If there was a hope that the Home minister Rajnath Singh will offer an assurance to the mainstream parties during his arrival in Jammu on Monday, it was bitterly betrayed. For he did anything but. Instead, he urged the mainstream parties like the NC and PDP to rethink their boycott and participate in the upcoming electoral process as it will provide them an opportunity to “interact with the people. On the contrary Singh during his visit to the state last year had assured the people that the centre would nothing that went against the sentiment in the Valley. Although Singh had made light of the centres position on Article 35A, saying a non-issue had been turned into an issue, he did take care that the deep apprehensions in Kashmir as to the continuation of the contested state subject law were dispelled. And he had largely succeeded in doing so – albeit traversing a fine line between his party’s longstanding position on the state whereby J&K’s special position has to go to enable the state’s complete integration in India and Kashmir’s dogged determination to retain the position.
A similar assurance at Jammu now would have not only addressed the anxiety in the state as to the fate of the Article 35A but also persuaded the boycotting mainstream parties to take part in the polls. But he offered none of that. Such ambiguous approach to the Article 35A is certain to deepen the suspicions in Kashmir. One wonders if the home minister was ready with an assurance last what stopped him to repeat it this year.
More so, when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had offered a similar assurance to the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti during a meeting last year. In an interview, Mehbooba has now revealed the specifics of the “agreement” with the BJP. According to her the PM had told her that the case against Article 35A would be referred to a higher constitutional bench and put into cold storage.
The BJP’s silence now followed by the intermittent noises among its ranks about the need to remove the all-important constitutional provision have become a reason for the Valley to suspect the worst. More so, because the BJP has shown singular contempt for the democratic opinion in the state. Let alone taking steps to engage with it, the party doesn’t take it on board in its policies on the state. For example, it didn’t give a damn about the boycott of the civic elections by the PDP and NC and is going ahead with the exercise. Similarly, the people apprehend it might show little concern for the opinion of the people of the state about Article 35A and might work to ensure it is revoked by the Supreme Court and flaunt it as its achievement in the run up to the next year’s general election. But considering the long term disastrous consequences of the move, one expects that the better counsel prevails in the end and the party’s government at the centre restrains from tinkering with the crucial law which protects the existing demographic composition of the state.