Opposition delegation sent back from Kashmir: There will be a time for Rahul Gandhi's petty politics, but it isn’t now

  • The Congress has raised a huge hue and cry over J&K governor Satya Pal Mlik sending the Opposition delegation back to Delhi

  • It is unclear what purpose an Opposition delegation led by Congress and its dynast Rahul Gandhi would serve at this point in time in Kashmir

  • If Malik had been 'draconian', then it must have been a similar 'draconian' decision by the 2011 NC govt to send back a BJP delegation which had come to visit the Valley

  • In subsequent reports, then prime minister Manmohan Singh had advised BJP not to politicise a 'sensitive issue'

  • The abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state has made the situation even more sensitive and volatile than in 2011

The enormity of what has taken place in Jammu and Kashmir is not immediately apparent. There will be long-term geopolitical, ideological, political, social, cultural and economic ramifications of Centre’s decision to bifurcate the state into two Union territories by reading down Article 370 and making Article 35A infructuous. However, having taken the decision that overturns a 70-year-old fragile consensus, India’s immediate priority must be maintaining peace and calm in the troubled territory and phased restoration of democratic and civil rights.

The temporary suspension of those rights has a larger aim — preventing the loss of lives and maintaining control over a situation that remains volatile and susceptible to provocations and machinations from across the border. No less dangerous is the prospect that the ‘mainstream’ political actors who had for so long held the state hostage to their agenda and had profiteered from perpetual conflict with the Indian state, will not go down without a fight having lost their political relevance at one stroke of a presidential pen on 5 August when the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir was reorganised into the Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir.

 Opposition delegation sent back from Kashmir: There will be a time for Rahul Gandhis petty politics, but it isn’t now

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses the media after the return of a delegation of Opposition parties from Srinagar. PTI

The entire Jammu and Kashmir gamble taken by the Narendra Modi government rests on a rather risky premise that the ordinary Kashmiris are fed up with the cycle of violence and long for restoration of peace and stability in the Valley so that they can get on with their lives and be a part of the ‘India story’.

As I have discussed in a previous piece, the successful holding of the panchayat polls gave an indication to the Centre that the local population — tied down with unrest, unending violence and lack of political representation — is thoroughly disenchanted with the few dynasties (Congress, Abdullahs and the Muftis) that have made the state their ‘jaagir’ and benefitted from the everlasting conflict.

RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy reaches much the same conclusion in an article. "The success of the (2018) local body elections served as the index of disenchantment with the two local family parties — the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC). Having had full five years to understand Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP’s homework on Jammu and Kashmir was complete. It began to relate to the elected members of the local bodies and sent money to them directly, with no political middlemen. It established a direct rapport with those at the bottom of the pyramid in Kashmir...."

By stripping the region of its semiautonomous status, centralising control of the state and putting the ‘mainstream’ political leaders under preventive detention, the Modi government has created a political vacuum. The Modi government now hopes that this political vacuum will give rise to two eventualities. One, in absence of the impulses that fed the separatist narrative, the Valley may see greater opportunity in aligning with the rest of India and enjoying the fruits of development that may now bypass self-appointed ‘middlemen’. Two, the political vacuum may give rise to new leadership that — as BJP national secretary Ram Madhav writes — is “built not on the separatist narrative of the 20th Century but on the development narrative of the 21st Century. It is here that the investment and focus of the Central Government should go".

But this, as has already been mentioned, is a large gamble. The severe restrictions on the free movement of people have been gradually relaxed. Some educational institutions have slowly reopened though attendance remains thin. There have been sporadic reports of violence from the Valley, but there are large discrepancies between what the government says and what international media have been reporting. While it's nobody’s case, the international media has been biased. It is also true that a large part of its reporting has been erroneous and exaggerated, as many journalists have pointed out.

Into this cauldron, it is unclear what purpose an Opposition delegation led by Congress and its dynast Rahul Gandhi would serve at this point in time. The Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik, sent back the delegation comprising Rahul, Ghulam Nabi Azad, D Raja, Sharad Yadav, Manoj Jha, Majeed Memon, and others from Srinagar airport shortly after they landed from Delhi.

The Congress has raised a huge hue and cry over it with Gandhi indulging in predictable incendiary rhetoric. “Leaders of the Opposition and the Press got a taste of the draconian administration and brute force unleashed on the people of Jammu and Kashmir when we tried to visit Srinagar yesterday,” tweeted Rahul, as if disallowing the Opposition from fishing in troubled waters is some sort of grave danger to democracy.

Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, too, was burning in righteous indignation over “shutting down” of democratic rights in Kashmir, ostensibly because her brother was not allowed to carry on with his political opportunism.

If the Jammu and Kashmir Governor had been “draconian” and indulging in “brute force”, then it must have been a similar “draconian” decision by the then Jammu and Kashmir government run by the Omar Abdullah government to send back a BJP delegation led by departed leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. The delegation, along with Ananth Kumar, sought to land in Srinagar when they were sent back. In subsequent reports, ten prime minister Manmohan Singh had advised the BJP not to politicise a “sensitive issue”.

If anything, the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state has made the situation even more sensitive and volatile, and the Centre’s decision now may appear to be driven by far more logical necessity than in 2011.

Let the Congress and other political parties who want to bake their political bread in the oven of Kashmir get chafed and frustrated. The government at the Centre had the political capital, boldness and gumption to integrate Kashmir with the rest of India and it needs to be given the space and time to implement its plan. There will be a time for petty politics of the kind Rahul wants to do. That time isn’t now.

Updated Date: Aug 26, 2019 16:36:56 IST