By Gulzar Bhat
Mohammad Ahraf Bhat prefers to sit indoors since the ruling dispensation in New Delhi did away with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split the state into two UTs — Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh.
For Bhat the continuing lockdown or curbs are not the reason for staying home but to evade the pesky questions his neighbourhood pals put to him, following the Modi government’s unilateral moves.
Bhat, a resident of Budgam would wear the secular and democratic culture of India on his sleeves. He always used these values to draw an analogy between India and Pakistan to convince his peers why people in Kashmir must prefer India over Pakistan. However, after August 5 the things, Bhat says, changed entirely.
“A well read friend asked me if I still believe in Indian democracy and secularism”, said Bhat, adding that he felt like a fish out of water.
Bhat said that he did not have answers for the embarrassing but rational questions posed to him from his locality. Like Bhat, many secular and liberal Kashmiris, who have been pro-India are today grappling with similar questions and find themselves in a rather awkward situation.
A 60-year-old businessman in Srinagar, who did not wish to be named, said that everyone in his area knew him for his strong pro-India views but now he had changed his stance. “I am unable to answer the questions people ask me. What Modi did has forced me to change my pro-India stance”, he said.
Irfan Ahmad, a resident of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district said that Modi’s unconstitutional move had not only deepened the alienation further but also shrunk the space for pro-India and liberal forces in Kashmir.
“Modi somewhere vindicated the separatists’ stand regarding India’s policy in relation to Kashmir,” said Irfan, who has recently majored in zoology from a reputed university in Maharashtra.
He said that it was not only the question of putting paid to the special position of a state but “it is the question of breaching the trust of millions of people which they had reposed in Indian Constitution.
Speaking personally, I feel deceived by the country whose democratic and judicial institutions I would praise unhesitatingly,” Irfan said.
The revocation of special status is all set to take its toll on the pro-India political parties in Jammu and Kashmir while giving a direct edge to the separatists. The politics of all regional political parties were centred on the issue of safeguarding the special position of state and restoration of autonomy.
Nearly a week before the right wing government stripped the state of its special status, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti in her address to party workers said that any tinkering with the special status of state would be like flirting with powder keg.
National Conference patron Dr Farooq Abdullah equated the revocation of Article 35 A and 370 to constitutional coup. The restoration of autonomy used to be the central poll plank of the party. The party had even passed the autonomy resolution in state assembly in 2000. It however was turned down by the then central government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference and newly minted Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement led by bureaucrat turned politician Shah Faesal also raised their pitch in support of Article 35 A and 370 while senior communist leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami even moved the apex court in support of the special provisions of state.
“Be it NC’s idea of autonomy or PDP’s selfrule agenda, more or less every political party in valley believed that the solution of Kashmir imbroglio lies in providing greater autonomy to the region.
But now they are left with no political roadmaps”, says a valley-based political analyst. He observes that the current situation is more congenial for the separatist politics.
“They have always reiterated that their bigger goal is Azadi and had rejected anything short of it. On this slogan, they could easily convince people in the absence of any cogent argument by pro-India politicians,” he adds. Bhat says that what all matters for him is that he failed to convince his friends that India is not all about Modi and his communal politics.