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Tariq Bhat
Tariq Bhat


Fearful ally

48Srinagar No relief in sight: A flood victim sits near a tent set up on the central isle of a highway in Srinagar | AFP

PDP unhappy with BJP over its hindutva agenda and lack of support for flood relief

Soon after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took oath as chief minister of the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir in March 2015, a beaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave him a tight hug. The bonhomie at display was reassuring. But a few months on, when the Mufti said that Modi should follow in Atal Bihari Vajpayee's footsteps on Kashmir, he received a stern snub instead. “I don't need advice or analysis on Kashmir,” said Modi.

After the PDP and the BJP formed an alliance, the differences have only intensified. Though the BJP conceded more cabinet berths and the chief minister's chair to the PDP, it is said that the RSS-backed party controls the government in the Muslim majority state and has reduced the authority of the chief minister.

This could be gauged from the BJP's reaction to a possible change of guard in the state. The Mufti recently hinted that he would want his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, the PDP president, to step into his shoes. But Ram Madhav, BJP's national general secretary and RSS's point man on Kashmir, said: “Talking about whether Mufti sahib will continue as chief minister is like asking whether Narendra Modi will continue as prime minister.”

The PDP's main motivation for having an alliance with the BJP was generous funding from the Central government for the state's development and the rehabilitation of the 2014 flood victims. “We were out of power for six years,” said a young PDP leader, who is in the cabinet. “The BJP was untouchable. [But] we thought they would provide good funding at least to come to power in Jammu and Kashmir.”

But slowly, the PDP has realised the alliance has dented its image and credibility. The PDP stands accused of having provided the RSS a foothold in the state. Mehbooba, however, downplayed the accusation at a recent media summit in Delhi. “In a democratic process, no one gives anybody a foothold,” she said. “My father took the decision in the interest of future generations with a vision, and he believes he would be able to deliver both on economic and governance fronts.” But she did voice her concern over the increasing incidents of intolerance. She said it was important for the Central government to deal with “fringe elements” who were “misusing the name of Hinduism” and comparing it to nationalism. Such elements, she said, were no different from the forces responsible for unrest in countries such as Syria. “The mentality is the same,” she said.

In Kashmir, Mehbooba's statement was seen as too little too late. The arson attack by Hindu extremists on a truck, in which Zahid Rasool Bhat, a boy from south Kashmir, died, has sullied the PDP's image as a pro-people party. In another instance of intolerance, independent legislator Engineer Rashid, who had organised a beef party, was assaulted by BJP members in the assembly. Following the two incidents, PDP MP Tariq Hameed Karra asked his party leadership to reconsider its tie-up with the BJP. “At a time when the minorities in India are looking towards a united leadership to counter the radical hindutva elements, the PDP should not be seen as cosying up to such elements for the sake of power,” he said.

The PDP had hoped the BJP would focus on development and not force its hindutva agenda on people. But the BJP has slowly pushed on with its hindutva agenda, be it the cleansing of Muslim nomads from the forests of Bathindi and Sunjwan in Jammu under the pretext of reclaiming forest land; forcing a beef ban in the state; or resorting to violence in the assembly and outside. Many are surprised by the belligerence of hindutva forces against the majority community, which has unnerved even the remaining Kashmiri Pandits in the valley.

The disconnect between Kashmir and Jammu has further increased. “Today we have reached a situation where religion is a key criterion in allotting important [bureaucratic] positions in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a Muslim in Kashmir and a Hindu in Jammu,” said a senior administrative officer. Besides, there is increasing communal hostility in Jammu. On December 3, two trucks carrying buffaloes were torched allegedly by members of the Bajrang Dal and the Vishva Hindu Parishad in Rajouri. Sources said the BJP was trying to build a memorial for its founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee in Srinagar, which is likely to evoke a reaction from separatists and could fan communal tensions. The BJP has also embarked on a drive to attract more members to its fold, including Muslims. “We have three lakh members in Kashmir and 50,000 in Srinagar,” claimed BJP spokesman Khalid Jehangir.

The biggest disappointment for the alliance, however, has been the lack of support for flood victims. The Modi government has reduced the proposed Rs44,000 crore relief package to a mere Rs11,000 crore, which would be split between three regions—Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. As per government estimates, 2,61,361 structures were damaged in the calamity. Of these, 21,485 were completely damaged. As per official figures, more than Rs300 crore has been given to affected families.

Also, Modi's announcement of Rs80,000 crore assistance has drawn a lot of criticism from commoners and businessmen. “Instead of an immediate relief package, the prime minister has allocated funds to the tune of Rs80,000 crore to be spent over a period of five years,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “This is normal allocation of funds, which the state and Central government are trying to masquerade as a development package.” As Wani said, a major chunk of the funds—Rs42,611 crore—has been allocated for development of roads and highways, and Rs11,708 crore for power and new and renewable energy.

Hardly any money has been allocated for flood victims, many of whom will face yet another harsh winter without a roof over their head. Mughli Begum, 70, lives in a shed at Fruit Mandi Bemina in Srinagar along with several other families. “I am a widow, and I lived in a makeshift shelter at Safa Kadal, which was destroyed in the floods,” she said. “Now we live here hoping some help will arrive.” Young Saima, Mughli's neighbour, asks: “Where is the help the prime minister announced? We lost our house in the floods, and then we were shifted here and left to die.”

One-year itch
* The BJP-PDP alliance has developed cracks in less than a year after coming to power
* The BJP controls the government even though the Mufti is the chief minister
* The BJP is opposed to Mehbooba Mufti taking over as chief minister
* The PDP is unhappy that the BJP is pushing its hindutva agenda in the state
* The PDP is disappointed with the Central assistance for the 2014 flood victims
* The Modi government reduced a proposed Rs44,000-crore relief package to Rs11,000 crore
* Modi's announcement of Rs80,000 crore assistance is actually to be spent over five years and would not provide immediate relief to flood victims

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