Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi/ KI
Reading BJP’s spectacular election victory in Uttar Pradesh, and why it should concern Kashmir
In the recently concluded elections to five states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur, Goa – the BJP bulldozed all in its path, from the cycle to the elephant. Rahul Gandhi, of course, was also beaten hands down. As a consequence, Narrendra Modi is now the lone warrior of India’s “nationalism”. In the coming days, a new narrative of “nationalism” and “patriotism” will be defined, with Modi as its chief articulator.
Modi and his brethern in the Sangh Parivar have successfully sharpened an ideological mindset that appears to be easing in majoritarian rule in much of India, most starkly in UttarPradesh. And if UP, a state the size of Brazil, is any indication, India seems destined to become a Hindu Rashtra.
In this election, it wasn’t just the so-called “Hindutva fringe” of the BJP, comprising such people as Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath, that fronted the communal compaign, Modi himself laid down the agenda with his Shamshan-Qabristan remark, a blatantly communal message to the majority Hindus that the Akhlesh Yadav government was appeasing the minority Muslims.
There was enough evidence to suggest that both the claimed “surgical strikes against militants inside Pakistani territory” and demonetisation were not only unpopular but counterproductive. But when Modi sold these moves as being anti-Pakistan, it wasn’t surpsing what enused in the elections; after all, the BJP has long used Pakistan as a communal dogwhistle by making anti-Pakistanism the touchstone for judging the patriotism of Indian Muslims.
In such a climate, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party coming together in a pre-poll alliance in the name of defeating communal forces and Mayawati fielding an unusually large number of Muslim candidates only played in the hands of the BJP, which promoted itself as the sole custodian of the interests of the Hindu community. Indeed, ground reports during theUttar Pradesh campaign indicated that BJP leaders, from top to bottom, left the Hindu community in little doubt that their vote for the party would usher in a Hindu Rashtra.
Ominous as this sounds, it isn’t far from reality. In fact, this dark script is already playing out in Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim majority state. Here, the script is called “Agenda of the Alliance” between the PDP and the BJP. The state’s regional divide has helped the BJP turn Jammu into an ideological fortress so much so that voting for the Hindutva party is considered as no less than a religious obligation by a large section of the province›s majority community. The BJP couldn›t have asked for more from its ally.
In the context of the BJP’s rabid discourse of nationalism, which is in the ascendant across India, the fervant support of a vast population of Jammu has acquired great significance, portrayed as it is as militating against the resistance to Indian occupation in much of the state.
It’s the misfortune of J&K’s majority community that the PDP, which claims to represent the community’s interests, justifies its alliance with the BJP by claiming that keeping it out of power would have meant disrespecting the mandate of the people of Jammu, forgetting that the BJP now controls not only the entire Jammu province but is strengthening its proxies in the valley as well.
Perhaps, Mehbooba Mufti would care to explain this: if keeping the BJP out of power in J&K meant disrespecting the people’s mandate, what does it mean that the BJP didn›t field a single Muslim candidate in Uttar Pradesh, a state where Muslims make up nearly a fifth of the population?
Then, there is Omar Abdullah. Why did the former chief minister all but surrender to Modi by stating that nobody would be able to defeat him until 2024? Mehbooba at least has the excuse of being his ally to singh Modi’s praises, but what compells Omar? Makes one wonder if he’s aiming to ally his National Conference with the BJP for the 2021 assembly election. Such a deal isn›t beyond the NC, of course. When the PDP formed a coalition government with the Congress in 2002, the NC accused it of harming the interests of Kashmiris, yet just six years later, the NC didn’t feel shy of allying with the same Congress. Besides, a particularly shameful chapter in NC’s history concerns its refusal to leave the BJP-led NDA even after the 2002 anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat, which happened on the watch of, who else, but Modi.
In any case, the Sheikhs and the Mufties have a long history of furthering the interests of the “national parties” in J&K, be it the Congress or the BJP, mostly to the detriment of ordinary Kashmiri people. It isn’t surprising that they, and their ilk, don’t want to even discuss the dangers that BJP’s “Hinduisation” project poses to J&K. And it won’t be surprising if, for the sake of power, they enable Modi to play his dangerous game in Kashmir.
Engineer Rashid is an independent legislator, J&K