The way to you-know-where, they say, is paved with good intentions. After the results of the last assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir were in hand, it seemed a logical assumption to the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that joining with the BJP would yield a secular bond between the two major parts of the state and that aligning with the Narendra Modi-led Central government could produce bold initiatives vis a vis the contention with Pakistan. Modi, it could be argued, is more an RSS prime minister than Atal Bihari Vajpayee and given his clear majority in Parliament, he could sell solutions to Hindu India not conceivable earlier.
There were those who pointed out that the result of such a line of thinking might turn out to be the opposite of what Mufti had envisaged. Alas, that prophecy seems to have come true.
The PDP’s ally, far from showing any interest in implementing the political understanding inscribed in the agenda of the alliance, seemed to set about pushing the good old RSS agenda — exclusive Pandit colonies, Sainik settlements, a burgeoning hum about the full integration of Kashmir via the abrogation of Article 370 etc. This push came to be seen popularly as the concerted encroachment of a Hinduised state. With nothing concrete in hand on other fronts — the return of power plants, funds for flood relief, plans for employment generation — the killing of Burhan Wani brought this concatenation of circumstances to a flashpoint. The pellet gun helped to turn what might have been regarded as a liberal opinion into a determined political unity with the forces that came to the fore in fighting off what came to be seen as a suppression of local sentiments and aspirations.
Currently, the prospects — the belated all-party delegation visit notwithstanding — in the Valley seem to hold little hope of a turn-around even in the short term. As to the long-term, one recalls what Farooq Abdullah had said to the powers that were in 2000, after the state assembly had passed the autonomy resolution and sent it to the central government for adoption — that were the moment to be lost, a time would come when the Centre might offer autonomy and be rejected by J&K. Alarmingly, one fears, that moment might well be at hand now. It seems clear that forces inimical to the accession of Kashmir are encouraged to think that the present juncture may yield a fruit well beyond autonomy.
Such forces, of course, need to answer whether they truly believe that relentless stone-pelting, hartals alternating with curfews, will, as a practice in itself, lead to a break from the Union. Or whether such an intifada-like procedure will in time draw enough armed support from across the line of control to bring the Indian state to its knees. Or whether the continued suffering inflicted on young Kashmiris will lead to a surge of opinion in the rest of India that will make them back an insurrection for a secession of the Valley. After all, any leadership that finds the kind of allegiance that seems now in evidence in the Valley must have a clearer vision and blueprint than what it now seems to possess. Just as the Indian state must answer for how long and how far it can retain its credibility if no political breakthroughs are either attempted or achieved.
If we look back to the sort of secular-democratic and humanist faith that was voiced by the legendary Sheikh Abdullah in his speech to the state constituent assembly on November 5, 1951, the Indian state seems to have assiduously destroyed what could have been an exemplary story of successful democracy for the world. After over 70 years of bumbling and betrayal, there seems little prospect that it will now shame itself into acknowledging that history and return to the promise of the covenant of 1952. But if not, what else may it do?