The public speeches, statements and behaviour of BJP leaders hardly enhance the credibility of India. They want to turn the armed forces into an electoral ally with the blatant politicisation of their actions. This was typified in the statements of several BJP office bearers like BS Yeddyurappa, who said that his party would win 22 seats in Karnataka after the strike, or the Jharkhand BJP president, who claimed a win in all 14 seats in that state, or the Delhi BJP chief who tried a crass takeover of the Army uniform, flaunting it as though it were a party flag.
BJP president Amit Shah claims that 250 terrorists were killed in India's air strike in Balakot while his colleague SS Ahluwalia, a minister in the Modi government, informs the country that in fact the aim was precisely to avoid human casualties in the Balakot strike; that it was meant to send a message to Pakistan. Who then is the liar? While the Foreign Secretary claims terrorists, their trainers and infrastructure were destroyed, the Air Force chief snubbed this kind of talk with his statement that it is not the job of the armed forces to count casualties. The international press has questioned the veracity of the figures of casualties and damage. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped the meeting of opposition parties and even today, the government not just refuses to share information but also wants to silence questions with bullying, intimidation and accusations.
The post-Pulwama strategy of the ruling party for the forthcoming elections is clear enough. For the BJP and the cohorts of the Sangh Parivar, the effort is to convert the great exercise of parliamentary democracy into a platform where jingoism parades as nationalism, where national security is reduced to the size of the chest of the strongman and where all debate is damned as being "anti-national". This is very convenient for the ruling party as it faces mounting public anger against its five years of rule, which has established records in promises betrayed. Now, instead of unemployment, agrarian distress and other issues of urgent importance to the citizens of India, the ruling party wants to shift the narrative. But for a few - very few - honourable exceptions, the satellite media has done everything it possibly can to support this strategy and to whip up war hysteria, to glorify government claims, to repeat vile accusations against opposition parties, to peddle lies and fake stories without even the pretense of an impartial check.
The strategy has an even darker side. Kashmir is also to be the centrepiece of the fake nationalist discourse, to contrast the "strong" measures taken by the Modi government as opposed to the opposition parties who talk of peace and dialogue. This was seen in the immediate aftermath of Pulwama, when Kashmiri students and traders in different parts of India were targeted and attacked. These were not spontaneous actions. They were led by members of the Sangh Parivar. Vicious statements against Kashmiris by those holding constitutional posts, such as Arunachal Pradesh Governor Tathaghat Roy, or by other BJP ministers, went without a reprimand, let alone sacking.
While the campaign will run its course, the impact of the toxins injected into the polity by it will have caused much damage to India, both at the international level and internally. And as for the electoral and political benefits that Modi ji and BJP president Amit Shah hope to gain from such a campaign, they may be in for a surprise as there are many uncomfortable questions, even within the framework they want to set, which will dog them in their campaign.
Take the Prime Minister's recent tall talk about terrorism. He declared in Ahmedabad that he would "settle all scores with terrorists" and "hum unke ghar mein ghus ghus kar maarenge (we will go into their homes and kill them)". Using the same invective and aggression, he targeted the opposition parties, accusing them of helping Pakistan. He then went on an exercise of self-praise, describing himself as a man who thinks only of the country, whose nature is never to wait long and to give replies immediately. Waving his hands around, he declared that "India is in safe hands". He has even referred to his government prefixing his name - the Modi government - surely a first in India! I, Me, My. Someone should caution him that he is in danger of tripping over what seems to have become a rather oversized ego.
What is the record of his government?
Pulwama occurred when Jammu and Kashmir is under President's Rule, directly under the central government. In January 2016, when the Pathankot attack took place, the BJP was in the state government too.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee for Home Affairs, which reviewed the security arrangements, had visited the airbase where the attack took place. It said in its report on May 3, "The committee is unable to understand how despite a terror alert (having been) sounded well in advance, the terrorists managed to breach the high-security airbase and subsequently attack it." It declared that the "security cover at the airbase was not robust." It mentioned that the perimeter wall was poorly guarded and the base did not have a road around it for patrolling.
Eight months later in September 2016, there was another attack in Uri and once again, the issue of intelligence agencies was raised. Modi ji used the same language as he does today and conducted what is referred to as a surgical strike, claiming to have inflicted serious damage to terrorist camps in Pakistan. But it is clear from the increase in terrorist attacks that it had no significant impact in either reducing or preventing such incidents.
Now once again in the Pulwama attack there are serious questions. How is it that a vehicle loaded with deadly explosives could escape security scrutiny? Who is responsible for this lack of intelligence information? Why were the minimum precautions of road clearance not maintained for such a large convoy of trucks carrying CRPF jawans? Why were proper arrangements for security not made? The Modi government wants to escape these questions with its rhetoric.
It claims it killed more terrorists than under any government.
But what the BJP conceals is that it is on its watch, both in Delhi and as a partner in the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, that the number of terrorist incidents went up by 176 per cent and the loss of lives also increased.
In February, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir gave the information that there were 1,708 terrorist incidents between 2014 and 2018.
From 222 incidents in 2014, the figure decreased in 2015 to 208 incidents and then shot up to 614 terrorist incidents in 2018. The minister also informed parliament that in the same period, the number of civilians killed in Jammu and Kashmir was 138 - an increase of 35.71 per cent - and the number of security persons killed was 393, an increase of 93 per cent.
These figures reflect the result of the disastrous policies pursued by the Modi government in Jammu and Kashmir based on the ideological and political agenda of the Hindutva platform of Sangh Parivar. The refusal to accept the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted by the Constitution of India, the refusal to open a political dialogue with all stakeholders in spite of the assurances given by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the floor of parliament and the utter failure to implement a single programme of development for the people of the state are the hallmarks of this policy. There are no jobs and a total lack of opportunity; there is a serious agrarian crisis with low prices for agricultural products; the conditions of workers and employees are precarious. Where people's frustration with their plight was high, the centre and the coalition government were totally insensitive to these requirements. On the contrary, instead of development, the people were met with state repression, leading to an unprecedented alienation of a very large section in the Valley.
In 2014, the people of Jammu and Kashmir registered a high percentage of over 65 per cent in the vote for the state assembly, in spite of the threats of the separatists. The militants were isolated from the people who voted with some hope of development and peace. In five years the situation has changed so much so that in the Lok Sabha by-elections for the Srinagar seat, just about 7 per cent of people voted and the by-election for the Anantnag seat has still not been held.
Today, instead of an elected government, the people suffer under direct rule of Delhi, which makes matters worse. In these five years there has been the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalists destroying whatever remains of Kashmiriyat, and on the other hand, the increasing recruitment of local youth into the ranks of the extremists. The Modi government talks of Kashmir as a piece of territory, but never of the Kashmiri people.
It is well-known that Pakistan is providing the logistics in every sphere for terror attacks including the horrendous Pulwama attack. There is unanimity in supporting all government efforts to get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar on the global terrorists' list. But what of the battle to win back the minds and hearts of the people of Kashmir? The five years under the Modi government have highlighted the spectacular failure to do so.
Brinda Karat is a Politburo member of the CPI(M) and a former Member of the Rajya Sabha.
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