Muhammad Serajuddin in Karachi
The fate of Jammu and Kashmir is poised to be at crossroads with all predictions favouring Norendra Modi’s BJP back to power in India.
Counting of votes for Indian Lok Sabha elections began on Thursday morning across the country. The 17th Lok Sabha elections were held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. Voting took place at 10.35 lakh polling stations across 36 states and Union Territories.
According to the Election Commission of India data, 67.11 per cent voters exercised their right to franchise. This was the highest turnout in the Lok Sabha polls since independence.
However, if the exit polls are to be believed, the Modi juggernaut has run over the combined Opposition in the national electoral sweep stakes. All the exit polls suggest PM Modi’s claim that they will win as many seats as in 2014 was more grounded in reality than the cheerful numbers put out by the Opposition.
The poll of polls, an aggregate of exit polls, has given the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) 298 of the 543 seats and the Congress and its allies a measly 124.
The campaign slogan of Modi in 2014 election Narendra Modi’s most touted campaign pledge was to create 10 million jobs annually. Instead, his government has been accused of creating India’s worst unemployment crisis in 45 years.
And in India’s rural regions, a continued agrarian crisis has compelled farmers to protest for increased subsidies and debt relief. Whereas, vowing to vanquish terrorism, he took most currency notes out of circulation and cracked down hard in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir has since witnessed a sharp spike in militancy leading to its biggest terrorist attack in years.
As it came out, it wasn’t the worst, this time BJP manifesto for the 2019 elections has promised to annul Article 370 (which grants an autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir), and 35A (that gives Jammu and Kashmir a special status)as they believe this provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir.
What does article 35 means to Kashmiri people? The said article is basically an agreement reached between government of New Delhi and Srinagar in 1952, according to which no one except the permanent residents will be able to settle permanently in the state, acquire immovable property and avail government jobs, scholarships and aid etc. Interestingly, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has its own constitution, flag and own penal code, which defines a permanent resident as the one who is a Kashmiri by birth or settled in the state before May 14, 1954, or who has been a resident of the state for 10 years and has “lawfully acquired” immovable property in the state. This agreement was later added to the Constitution through a presidential order in 1954.
People of Jammu and Kashmir consider this article shield against Center’s aggression. Most people believe that this is the Centre’s design to change the demographic character of the Muslim majority state. Some fear that after repealing the act, the Centre might entice the Hindus to buy land and property in Jammu, Samba and other districts. That will thus change the demographic character of the Jammu region as well.
Some also feel that move to abrogate Article 35A will have huge ramifications on the ground as the article was included in the Constitution top reserve IOK peoples land rights. Such a situation will result in another mass uprising and IOK will become Palestine, where life will become an everyday fight for survival.
Both the former chief ministers of J&K, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, have been vocal about the need to leave these two Articles in place. Omar Abdullah remained loud and clear when saying that questioning the special status of J&K will in fact put a question mark on the accession itself. Like Article 370, Article 35A was also negotiated between the princely state of J&K and the government of India and it is the bedrock of accession,’ he opined. Tampering with Article 35A will be a clear cut indication that Centre is in effect altering the demography of J&K state,” he deliberated.
All parties cutting across the political spectrum in the Valley of Kashmir are of the same opinion about article 35A, an unlikely camaraderie though. They all want to preserve it. If this clause of the Indian constitution is scraped, they maintain, then it will invalidate constituent assembly of Kashmir which passed that historical resolution and ratified instrument of accession also.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court of India, on April 3, 2019, gave the ruling in the same case stating that Article 370 is not a temporary provision, since it has acquired permanent status through years of existence, now it is impossible to abrogate the Article. How BJP will further proceed is yet to be seen.
In 2014, BJP swept into power as India’s first single party parliamentary majority in 30 years. Despite tall claims Modi led BJP government could not live up to their commitments which is visible by their withering economy conditions.
If the exit poll results are to be taken at face value, the BJP will alone cross the half-way mark, hinting at a new paradigm in Indian politics where muscular nationalism has subsumed caste divide and local issues. It would also be the first time that a party other than the Congress is being returned to power with a majority of its own. The UPA, the principal opposition alliance led by the Congress, will have to pray that it somehow gets into three digits.
But the Muslims in India , particularly those in Kashmir have to be more alarmed for further brutalities amidst a politics of hatred.
Muhammad Serajuddin in Karachi