By Amulya Ganguli
Whether in Kashmir or Assam, the BJP has been trapped by the fallout from the pursuit of its right-wing policies which militate against the liberal tenets of the constitutional system.
As a result, the party does not appear to be able at the moment to find a way out of the quagmire which its ideological prejudices have created. If the party remains mired in the mess, there is a possibility of the support which it has received from the opportunistic and illiberal sections of the people and parties will begin to evaporate.
In Kashmir, for instance, the BJP and its government at the centre do not seem to know how to get off the roller-coaster ride of draconian measures which they have imposed without suffering injury or embarrassment. The government can fend off criticism of human rights violations for some time by blaming Pakistan’s malign machinations. The latter, too, is bound to give ample opportunities in this regard to the authorities in Kashmir by sending in more and more jehadis across the Line of Control.
Even then, there is bound to come a time when the international community will begin to question the continued detention of the local political leaders, including three former chief ministers. The BJP’s hope has been to build up a new generation of politicians in the valley who will replace the Abdullah and the Mufti dynasties.
The recent meeting of a group of village headmen with Union home minister Amit Shah was a step in the direction of inaugurating a post-National Conference (NC) and post-People’s Democratic Party (PDP) era in Kashmir politics. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will obviously take months, if not years, for the BJP’s plans to fructify. Surely, the NC and PDP leaders cannot be kept under lock and key till then.
There is little doubt that the BJP didn’t think through all the implications of snuffing out Article 370 before taking the precipitous step. Since the item was on its Hindutva hit list along with the Ram temple and a uniform civil code, the party decided to shoot first and ask questions later. But such an approach is unsuitable in a democracy where putting dissenters behind bars is frowned upon.
That the BJP has been driven by its Hindutva agenda has been palpable right from 2014. In the first five years, the emphasis was on the relatively minor issues of the party’s and the Sangh parivar’s plan of action such as ghar wapsi, love jehad, propagating the therapeutic virtues of cow’s urine, appointing saffronites as heads of academic institutions, and so on.
Now, the focus has turned to the big issues such as Article 370, integrating Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) with Kashmir, building the Ram temple immediately as the RSS was insisting during the run-up to the last general election, enforcing population control directed against those husbands with four wives each who say, hum panch, hamare pachis, and expelling the “termites”, as Amit Shah called the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
But like the detention of the suspected trouble-makers in Kashmir, the weeding out of the termites is proving contentious in Assam, underlining yet again the difficulty of implementing fascistic projects in a free society. The BJP’s intention is to separate the chaff of Muslim immigrants from the grain of Hindu citizens.
But Assam is a microcosm of the bewildering diversity of the rest of the country where generations of locals have been living cheek by jowl with aliens as a reminder of the times when both were citizens of one country. To weed out the “Jinnahs”, as an Assamese minister colourfully descried the “termites” is an onerous task.
It was nevertheless undertaken under the terms of the Assam accord of 1985, but the results have displeased the BJP, for not only has the final count of the ghuspatiyas or infiltrators dropped from the original estimate of four million to 1.9 million, but a large number of those who do not have the proper documents to prove their citizenship has turned out to be Hindus.
The BJP, therefore, wants a reverification of the numbers. But what such a relook at the entire complicated exercise will mean is that the “termites” cannot be ousted in the foreseeable future. Besides, even those who have been correctly identified cannot be deported because Bangladesh has refused to accept them. Like the Rohingyas, who are the East Bengali Muslims of Myanmar, the East Bengali Muslim aliens of Assam will remain in a state of limbo.
However, it has to be remembered that the ultra-nationalists do not always mind the presence of such hapless groups who are not wanted in their original countries if they are Muslims, for they can be used to foment divisive sentiments by branding those who speak for them for humanitarian reasons as anti-nationals.
So the tension and uncertainty will continue in Kashmir and Assam to show that the BJP’s dream of a quick passage to Hindu rashtra will remain unfulfilled for a long time.