EDITORIAL: Addressing a rally two months before the commencement of present general elections, India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged the people of the Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) to vote for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He has since been campaigning all across India, except in that disputed region. As a matter of fact, his party is not contesting even a single seat in IIOJ&K.

The main contenders for the three Lok Sabha seats up for grabs there are two local parties, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, whom he had accused of “playing with the dreams and aspirations” of the Kashmiri people. Who has played with their aspirations is more than obvious as this is the first time since 1996 that his party, the BJP, has stayed out of the electoral fray in IIOJ&K.

It decided to do that despite resorting to gerrymandering to create favourable conditions for itself. A New Delhi appointed commission changed the boundaries of several constituencies. In Anantnag, for example, which had about 1.8 million Muslim voters in 2019, the commission is reported to have added around one million mostly Hindu voters from Jammu’s Poonch and Rajouri districts.

Still, the BJP was not ready to face up to the challenge. Its IIOJ&K unit chief has tried to put up a brave face, saying the party’s decision to skip the election was part of a broader strategy, but wouldn’t explain what the strategy might be. Its absence from the contest implies an admission of failure to suppress the freedom movement in IIOJ&K — the world’s most militarised zone.

In 2019, the Modi government had abolished Article 370 of the constitution, bringing the region under New Delhi’s rule amidst mass arrests, custodial torture and killings, restriction on people’s movement, and an indefinite communication blackout, followed by measures to change the demographic complexion of the disputed region. Modi has since been claiming to have put the region on the path of prosperity. His latest decision has exposed the true situation. As the National Conference leader and a former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, put it, “clearly, there is a gap between what the BJP claims to have done and the reality on the ground.”

Reality is that of the Kashmiri people’s complete alienation from New Delhi. Independent observers, including some prominent Indians, have been warning of a simmering discontent in the IIOJ&K advising the government to talk to them as well as Pakistan — something unacceptable to Modi who has built his political career on Muslim hate.

The path taken by his government can buy it some time, but the freedom movement has a way of keep coming back in ebbs and flows since 1989, despite the loss of over one hundred thousand lives. His party thriving on the anti-Muslim rhetoric can prolong the suffering of people in IIOJ&K, but cannot quell their freedom aspirations. That they have amply demonstrated.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU May 13, 2024 04:27pm
Frankly, no one cares in our country. We have our own problems to handle and sort out future of our children. Someone should be worried about the change in attitudes of common people in Pakistan.
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Re=== May 15, 2024 03:33am
This editorial team did not write a single article calling out Pakistan's fake elections but jumps at the moment it has something to say with India and Kashmir. No one asked or cares.
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Re=== May 15, 2024 05:41am
I heard that in AJK things are not going all that fine!
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