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Article 370 turns election agenda

Jammu and Kashmir is again in the media headlines for two reasons – controversy over the demand for revocation of Article 370 and stepped-up infiltrations over escalated terror violence by Pakistan-based terrorists. Come elections and politicians will raise issues which have the potential of fetching votes. This is the case with the demand for revocation of Article 370 which provides special status to the state. With the Lok Sabha and Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls due in 2014 a controversy over revoking the Article has been once more generated. In the forefront of the demand is BJP while the dominant ruling coalition – the National Conference and the main opposition party PDP along with some other Valley-based parties are vehemently opposed to the demand.

Responding to CM Omar Abdullah’s criticism against Advani’s demand for abrogation of Article 370, the BJP stalwart advised him to ‘never use offensive language’ and words like ‘cheating’ and ‘deceiving’. Omar hit back asking the BJP veteran to explain his silence on issue of the Article between 1998 and 2004 when the NDA ruled at the Centre. The BJP had been silent on this issue with prior knowledge that Kashmiris are opposed to the abrogation of the Article. Along with this demand for revocation of 370, the BJP had sidelined its two other issues of building the Ram Mandir and carrying out the Hindu Code Bill. These demands had formed its main plank in the past elections.

Soon after Narendra Modi’s appointment as BJP’s election campaign incharge, there were reports that some party leaders toyed with the idea of reviving the three long-forgotten demands. There were also hints that Modi might resurrect the RSS-BJP’s Hindutva agenda but the issues of building the temple and the Bill were virtually put under the carpet as it was perhaps realised that focusing on them before the elections might prove counter-productive for the BJP apparent plan to win over the minorities. The party ideologues must have realised that after losing the company of some of its regional allies including Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) that commanded a sizeable amount of Muslims and other backwards votes, the BJP would not be able to achieve its dream of capturing power in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Modi, who had announced a visit to meet sadhus in UP, abandoned his visit. The party has also formed a special cell to secure Muslims support. If electional proximity makes politicians raise issues designed to fetch them votes, they also push them under the carpet if they think these will harm their electoral prospects. This has happened in the case of the BJP’s three major demands.

On the issue of stepped-up infiltrations and terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir, the rise in infiltrations and terror attacks indicates that the ISI’s three-year long slowed down push of armed infiltrators into the state have proved to be short-lived. Lately terror violence has stepped up, as indicated by killing of 27 security personnel in attacks this year as compared to four during the same period last year. The first was the suicide attack of a Lashkar-e-Taiba at CRPF camp in Bemina in March last followed by the attack on the Army convoy at Hyderpora bypass in Srinagar on 24 June on the eve of the visit of PM and Sonia Gandhi to the state. Eight army troopers were killed in this attack.

Even though the Hizbul Mujahideen- a Kashmir-based terrorist outfit had claimed responsibility for the 24 June, attack security agencies are convinced that the two attackers were part of a group of ten Pakistani LeT terrorists who infiltrated in two batches last October. Two of them were killed as they ran into an Army patrol. According to intelligence agencies, Fahadullah-LeT’s divisional commander in north Kashmir who was arrested a couple of months back had revealed important information in his interrogation. He said that after the crackdown on LeT following the 26/11 Mumbai attack, the outfit’s training camp in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir was moved to a new place called Dulai located near Muzzaffarabad. These reports bring into focus the relations between the newly-elected Nawaz Sharif government and the Army.

In glaring contrast to his predecessor Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan Army chief Gen. Kayani has been on a low profile mode. It may be because of the Pakistani Army’s pre-occupation with containing the increased activities of terrorists in the country. In the backdrop of these developments and the reports about the ISI urging separatists to rally around the hardliner Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and forge a common front against India, the agency’s revived aggressiveness shows it may be have deeper plans.  

Ironically, escalations in infiltrations and terror violence have taken place even when the new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have been stressing the need for normalising relations between the two countries. Before being sworn in as Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif had told an Indian reporter on 13 May that he ‘would not allow Pakistan to export terror’.
It is surprising that despite assurances about establishing bonhomie between the Pakistan’s civil authorities and the Army, infiltrations under the cover of Army’s guns are allowed to take place into Jammu and Kashmir.

Although elections are still months away, the vote catching tussles in Jammu and Kashmir and
normalisation of India-Pakistan relations are like what a wise man had said, ‘Scratch a cat and you will have a permanent job’. IPA

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