Does Kashmir Matter to Mainland Indians When They Go to Vote?
The BJP snapped ties with PDP in J&K.
The BJP snapped ties with PDP in J&K.(Image altered by The Quint)

Does Kashmir Matter to Mainland Indians When They Go to Vote?

Kashmir has once again been dominating the discourse in mainstream media, ever since the BJP broke off from its alliance with PDP. It’s said that undercurrents of a rift between the two partners had been felt for a long time. However, the brutal assassination of veteran journalist and Rising Kashmir Editor-in-Chief Syed Shujaat Bukhari, followed closely by the abduction and murder of Army soldier Aurangzeb, ostensibly provided a “nationalistic excuse” to BJP to finally withdraw support to its partner PDP.

Also Read: Hope, Questionable Intent, Fear: Many Shades of BJP-PDP Alliance

Shujaat Bukhari’s Death & Aftermath

The cause behind the murder of Shujaat Bukhari is still a mystery to most people in Kashmir – despite a special investigation team (SIT) constituted by the Jammu & Kashmir Police putting the blame on militants. Whatever be the truth about Shujaat’s murder, the people of Kashmir have obvious reasons for looking at this investigation with some degree of cynicism.

Firstly, for the people of the Valley to regain faith in the investigations conducted by government bodies, which have often been prejudiced, would be difficult.

Second, it is still bewildering to the people of the Valley as to the exact reason behind Shujaat’s murder, as, everybody who has ever wished for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, considered the journalist to be a voice of sanity and reason. So, the dominant public opinion is that there was no apparent transgression for which Shujaat ought to have been silenced by militants.

As far as the BJP-PDP divorce is concerned, it is largely being viewed as a strategy to whip up nationalistic passions in the Hindi-speaking belt, in the run up to its ‘mission 2019’, to project itself as the only party with strong and uncompromising concern for security, sovereignty and national interest – for which it is ready to give up its chair. This “national interest” has become a hackneyed phrase, and the nature of policy towards Kashmir has become the predominant parameter for gauging the national interest of a party, when there are other, more important issues that have a strong bearing on national interest.

Also Read: To Kashmiri Pandits, Does a Ravaged Valley Still Feel Like Home? 

Kashmir as a Vote-Bank

The biggest tragedy with Kashmir is that it has been dragged into the national discourse and made a part of vote-bank politics. Kashmir has fallen victim to rabble-rousers, jingoistic national media and hyper nationalists. The litmus test for one’s nationalism and patriotism is his or her sentiments on Kashmir. Any soft talk on Kashmir or granting some concession to its people is tantamount to being unpatriotic and antinational. Many people in mainland India perceive Kashmiris as an ungrateful lot who bite the hand that feeds them, but never is it pondered upon, as to why the people of the Valley are so unthankful?

Over the years, the much-touted rhetoric of the politicians of India about Kashmir has been that a Muslim-majority state chose to join India rather than aligning with Pakistan, which bears testimony to India’s secular and pluralistic ethos.

Geo-strategic importance and hydroelectric potential apart, a simple question could be asked: how does Kashmir matter to a common citizen of mainland India? I don’t think a common voter in mainland India decides his/her vote by first thinking of Kashmir. Based on rationality, how does Kashmir matter to a voter from UP, Karnataka or for that matter, somebody from Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh? They have their own issues. They want jobs, development, cheap commodities and decent livelihoods from politicians. The sad state of affairs in Kashmir is hardly on anyone’s mind while pressing the button on an EVM.

For the Sake of Kashmir & Kashmiris

I do agree that the sentiment on the turf in mainland India is to have Kashmir within India. I also agree that most of the people of India deem the demand for azadi as radical, off-limits, and a highly unpalatable demand by youngsters out on the streets of Kashmir.

Congress tried to satisfy the collective conscience of the people of India by hurriedly and secretly crucifying Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru just before the country was gearing up for the 2014 national elections.

This was an attempt at damage control by Congress (because of the involvement of its certain ministers in rampant corruption) to turn Afzal Guru’s crucifixion into nationalistic fervour so that it could reap some political dividends. But did it work for Congress? No. Rather, Congress badly lost the 2014 parliamentary elections.

Even if solving the K-issue costs a party an election, it would be a temporary electoral loss, which is a very small price to pay for the happiness of Kashmiris. Also, people do tend to forget things. Had not that been the case, then it would have been difficult for the Congress to have made a comeback in the Punjab elections, which was the ruling party during the 1984 Sikh riots, and instrumental in crushing the Khalistani movement.

The sooner the Indian politicians realise the myth of Kashmir as a vote-bank, the sooner will the hurdles in the resolution of the Kashmir issue go away.

It’s high time that a proper narrative is built based on the truthful historical perspective of Kashmir, and taken to the Indian masses. New Delhi’s deceit right from the inception of this issue, needs to be admitted.

(The author is a PhD research scholar & a writer in the Department of Medical Microbiology, PGI, Chandigarh. He can be reached at raeesbio@gmail.com. His twitter handle is @raeesbio.This is a personal blog and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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