Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has very categorically conveyed to the Supreme Court that while the reduction of Jammu and Kashmir to a Union territory from full statehood is a “temporary” measure, it is not ready to offer a timeframe to the court for restoration of full statehood. It has only confirmed that Ladakh, which was hived off in August 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated, will not be incorporated.
It has taken all of five years for the Supreme Court to take cognisance of the plight of Kashmiris crushed under the boot of an authoritarian and unaccountable regime. By now, it seems unlikely that even this highest constitutional institution will restore special status to this region, which was granted under Article 370. Never mind that this lone Muslim majority territory in India voluntarily chose secular democracy, rejecting Pakistan, which was formed to fulfil Muslim communal aspirations.
It was remarkably brave of the Kashmiri Muslims of the Valley, who put behind them the Muslim massacre in Jammu of 100,000 to 500,000. Instead of being carried away by communal poison, the residents of the Valley, Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits, stood alongside the Indian armed forces to repel the Pakistani marauders who were sent to forcibly capture the state. It was under the leadership of the secular nationalist Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the first ‘Prime Minister’ of J&K. That caused a huge disappointment to the theocratic Muslim leadership of Pakistan, while secular democrats of the Indian subcontinent stood vindicated that a Muslim majority in J&K had such steadfast faith in India’s commitment to secular democracy, thanks to the vision of its founding fathers and the framers of its Constitution. But the mere mention of Article 370 today seems to raise hackles in the highest judiciary, too. Article 370, they say, is a threat to the security and integrity of India. How Mohammad Ali Jinnah must be mocking Sheikh Abdullah somewhere up there, saying, “I told you so.”
Jammu and Kashmir is suspect in the eyes of the Indian establishment, perhaps because it is also the only state with a Muslim majority. Never mind that the BJP was in the last elected government of the state.
Following Mehbooba Mufti’s resignation, President’s Rule was imposed in J&K under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution. The Union government took the plea ― and still maintains it ― that it was forced to act because of a breakdown of the constitutional machinery. Who was administering the state? The Union government through the Governor, which it is still doing.
And how is this very rationale being applied to other border states of India? Ever since the first week of May, when the border state of Manipur was racked by communal, sectarian, state-sponsored violence against the Kuki-Zumi tribal inhabitants of the Manipur hills, there have been repeated demands from all sane elements, the entire Opposition and even the national media, to dismiss BJP Chief Minister N Biren Singh and impose President’s Rule for the security and integrity of this state bordering Myanmar, and bring about reconciliation between the Kukis and the Meitei occupants of the Imphal valley. But Modi and Shah have turned a blind eye to the violence, rapes and incessant murders in Manipur, which still continue.
The latest reports state that the last batch of Kuki families living in a state of siege near the chief minister’s official residence have been evacuated to the safety of Kuki areas. N Biren Singh’s Meitei comrades openly talk of removing the Kukis entirely from Manipur. The Assam Rifles, a paramilitary outfit led by an Army general, is also suspect in their eyes. And yet Modi doesn’t see any breakdown of the constitutional machinery in Manipur. Does the Constitution countenance such ethnic cleansing? To fulfil constitutional necessity, the Manipur Assembly met for all of 11 minutes on August 29. So much for constitutional propriety!
Muslims of Uttarakhand, living there for generations, are being forcibly expelled from what they call ‘Dev Bhoomi’ by Hindutva bodies like the VHP, Bajrang Dal and saffron-clad sadhus, who openly threaten annihilation if they do not leave. Never mind that all the menial work is done by migrant Muslim labour. The constitutional guarantees to all Indians, whatever their caste, religion or region, to live and work in any part of the country, be damned. The Centre finds fault with J&K laws preventing outsiders from buying property and settling in the state of J&K, which also includes Ladakh. But in Uttarakhand, where there is no such law, this exclusion of Muslims has been going on for months. No court and no government has woken up to it.
Near Delhi, poor Muslim workers of Gurgaon and nearby areas have similarly been forced to flee their workplaces. This is the ugly face of the posh, upmarket world class township. The bulldozer action was all directed at the villagers of Nuh. Justices GS Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, who stayed the state’s communal bulldozing of Muslim homes and described it as “ethnic cleansing”, were replaced overnight and the case was assigned to a different bench. After much dilly-dallying, Bittu Bajrangi, the agent provocateur of the Nuh violence, was briefly arrested by Haryana police but bailed out soon after by a lower court. Meanwhile, the cow vigilante Monu Manesar, who is accused in the murder of Nasir and Junaid, is still in hiding in Haryana, and sharing his photos with senior BJP politicians and police officers. Finally, everyone has a right to buy property and settle in J&K but Muslims have no right to work in Uttarakhand or even Gurgaon. This is Modi’s New India.
Faraz Ahmad is a senior journalist.
This piece was first published on The India Cable – a premium newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas – and has been republished here. To subscribe to The India Cable, click here.