Monday, November 9, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Nov 9, 2015

Modi's setbacks Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first visit this year to Indian Held Kashmir has not gone off according to plan. Despite the detention of some 400 Kashmiri leaders of the Hurriyet Conference and their workers and strict security that virtually reduced Srinagar to an armed garrison bristling with soldiers, the Kashmiri people roundly rejected Modi's overtures. At a rally in Srinagar's cricket stadium, Modi announced a package of Rs 800 billion for rehabilitation of the victims of last year's worst floods in more than a century, creating jobs for youth by improving education and promoting industries such as tourism and cashmere wool. However, curfews, tight security, heavy deployment of paramilitary personnel and sharpshooters failed to quell the protests and shutdowns that gripped the whole of Indian Held Kashmir. Schools and colleges were shut and the Indian authorities suspended the Internet for fear it could be used by the protesters to organise resistance to the visit. Clashes with police and security forces by protesters attempting to take out a rally resulted in the death of at least one young man. Mirwaiz Farooq and Ali Gilani both spoke with one voice from house arrest that the Kashmiri people's sacrifices could not be 'bought'. They both returned the narrative to the irreducible right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people. Though the UN has long ago betrayed its responsibility in this regard, its resolutions are still in the field. Even former chief minister Omar Abdullah castigated Modi's attempt to weigh the Kashmir issue in rupees and paisas. Engineer Rashid, who was at the centre of an attack by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPAs in the state's Assembly recently for throwing a 'beef' party, was also detained after he took out a black flag protest. Protests were also held against Modi's visit in Azad Kashmir. This proves that the hearts of Kashmiris across the Line of Control (LoC) beat as one despite the division. As if the Kashmir visit on Saturday's outcome were not bad enough in terms of exposing the ground realities in the state, BJP received a drubbing in the much anticipated Bihar state elections at the hands of a Lalu-Congress combine. Despite the BJP being part of the coalition government in Indian Held Kashmir and in power at the Centre, Modi's 'reception' in Srinagar and the heavy electoral defeat in Bihar indicate that Modi may be in trouble. He had been elected last year largely on the anticipation that he would succeed in reproducing the economic 'miracle' he had managed while chief minister of Gujarat, a tenure that saw the worst pogrom of Muslims in that state in living memory. But what Modi and the BJP failed to realise was that the combination of economic development and a hate-filled Hindutva agenda that seemingly served them well in Gujarat would be difficult, if not impossible, to pull off in India as a whole. The ethnic, class and caste reality of India is much more complex than such simplistic prescriptions could address. Added to this truth are the failure of the Modi government so far to live up to its 'promise' of economic development and the rising crescendo of resistance to the tide of intolerance and hate being fuelled by Shiv Sena and others, on which Modi has adopted a studied silence. This has convinced many secular minded intellectuals and celebrities in India to protest through messages and the return in protest of national awards. All rational, democratic, secular forces in India (and their ranks are formidable) have recognised the threat that Modi and the Sangh Parivar's Hindutva agenda presents to a country that could be torn apart by such divisive politics. Modi and the BJP have erred grievously in thinking India could so easily be 'saffronised'. His predecessor as BJP prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was wise enough to recognise the limits of the appeal of the saffron brigade. He was also a peacemaker. Modi on the other hand has recklessly thrown all caution to the winds internally in pushing (or being complicit in) a Hindutva drive, and externally in stoking tensions with Pakistan, the latter possessing the unthinkable possibility of mutual annihilation. The Indian electorate may already be having second thoughts if not ruing the day they chose Modi to lead the country. The portents therefore for Modi and the BJP's future political fortunes appear bleaker by the day.

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