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India’s Central Government Takes Control in Kashmir

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
2018-06-20
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A masked man holds a stone before throwing it at Indian security forces during a protest after Eid prayers in Srinagar, India, June 16, 2018.
A masked man holds a stone before throwing it at Indian security forces during a protest after Eid prayers in Srinagar, India, June 16, 2018.
AP

India’s central government took direct control of Indian Kashmir on Wednesday, a day after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled out of a state coalition ruling the region where troops have struggled to quell a decades-old uprising.

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind approved a request sought Tuesday by Jammu and Kashmir state Gov. N.N. Vohra under provisions of its constitution that allow it to be placed under governor’s rule – or direct control by the central government based in New Delhi – for six months, officials said.

This marked the fourth time in a decade that New Delhi has placed Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir – as Indian-administered Kashmir is known – under governor’s rule, in which the state assembly is dissolved or kept in suspended animation.

BJP, the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cited a spike in regional violence as well as the failure of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), its Kashmiri partner in the 3-year-old state-level coalition, as reasons for the move.

“PDP’s policy toward extremist forces and militants had led to a spike in violence, radicalization among youths and worsening security situation in the state. Therefore BJP decided to pull out,” Aijaz Hussian Rather, the vice president of BJP national youth wing, told BenarNews.

“The PDP was also keen to seek extension of the month-long truce, which was simply impractical. The terrorists took advantage of the truce to unleash more terror activities in the region and, ironically, PDP still wanted an extension,” he said. “The larger national interest was at stake and therefore BJP had no option but to pave the way for governor’s rule.”

More than two dozen suspected militants were killed along the Line of Control (LoC) in gunfights that took place amid anti-India protests during Ramadan, following the death of a protester who was allegedly crushed under a police vehicle on June 1 in Srinagar. LoC is the de facto border dividing Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

On Tuesday, security forces killed three suspected militants in a gunfight in south Kashmir, authorities said.

During the truce period from May 17 to June 17, more than 70 civilians and a dozen security personnel were injured in a series of grenade attacks by suspected militants.

PDP leader resigns

PDP holds 28 seats and BJP holds 25 in the 87-member state legislative assembly. The state coalition government, which was formed in March 2015, had vowed to make efforts to ensure peace in the violence-ravaged region where more than 70,000 people have been killed in a three-decade insurgency.

Despite agreeing to govern together, the two parties differed on policies including a law that does not allow military personnel to face criminal prosecution in the region. BJP sought a hard-line approach in governing while PDP pushed for dialogue.

After BJP withdrew its support for the PDP on Tuesday, PDP President and state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti announced her resignation.

She said the alliance had been cobbled together “although this was against the sentiments of the people,” according to the Associated Press.

“Our aim was reconciliation and dialogue,” she said, adding that politicians had hoped the alliance with Modi’s party would “help in bringing out the state from its situation of turmoil.”

Meanwhile, another PDP official called on BJP to establish a people-friendly policy in the region.

“People are reeling under violence for nearly three decades’ and there is a need to win their hearts to accomplish peace in the region,” Tahir Sayeed, a PDP leader and media analyst in the former chief minister’s office, told BenarNews.

“PDP will continue to pursue its agenda of reconciliation and dialogue to find an amicable settlement to the Kashmir issue,” he said.

The dispute over the region is the main source of tension between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

“BJP’s muscular policy will not help restore peace in the state but will aggravate the situation further,” Sayeed said, adding that people were feeling relieved because of a month long-ceasefire during Ramadan, but BJP called it off.

An already volatile situation

Commenting on the dramatic developments in Indian Kashmir since Tuesday, a political analyst said he feared that the situation there could go from bad to worse under governor’s rule.

“As you know the situation is already volatile on the ground. To make matters worse, the authorities in Delhi may ask security forces to intensify operations against militants, which often lead to civilian killings and aggravates the situation further,” Srinagar-based analyst Noor Baba told BenarNews.

people will also feel the absence of an elected government as bureaucrats may become inaccessible to them, he said, adding that the only advantage the rule may have is that people might get rid of growing nepotism.

“As far as restoring lasting peace in Kashmir is concerned, it can be achieved only by means of a sustainable dialogue among India, Pakistan and representatives of Kashmiri people,” Baba said.

Locals’ offered mixed reactions.

“In the absence of elected representatives, people will face tough times to get their grievances addressed and works done in their respective areas. The only advantage they may have is that the governor may put a check on corruption, which was rampant under the coalition,” Srinagar resident Tanveer Ahmad told BenarNews.

“However, security forces may now feel totally free to use excessive force against protesters and militants, which may further worsen the situation on the ground. Earlier, under some pressure from the PDP leadership, the forces exercised some restraint dealing with protesters or while launching anti-militancy operations.”

Sheikh Nazir from Baramulla disagreed.

“The ground situation may improve under governor’s rule as security forces’ may come under pressure to launch a full-scale operation against militants and stone pelters to restore peace in the region,” Nazir told BenarNews, referring to anti-India protestors who throw rocks at Indian security forces.

“It may also help put a check on growing corruption that is badly affecting poor people and depriving deserving candidates of government jobs,” he said.

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