Communal Polarisation In Jammu And Kashmir: A Look At The Attempts To Stir Emotions Before Polls

Posted on August 20, 2014 in Politics

By Heeba Din:

The clever play of words by PM Narendra Modi with his remark of “Saffronisation of J&K state” and then the cheeky referral of it being related to the production of the spice called saffron in the valley, at his recent speech in Leh, a cold desert which apparently produces no saffron, did make the PM score some brownie points with the political pundits for the sheer play of words that he displayed.

modi in Jammu

While the political analysts and the members of opposition parties in the valley accuse him of further polarising the situation in the state with his remark, the rise in the agenda of a hindu rashtra by BJP and RSS do highlight the increasing polarisation of the situation. The long list of examples from raking up of article 370 to the state subject law, and the most recent remark of “saffornisation” of the J&K state do point out to what some factions in the valley call “divisive politics”, being played in the valley right before the assembly polls.

Remarking on the Article 370 controversy, congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, “According to us, each and every comment and statement is deliberate, thought out, orchestrated and intended to politicize and polarize,”

“Amarnath Yatra going on at one hand and the holy month of Ramzan at the other. The whole atmosphere is pious, and this inauguration has been done in this atmosphere. This rail link is dedicated not just to Jammu and Kashmir but to the whole country. The train is for all those people waiting to come to Mata Vaishno Devi’s charan. This train should be known as the Shri Shakti Express. I assure you that there will be no shortage or obstacle in the development of Jammu. The train is not just to commute, it gives birth to development. We will make Jammu’s development more qualitative. Katra will develop very fast. The start made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee of connecting Jammu and Kashmir through Railways, we have to take this ahead. This train would enable pilgrims headed to Vaishno Devi to travel directly to the base camp at Katra. In one ticket, the passenger can cover travel by train the distance which was earlier covered by train and bus combined. I agree with the chief minister, we should have a state-of-the-art Railway station. We aim to have Railway stations that have more facilities than airports. I assure people of India that we will make our Railway Stations modern with proper facilities.Private parties will also be ready to invest in this profitable rail link. This is going to add speed and strength to J&K’s development. Environment-friendly transportation will be encouraged. Our aim is to win the heart of every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir through development”

– Excerpts from the speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while flagging off a train on the new Katra-Udhampur rail line, connecting the Vaishno Devi shrine with the rest of the country.

Becoming the first PM to visit the town of Kargil after 15 years since the Kargil war, and also having to his credit two state visits till now, PM Modi’s attempt seems to bring the state of J&K on the national map with self sustained economy and development. However, the structured visits only to parts of Ladakh; which the BJP won for the very first time in the recent polls and parts of Jammu with majority of Hindu population, adds fuel to the claims of opposition parties of polarising the situation in the highly sensitive state.

While the BJP and other right wing activists reverse the blame to the Congress for playing the polarisation card ahead of assembly polls with the Kausar Nag yatra issue. The opposition party in the valley- Peoples Democratic Party, accuses the present government of the same with demanding the status of Union Territory to Ladakh. This rallying of accusation from the ruling party to the opposition party does point out to continuous angle of polarised and divisive politics being played in the valley, however, the million dollar question now remains – who is actually playing this card?

The history and politics of the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been witness to the plural character of the state on the basis of culture, religion and language. It is imperative then that such plurality will have its impact on political perceptions and responses. There is no denying of the decades old sub regional and regional politics being operated within the state that is further carried forward with contextualizing the identities like Kashmiri, Ladkahi, Dogri etc. and with mostly anti state sentiments prevailing across the region, polarising the situation can escalate to a serious issue within no time.

In the boiling cauldron full of conflict, the region of Kashmir has always been a highly politicised issue for decades now. Marred with terms like communal tension and ethnic cleansing, the fact remains that on ground, the state has witnessed very little communal tensions for the past few decades as compared to the rest of the country. And now, with the no covertly attempts to hide the agenda of Hindu Rastra by members of the ruling party, and the sudden escalation in remarks of polarisation and divisive politics being played for vote bank, the region is geared for a full blown high drama politics in the shadow of communal tension.