political party. The statement “they used our water and our land” did please Kashmiri leaders. They found in the BJP their own mouthpiece.
- NIT Srinagar Episode: After India’s defeat against West Indies in the World T20 semi-final on March 31, 2015, Kashmiri students of the NIT Srinagar celebrated the exit of India from the tournament. They taunted non-Kashmiri students and repeatedly chanted “Pakistan Zindabad”. The non-Kashmiri students inside the campus took a strong exception to the celebrations after India’s defeat. Clashes broke out between the local and non-local students leaving many non-locals injured. The very next day, non-Kashmiri students waved the national flag, tried to hoist it near NIT’s Administration Block and shouted slogans “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, “Hindustan Zindabad” and “Pakistan Murdabad”. Instead of protecting the nationalist non-Kashmiri students, the Police unleashed a reign of senseless brutalities on them. Many were injured, some very seriously. Even female students were targeted. They demanded to shift the NIT from Srinagar to Jammu, saying the powers-that-be in the Valley and the NIT were with the Kashmiri students. Many non-Kashmiri students quit Kashmir. Just at that time, the BJP Deputy CM, instead of assuaging their hurt feelings and demanding action against the Kashmiri students, faculty members and administrators, said: “There was a mild lathi-charge” – a claim pooh-poohed by the non-Kashmiri students, who said that “the police hit five to 10 students on the head with the sticks they had, which was not mild.” Not just this, a top-ranking BJP leader in a TV debate over the issue said: “They have gone to Srinagar to acquire education, and not play politics.” He was referring to the hoisting of the national flag by the non-Kashmiri students.
- AIIMS Row: As if all this was not enough, the BJP committed another faux pas on April 24, 2015. The BJP Deputy CM committed the faux pass at a time when the people of Jammu province were on a warpath over the issue of AIIMS; when Jammu province was observing a massive bandh. The enraged people were holding a chain-hunger-strike and protest demonstrations and organizing long marches to force the PDP-BJP government to withdraw the order under which the sanctioned AIIMS was transferred from Jammu to Kashmir. The then Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely had announced on the floor of the Lok Sabha that Jammu will get AIIMS. The movement had been launched under the banner of Bar Association Jammu. It was supported by JCCI, transporter associations, social and political organizations, including JKNPP and Congress. Not just this. The movement also got the support of VHP and Bajrang Dal, parts of the Sangh Parivar. It was believed that the BJP would respect its constituency and reassure them that the sanctioned AIIMS will be established in Jammu, and not in Kashmir. But the BJP thought it politically prudent to tread the Mufti path. The Deputy CM made a highly provocative statement to further rub salt on the wounds of the people of Jammu province. He said: “There is no question of snatching AIIMS from Kashmir and giving it to Jammu”. He also accused NC and Congress of creating a regional divide between the two regions of the state. “NC and Congress both are trying to create a regional divide in the state in a bid to serve their political interests. We will not allow that to happen. We take J&K as one entity and the AIIMS is being given to the state, and not to any region,” Dy CM further said.
- Jizya Tax: Not content with what the PDP-BJP Government did so far to humiliate and taunt the people of Jammu province and outrage the sensitivities, it, on September 7, 2015, imposed 12.5% service tax on helicopter service to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and Shri Baba Amarnath Shrine. It was considered by the Hindus across the nation a deliberate attack on the Hindu religious shrines. Jammu witnessed massive political explosions. The imposition of Service Tax also had its impact on New Delhi. The “secular” Congress sprung a big surprise by terming the Service Tax as “Jaziya Tax”. The Congress spokesperson, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, said so. Obviously, he referred to a tax imposed on Hindus by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. The people of Jammu, the Shiv-Bhakts and devotees, and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, Congress, and JKNPP demanded the immediate rollback of the Service Tax order. The under-pressure BJP did make a statement on September 7 that the Service Tax executive order will be withdrawn, but it didn’t happen. It only barked; didn’t bite.
- Dismissal of Upright Jammu-based Law Officers: Just 16 days later (September 23), the PDP Law Minister Basharat Bukhari insulted the RSS and the BJP by summarily removing two Law Officers – Additional Advocate General Vishal Sharma and Deputy Advocate General Parimoksh Seth. Both these Law Officers belonged to the Sangh Parivar. What was their sin? They defended in the High Court the 1932 ban imposed by the erstwhile Maharaja of J&K, Hari Singh, on bovine killing and sale of beef in the state. The HC ordered the government to apply the 1932 Law in letter and spirit. Instead of obeying the High Court’s categorical ruling, the PDP sacked both the Law Officers, telling them that “they failed to convince the court against passing the verdict on sale of beef in the state”. People of Jammu protested and cried for justice, but the BJP failed them. It swallowed the humiliation. It didn’t raise even its little finger. Such was the nature of the political conduct of the BJP.
