India may reap the whirlwind

Tamil Nadu\'s connection to the Kashmir question goes back a few decades.

What Tamil Nadu political parties think about the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A may mean little in the larger scheme of things in a high stake gambit. But Tamil Nadu's connection to the Kashmir question goes back a few decades as Sheikh Abdullah, once the Prime Minister and then Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, was incarcerated in the salubrious hill station of Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu.

Giving him a picturesque location in the hills akin to his home in the Valley, Sheikh Abdullah was kept in a pretty little cottage named Kohinoor on the road leading to the Kurunji Andavar temple. He had been out of favour after Nehru's death but only in 1971 was he brought to Kodaikanal when he was exiled from the Valley for about a year and a half. His fortunes were to improve since his stay in Tamil Nadu as he struck a bargain with the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi in a formal pact of 1974 and ruled Kashmir as CM again.

The politics of Kashmir have been even more tortuous than the snakes and ladders game it seemed to be in the time of the "Sher-e-Kashmir". It would have seemed unimaginable then that the special status of his Kashmir would have been taken away in Sheikh Abdullah's time. It has taken several decades after his death in 1982 for an idea that was probably being shaped around that time that equality had to prevail. The nature of the gambit would have been too huge to contemplate until its time came in 2019 with the second government of Prime Minister of Narendra Modi that has opened itself to challenge abroad diplomatically and at home politically and legally with the Supreme Court forming a five- judge Constitution bench to go into the issue.

As is to be expected, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has stepped up his war rhetoric. To add muscle to it, Pakistan has test fired a surface-to-surface limited range Ghaznavi missile. Imran also called for street protests in POK in support of the people of Kashmir. Pakistan also made a futile attempt to take the issue to the UN Security Council, which, after a closed door meeting, dispersed without any decision, but upholding India's stance that it is a bilateral matter to be settled with Pakistan in accordance with the spirit of the Shimla Agreement. Also US President Donald Trump, after offering twice to mediate between the two countries to defuse tension, piped down at last for now, after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G17 summit. The US has always had a strategic interest in Pakistan. More so now as the US plans to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. Likewise, China, which holds Aksai Chin, has also always been with Pakistan. Having failed to get the US to mediate on Kashmir, Pakistan is reported to be planning a 26/11 type Mumbai attack. The Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the Air Force have been put on maximum alert following intelligence reports that a group of Pakistani commandos and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists trained in underwater attack, have infiltrated through Kutch. As a result, security has been beefed up in Gujarat ports.

When it comes to external threat, India stands as one as it has always been. But it is one thing to send a strong a message to Pakistan that its restraint should not be taken as weakness, a point Islamabad also makes. It is also understandable that India cannot be complacent as Pakistan is a failed state and Imran Khan is under pressure from home to do something after what BJP supporters call another surgical strike in Kashmir.

Pakistan even hints at another war. The truth is the people of Kashmir were with India in the four previous wars between the two countries. But by unleashing stern measures in the valley after the repeal of 370 like deploying thousands of troops, clamping indefinite ban orders, snapping telecommunication lines, shutting schools and colleges and, most importantly, by jailing moderate leaders like Umar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and thereby silencing the voice of moderation, the Modi Government may have risked giving a new legitimacy to terrorism, which it seeks to bring down through direct rule from Delhi.

Parliament, through two resolutions in mid-1990s, said the only unfinished agenda in regard to Kashmir was retrieval of the territory under Pakistan's control. Now Jammu and Kashmir which Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India is no longer thsere. Is it not a violation of the treaty of accession? As for 370, it has already been whittled down over the years and most of the Central laws are already applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. It does not have a constituent assembly, a Prime Minister or a President or a flag. It only has a penal code.

The justification that the valley has to be centrally administered to fight terrorism is questionable. Even otherwise, incidents of terrorism are at the lowest in last five years, though the killing of terrorist Burhani unleashed very violent street protests. Pulwana was again a one off incident though it was the first car bomb attack in the region. The people of Kashmir, by voting in successive elections, have shown that they are already integrated with India. So also its leaders like Farooq and Omar Abdullah who have had held posts in Central Ministries and Mehbooba Mufti whose PDP shared power with the BJP until the marriage of convenience ended in a divorce. The fact is that Jammu and Kashmir was the only Muslim majority State in India and the BJP always opposed its special status. Now it has done away with it thanks to its majority in Parliament.

(The writer is a senior journalist based in Chennai)

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