Going by the finance minister Arun Jaitley’s recurrent statements against the continuation of the Article 370 and 35A, it appears that the BJP has decided to remove its gloves on Kashmir. The party now talks uninhibitedly and determinedly about its plans to do away with the special constitutional position of the state. In fact, the BJP has now mounted a chorus against the autonomous status of the state, joined this time by the party’s top leaders including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This has created a deep anxiety about their political identity among a majority of people in the state. There is a growing sense of siege and a perception that the BJP harbours sinister designs on Kashmir. And in its extreme it borders on the fear of an impending demographic change.
The Article 35A is critical to the special status of the state. If it is tampered with, this will be the last nail in the coffin of the J&K’s constitutional position. There will be nothing left in the special status to protect.
People apprehend that by taking away this safeguard BJP-RSS combine will try to make settlements in Kashmir like Israel in Palestine to change the demography and hence bury the Kashmir issue. And going by the statements of the BJP, it is hard to doubt that this is not the case. No matter the euphemistic terms in which the BJP has chosen to couch its plan.
According to Jaitley, removing Article 370 and 35A is important for economic development of the state. He says that the Article 370 was disastrously thought out as a loose constitutional connect between rest of the country and the state and that Article 35A was surreptitiously introduced in 1954. “It catered to a separatist psyche and legitimised discrimination, Jaitley says.
But in Kashmir, the opinion is contrary to this. People believe it is the erosion of the special constitutional provision that created the distrust between Kashmir and New Delhi. As for the separatist psyche, it is essentially the fear of the dilution of the Muslim majority character of the state brought about by an extensive demographic change that animates it.
Any government or a party can thus ill-afford to let this perception fester. But this is what the BJP is doing. The party has put Kashmir on the edge through a barrage of these statements. One only hopes that the statements are only a part of the BJP’s election campaign and aren’t meant to be translated into action. Should this happen, it could lead to disastrous consequences and only perpetuate the turmoil in Kashmir rather than resolving it.
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