The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to play dangerous politics in India, which is just days away from a general election. On Monday, the BJP released a manifesto that made 75 promises, one of which is to scrap Article 370 of the Indian constitution — which gives special rights to Kashmiri citizens — and Article 35A — which prevents Indian citizens who are not permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir (JK) from buying land in the state.
The BJP and Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi have long opposed these articles, saying that they only hinder Kashmir’s integration with the rest of India. The fact remains, however, that Jammu and Kashmir is still disputed territory.
Kashmiri political leaders have warned that any such move would be folly, and would only bring further unrest to the Valley, where the anti-India insurgency has only intensified during the BJP’s tenure.
Repealing Articles 370 and 35A would result in a backlash by insurgents, only creating more chaos in the region. This would include attacks against Indian citizens attempting to move into JK, as they would be seen as trying to dilute the Muslim Kashmiri demographic in disputed territory. None of this can lead to a peaceful outcome.
The announcement as a whole is yet more exploitation of anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiment in India. This was to be expected, as pollsters have already revealed that the BJP and Modi got a political boost in February after claims were made by New Delhi that India had bombed a terrorist safe haven in Pakistan.
PM Modi and the BJP need to understand that while divisive politics may win them some victories in the short term, the fires they start will not be easy to put out. It is hoped that if the BJP finds itself in power again, it will attempt to change the trajectory it has been on vis a vis Kashmir.