- Beef Party In MLA Hostel: But something more sinister was in the offing after the unceremonious and communally-motivated removal of the two upright Law Officers. The case in point is the beef party hosted by independent legislator “Engineer” Rashid at MLA hostel at Srinagar on October 8, 2015, for which he invited members of his community. This happened for the first time. He threw the beef party a day before the J&K Assembly was scheduled to take up the Bill on beef ban, which sought to repeal the law that prohibited the slaughter of bovines and sale of beef in the state, thus clearly suggesting that the BJP toed the PDP line. Rashid served kebabs, Rishta (minced meatballs), and patties – all made of beef – to his guests. Rashid walked free. The BJP Ministers and legislators swallowed everything, thus leaving their constituency high and dry and fuming.
- Vande Mataram A Provocative Slogan: Believe it or not, but it is a fact that on August 18, 2016, the PDP-BJP coalition government declared “Vande Mataram” a “provocative and inflammatory slogan”. It happened for the first time in the history of J&K. (Vande Mataram otherwise is one of the key slogans of the BJP.) That day, a case was registered under Sections 153-A and 120-B against a group of youths, who had raised the slogan Vande Mataram in the Mandi area of Jammu’s Poonch district during the annual “Chari Yatra” of the Buddha Amarnath. “Yes, we have registered a case against some youth who had raised the slogan ‘Bharat mein yadee rehna hoga, Vande Mataram kehna hoga,” said a police officer. A grenade attack on pilgrims on August 13 and stone-pelting on the vehicles of pilgrims on August 16 had angered the youths, but the powers-that-be didn’t take action against the culprits. It was this that aggravated the whole situation with many youths chanting “Vande Mataram”. The worst part of the whole situation was that while the PDP-BJP police registered cases against the devotees of Buddha Amarnath, those who raised “anti-India” and “pro-Pakistan” slogans were allowed to go scot-free. The ruling BJP didn’t raise even its little finger for reasons not really difficult to fathom.
- Rohingya Issue: The people of Jammu province had been demanding the deportation of Rohingyas from Jammu and other parts of the Jammu province for years. They were saying, and rightly, that the “Rohingyas were a ticking bomb”; that “they constituted a grave threat to the national security”; that “they were a threat to the Jammu’s demography”; that “they were settled at Jammu’s strategic locations, including near army camps, along the national highway and on high hills across the River Tawi, as a part of a deep-rooted conspiracy”; and that “these Rohingyas were indulging in all kinds of criminal activities, including the auction of minor Rohingya girls”. The people of Jammu had even organized long marches to force the authorities to throw the Rohingyas out of Jammu. The Union Home Ministry did take cognizance of the Jammu’s concerns and directed the PDP-BJP Government to take appropriate steps. The Union Government held out a categorical assurance that they will be deported and instructions were issued to the J&K Government to identify them and take necessary action in the matter. The under-pressure Mehbooba Mufti set up a three-member Cabinet Sub-Committee under the BJP Deputy CM Nirmal Singh to look into the whole issue. The Committee met only once and did nothing whatsoever. As if all this was not enough to outrage the people of Jammu province, the BJP Ministers and MLAs remained mum when on January 20, 2017, CM Mehbooba Mufti rejected the deportation demand and said on the floor of the Assembly that “their deportation from Jammu will not be appropriate”. All the Kashmir-based outfits, Kashmir-based, Pakistan-based and PoJK-based separatist organizations included, also opposed with one voice the demand seeking deportation of Rohingyas. Not just this, to add more fuel to the fire, the BJP-controlled Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) ordered the removal of all anti-Rohingya hoardings, despite the fact that the agitating people had deposited the requisite fee and put up these hoardings with the JMC’s prior approval.
