Far from seeking to review its muscular policy towards Kashmir following the Pulwama attack that killed over 40 CRPF personnel, New Delhi seems to have resolved to only reinforce it.
Ever since the Pulwama bombing, Government has embarked on an unprecedented crackdown on the politico-religious group Jamaat-i-Islami after slamming a ban on it, withdrawn security of the separatist leaders and downgraded those of the political workers. And in the latest development the National Investigation Agency has summoned Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Naseem Geelani, son of veteran separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani to New Delhi for questioning and banned the JKLF.
Calling Mirwaiz to New Delhi is an unprecedented step. Until now, all central governments have stopped short of jailing the Mirwaiz who is not only a prominent separatist leader but also a religious leader who represents a centuries old institution of chief preacher of Kashmir. So, the governments generally preferred to put him under house arrest. But not anymore. The BJP led government at the centre has chosen to break this taboo. However, Mirwaiz has refused to present himself before the NIA in New Delhi. His counsel has said he cant do it because of the hostile security atmosphere in Delhi.
On the other hand, Government has arrested scores of Jamaat leaders and workers and lodged them in jails. The government has also sealed properties of the organization worth crores of rupees. Though initially the order was read as the ban on Jamaat schools and mosques, later the government clarified they had been kept outside the scope of seizure and sealing.
This has created a sense of fear in the Valley. After the patent failure of the BJPs muscular policy on Kashmir, one expected that the government would relook its Kashmir policy and choose a policy of a political engagement with the state. But it is only doubling down on the policy and expecting a different result.
The crackdown against Jamaat has created a widespread unease. Jamaat is a cadre based politico-religious party but over the past thirty years it has largely restricted itself to the propagation of religion and stayed away from politics. It has preferred to stay in the background. And from the late-nineties onwards, it has dissociated from the militancy, although it stands by its separatist ideology.
However, Jamaat, through its politico-religious activities, its dedicated cadre of sympathizers, affiliates and members and of course the vast network of schools has made itself an organic part of the Kashmir society. Contrary to madrassas which sprang up in hundreds across Valley through the nineties, Jamaat schools have also taught other subjects. While religious instruction in Jamaat schools is a must, it is not the paramount and exclusive focus of education like the madrassas.
So, the action against Jamaat will be deeply felt by the society. Besides, it has also foreclosed chances of the centres engagement with the separatist groups. If tomorrow, the centre chooses to hold dialogue with dissenting Kashmiri groups, it will hardly find any interlocutors in the state. More so, when New Delhi has already jailed many senior Hurriyat leaders.
The message is clear: Government wants to go the whole hog against separatist leaders with an ostensible aim to get a grip on the runaway situation in Valley.
For Kashmir observers, the arrests also mean that the centre has given up on the engagement with the dissident groups in the state and has resolved to exclusively use force to sort out the issues in the state. But as the current situation in Valley reveals, this policy has changed nothing on the ground.
Adding to the deepening political vacuum in Kashmir is that the Election Commission of India has decided not to hold Assembly polls in J&K simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls. This has only extended the ongoing central rule in the state and which is widely seen to be implementing the BJPs ideological agenda in the state.
The National Conference and the PDP have criticised the centre for delaying Assembly polls. The NC leader and the former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has termed the postponement of Assembly polls as Modis surrender to Pakistan. But the Election Commission has so far shown no inclination to review its decision.This situation is only breeding more anxiety in the Valley. Here’s hoping that New Delhi recognizes its mistakes and changes the tack in Valley. Remember the words of 12th century chronicler of Kashmir Kalhana: “Kashmir Can Be Conquered by Spiritual Merit, Not By Soldiers”.