India of today is an absolutist saffron monarchy in the disguise of democracy where propagandist forms of religion and nationalism, both significant to gullible and frail minds, direct the entire mechanisation of the political power. Once this is understood, the constitutional degradation, usurpation of the legal system, and fervent propaganda currently galore are easy to comprehend.
Almost everyone is united in consensus that India has changed. For a democratic individual, a dangerous shift towards political Hindu majoritarianism and for Hindutva brigade, a dream suppressed from centuries is coming to the foreground. Much of the reasonable arguments get written on Kashmir.
Unfortunately, for those conditioned in the environment of hate for decades, it hardly matters since tools of logic and universal ethical sense are unheard by those ruled by superstition and emotions. The Sangh Parivar, at its core, plays cards of national identity and religion and it works like a charm with the majority. The charged pomposity has led elite institutions and courts to dance to the pied piper at the Centre.
Along with a perennial hatred for Pakistan, imperious nationalist pride and the Ram Temple, forceful and unconditional unification of Kashmir with India forms the backbone of Hindutva ideology that keeps the current regime running. With this in the background, the codicil of Article 370, the essence of Jammu and Kashmir, aggressively hollowed by the BJP government is an ingredient to keep up the popular support with the majority Hindu population of India.
A year has passed since Kashmir and the Kashmiris woke up to this changed identity. The most conspicuous impact is the loss of the already fragile trust that Kashmiris had on the Centre. The removal of axial article 370 and 35A marked another major milestone in the rugged political history of betrayals following 1953 and 1987. 5th August, 2020, was a blow to the aspirations of Kashmiris who, for centuries, have nurtured their regional sense of nationalism.
The abrogation of special status was justified through armed conflict groups, and lack of progress and development. However, if one has to go with the available statistics, both reasonings can be contested. On the contrary, the former state has nosedived into uncertainty, economic crisis, and an unending spree of clampdowns. What COVID-19 unleashed on the world, the Valley has been suffering for decades, only in more brute and violent form.
Eighteen months have passed without a democratically elected legislature. The entire entourage of pro-Indian politicians, including three former chief ministers languished in jails like criminals for almost a year, and others continue being incarcerated. In a region where Kashmiri Muslims are in around 70% majority, a lone Kashmiri name seldom flashes in the administrative and bureaucratic positions of the government departments.
The Jammu Kashmir Commerce of Chambers estimates an economic loss of Rs. 17,800 crores during the first four months of the humiliating clampdown that India enforced on the Valley. The tourism industry withered away in the storm. More than 180 people stand killed, and thousands have been thrown into poverty and ubiquitous psychological humiliation.
Despite full blown violation of basic human rights, the Indian mainstream media represented and owned by Hindutva sympathisers continues to look the other way. The number of internet blockades on redundant 2G speeds following the longest over internet shut down in history is without precedent anywhere else in our times.
But some outlets have incisively painted the real image of the deserted and militarised streets. Major global platforms did their bit to showcase the plight of Kashmiris with round the clock coverage. Regardless of all their efforts, the world kept mum. In our world, commerce and capital take precedent over concern for human rights. World leaders stopped at lip service despite the sufferings of seven million people.
Months preceding the fateful day of 5th August, 2019, airlines landing at the Srinagar Airport announced the shutting off of windows in compliance with the surreptitious government order. This year, amidst a veil of coronavirus, hundreds of non-resident Kashmiris arrive daily. It is atypical to witness the influx of non-local passengers in such high numbers.
Who knows what is playing behind the curtains? After all, the demographic configuration of Kashmir is an eyesore to the Sangh Parivar. It may be soon that Israel’s style of colonisation becomes the archetype for Kashmir. Chinese ‘fixed’ the demography in Tibet with the Chinese Han population in a similar fashion to uproot dissent for once and all. Despots can go any mile.
Political setup is painfully absent and every voice that used to raise concern is kept silent by the fright of incarceration. Bonds are the ticket to freedom. The series of great demotions by the fascist regime has silenced any kind of revolt. Utter a word and get set for detention. Write a word and await your turn to be called up for interrogation. Dozens of journalists are already under the watchful gaze of this panopticon.
The constitutional and administrative downgrading has not stopped at the scrapping of regional autonomy. Order after the order has systematically weakened the integrity of the former state to the point that the latest diktat from the Central throne gives the army the right to occupy any piece of land without a No Objection Certificate from the Home Ministry, as mandated by a circular from 1971.
At other places, these orders have bequeathed the absolute rights of Kashmiris in hands of the administration to dismiss ‘Kashmiri’ IAS and IPS officers if found guilty of any level of ‘transgression’ on national security and integrity as conceived by the political supremos in New Delhi.
The Kashmiri movement for self-determination is challenged by this most recent, egregious unfolding. The orientation of local political parties has been rattled by the very Centre in which they invested trust for decades. Separatists are nowhere to be seen. Their countenance and speeches have been suppressed and silenced.
Other fronts are alerted by the ambivalent intentions of the Centre. The Centre is trying to harbour sympathetic political agents who belong to the Valley and it is inevitable that they will find some. But collective conscience needs to prevail over sinister plans. In case of the Kashmir issue, the BJP is no different than the Congress. The latter has more blood on its hand. The radical change to political structures demands a radical shift in the Kashmiri movement as well. What face it will stand with is to be seen and waited for.
About the author: Sheikh Muzamil Hussain is an architect-planner and alumnus of CEPT University, Ahmedabad. He belongs from Srinagar, Kashmir.