As a matter of rule, responsible political parties in the system should desist from brinkmanship and provocative language, especially in respect of sensitive questions that have a clear bearing on the nation's integrity and on national security. The ruling party bears an even greater responsibility in this regard.
It was galling, therefore, to see BJP president Amit Shah make the shocking observation that Article 35A of the Constitution, which gives the right of land ownership and certain other benefits in J&K only to hereditary citizens of the state, would be abrogated in 2020.
This provision of the Constitution is in effect a derivative of Article 370, which offers the understanding for the accession of J&K to India by Maharaja Hari Singh, who acted in a manner that made amply clear that he wished to remain independent at the end of British rule and was coerced by circumstances into acceding to India (when Pakistani raiders entered his domain and nearly grabbed Srinagar).
It’s to be hoped that not only the top leadership of the BJP-RSS but also the descendants of J&K’s last ruler remember with clarity the factors that led their “riyasat”, or princely fiefdom, to become a part of territorial India instead of holding back and be doomed to join Pakistan in the absence of timely Indian intervention.
It’s a pity that the BJP leadership at the highest level has shown ignorance or callous disregard for this past in order to be able to indirectly stoke communal fires at election time as the Kashmir Valley is Muslim-dominated.
After Balakot and Pakistan, the BJP has now picked on Kashmir to send out a dog-whistle in order to hold its core constituency, no doubt imagining it is talking up its so-called nationalist credentials in doing so. But this smacks of shortsightedness.
In displaying brinkmanship, Mr Shah has in fact offered a ballast to PDP leader and former CM Mehbooba Mufti, who has been short on credibility among the people of the Valley from the time she agreed to become the punching bag of the BJP with which she ran a coalition government in the state.
Each time BJP leaders do or say something provocative or foolish, Ms Mufti does sabre-rattling and has a chance to polish up her “Kashmiri nationalist” credentials. Responding to Mr Shah's injudicious statement on abrogating Article 35A by 2020, she primly said that in such an eventuality the same year would also become the deadline for Kashmir's stay in India. If Mr Shah's party is trying to win an election through sharp-edged statements on Kashmir, so is the PDP leader.
It is evident that Kashmir is not going anywhere in 2020, but it is no less evident that statements of important public figures raise severe doubts in the minds of the people of Kashmir, and stoke intense dissatisfaction.