I have a Voltaire-esque take on the BJP’s controversial flag-hoisting plan in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk: “Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege to do so.” The French author and humanist made the observation in his Essay on Tolerance.
The BJP brass would have one believe the odyssey stopped in its tracks aimed at showing Kashmir as an integral part of India. But is it the right way to sell the idea that’s India to alienated Kashmiris influenced by separatist forces?
Certainly not, said Shanti Veer Kaul, political analyst with strong roots in the Valley. He felt the point would be better made with ruling party leaders doing the honours at official R-Day functions and the BJP asking its cadres to hoist flags atop their houses.
The BJP has pockets of support among Kashmir’s Muslims. But their activism, though of greater value and meaning on the ground, wouldn’t have generated the thunder, the media hype it wanted around the over 3,000-km flag-march.
The Centre and CM Omar Abdullah could indeed have handled the issue more tactfully than going public with their disapproval. But it’s doubtful whether the BJP would’ve obliged on being approached by the CM it wanted removed at the height of the stir that left many young Kashmiris dead.
The yatra wrapped in faux nationalism is as much about using Kashmir, cross-border terrorism and Pakistan to consolidate the saffron family’s communal base. Or else, why would Nitin Gadkari have simultaneously commissioned a film showing the Kashmir imbroglio as Nehru’s doing?
While in power at the Centre from 1998-2004, the BJP never ventured to hoist the tri-colour in Srinagar. That’s proof enough of its objective this time around: revival of the agenda it shunned to mollycoddle NDA partners.
There can be no other interpretation of echoes during the yatra of its stance against the common civil code and article 370 of the Constitution that bestows special status on Kashmir.
In its zeal to frontload issues on the backburner — while defending YS Yeddyurappa’s shenanigans in Karnataka —the BJP has badly hurt its own cause. There are fissures now in the broader Opposition unity over price rise, corruption and the UPA’s sordid governance. That it again chose Kashmir as the launch pad for its Hindutva pitch after the ‘Kashmir versus Jammu’ agitation sparked by the Amarnath land transfer during UPA-I, is as unfortunate as it’s dangerous.
Regardless of where it ends, the yatra could even make separatists close ranks after cathartic acceptance of fratricidal killings of some of their top leaders. If the BJP honestly seeks Kashmir’s emotional integration, it must work with other pro-India forces to deny Pak-sponsored elements a free run of the political space between elections. Only the idea that’s India can defeat the separatist rant.
Parties with legislative force in J&K have to aim for constant grass-root presence — rather than dispatching cadres for polls or one-off TV spectacles. That’s what Gandhi did in riot-ravaged Noakhali in 1946. He lived and worked there to restore trust between communities torn apart by communal violence.