- Kathua Conspiracy: On January 10, 2018, a minor tribal girl went missing in Rasana, Kathua district of Jammu province. Her body was found in the forest area of Rasana. She had been allegedly raped and brutally murdered. Eight persons, including 3 police personnel and minors, were arrested. All were Hindus. Their arrest provoked political explosions in the Kathua district with men, women, and children in their thousands holding massive demonstrations and accusing the Mehbooba Mufti Government of hatching a “conspiracy to cause Hindu migration from the strategic Rasana forest area calculated to helping Pakistan”. They repeatedly urged the authorities to hand over the case to the CBI to find the truth and punish the conspirators. The Kathua case got maximum coverage at the national and international levels. So much so, the United Nations also reacted. The coverage painted the Hindus of Jammu “rapists” or “supporters of rapists”. CM Mehbooba Mufti herself delivered the verdict and condemned those demanding a CBI probe into the issue as “pro-rapists”. Appalled by the marches and protests in defence of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. Also horrified by their use of our national flag in these demonstrations, this is nothing short of desecration,” she said. All this infuriated the people of Jammu province. They condemned both the PDP and the BJP. The demonstrations in the Kathua district and the adjoining Samba district were so massive that the BJP, which represented the Kathua and Samba districts in the Assembly, had to intervene. Two BJP ministers – Lal Singh and CP Ganga – were, according to them, “deputed by the local BJP leadership to assuage the hurt feelings of the people”. They participated in one of the largely-attended public rallies in support of the accused and supported their demand seeking CBI probe into the issue. They, like the agitating people, demanded action against the real culprits. The work in all the courts in Jammu province, including J&K HC, remained suspended for weeks under the able and effective leadership of the then Bar Association president, Sr Adv B S Slathia. Their participation in the rally provoked Mehbooba Mufti, nay all Kashmiri leaders, Indian political parties, national and international media, and who not. They unleashed a no-holds-barred “vilification against the people, the BJP and the BJP ministers”. Mehbooba Mufti demanded the resignation of the BJP ministers. The PDP-BJP Government was on the verge of collapse. Just then, some “senior BJP leader” intervened. He declared that the BJP ministers will hand over their resignations to Mehbooba Mufti and it did happen. The resignation of two BJP ministers exposed the party. That what happened at Rasana was a part of a deep-rooted conspiracy that could be seen from the two facts. One, Vishal Jangotra, the main accused, was declared “innocent” by the trial court. The trial court said: “Vishal Jangotra was not at the scene of the crime” and that “he was at Meerut where he was studying”. Two, a Jammu court ordered the police to file an FIR against all the SIT members latest by November 7, 2019, as they had beaten, harassed, and coerced the accused to create false evidence so that they could be convicted. The truth, in short, is that the agitating people tried their best to persuade the BJP to support their demand seeking a probe into the Kathua case but the BJP remained unmoved.
- Changing Jammu’s Demography: Committed as she was to change Jammu’s demography, Mehbooba Mufti, on February 14, 2018, ordered the Revenue Magistracy and Police to facilitate the settlement of followers of a particular religion on the forest/state land in the Jammu province’s Hindu-majority Jammu, Kathua, Samba, and Udhampur districts. She also ordered the concerned authorities, including the police, to allow bovine smuggling and indulge in activities the minority community (Hindus) hated and despised. The orders, inter-alia, read: “Till a formal tribal policy is formulated and issued, tribal population shall not be disturbed and dislocated. The IGP Jammu, police authorities, and all the Deputy Commissioners shall not provide any police protection for the eviction of tribals without the approval obtained from the Tribal Affairs Department (read government). The Tribal Affairs Department is receiving complaints regarding misuse of Sec 188 RPC and Animal Cruelty Act against the tribal population as animal rearing is their profession and they are required to transport their animals from one place to another during seasonal migration… Due care should be taken while dealing with such cases”. Mehbooba Mufti subverted the Constitution and violated the RPC and issued these highly objectionable executive orders after meeting top government officials and ministers. Two BJP ministers and the concerned Secretaries to the Government were also present in the meeting. It was hoped that the BJP ministers will see through the Mehbooba Mufti’s evil game plan, put their foot down or walk out of the meeting. Nothing of this sort happened. Much to the chagrin of the people of Jammu, the BJP ministers signed the minutes of the meeting. It was the February 14, 2018 orders which changed the whole scenario of the Jammu province with the outraged people condemning the BJP, the BJP ministers, and the BJP legislators and accusing them of bartering their interests to please their “Kashmiri masters and remain in power”.
It would be no exaggeration if it is said that all these acts of omission and commission of the local BJP left PM Narendra Modi with no other option but to bring down the PDP-BJP coalition government on June 19, 2018. PM Modi termed this coalition as “Mahamilawati”. Ever since then, the PM and HM Amit Shah are working overtime to undo the 16 wrongs the J&K BJP, its ministers, and its legislators committed. They have already scrapped Article 370, Article 35A, J&K Constitution, and J&K flag and taken several other steps to bring J&K at par with other states of the Union.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.