Rational people cannot gloss over the arbitrary exercise of authority in Kashmir, nor can they legitimize the lack of accountability in the union territory.
Subsequent to the revocation of the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP made several tall claims to legitimize its decision. One of those claims was that the integration of J & K into mainland India would expedite the growth of democracy and development in the union territory. Contrary to its claims, the BJP-led federal government has extended detentions of several detenus under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
A couple of days ago, Shah Faesal, former Civil Services officer and budding politician, was booked under the stringent Act. Like the other political figures being held under PSA, Shah Faesal‘s incarceration has been extended without valid reason. Prime Minister Modi’s government has also charged Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA). Both Omar and Mehbooba, former heads of government, have been in detention since August 5, 2019. And now their detentions have been extended by another three months, without formal charges.
An amendment made to the Public Safety Act in 1990 made it non-obligatory for the federal government to provide the detainee with reasons for his/ her arrest.
In their quest to portray Kashmir as a religious issue and not a political one, Prime Minister Modi’s government is shrinking the political space for those who chose the route of electoral politics to make their voices heard.
The brazen muzzling of those political voices that are antithetical to the BJP is absolutely ridiculous.
With the continued detention of several elected legislators and parliamentarians in the union territory, any potential opposition to the revocation of the autonomous status of J & K is being nipped in the bud. Indigenous political institutions, which were already eroded, are now being decimated.
While regional political parties in J & K might have had eroded mass bases, it cannot be denied that they are cadre-based. A democracy should be about strengthening grass-roots institutions, which are not limited to Village Councils and Block Development Councils. Much to the BJP’s chagrin, Village Councils and Block Development Councils cannot replace cadre-based political parties. Nor can legitimate political dissent be stifled forever.
Democracies thrive on differences of opinions, not on gagging those who might not be on the same page. Instead of deterring the growth of democracy and depoliticizing the people, the goal should have been to empower the populace of Jammu and Kashmir.
The creation of a “third-front,” comprising carpetbaggers, will not fill the enforced political vacuum in J & K.
The people of J & K should be sufficiently empowered to induce satisfaction with the Kashmir constituency’s role within current geopolitical realities, such that a dis-empowered populace does not succumb to ministrations of destructive ideologies.
Amidst the pandemonium, I need to remind myself that the BJP is not India, and every Indian is not a Modi-devotee.