SRINAGAR: Most people in Kashmir think that the BJP's decision to withdraw support from the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government was 'part of a grand strategy' of the national party with an eye on the 2019 general election, according to a report prepared by former Union minister Yashwant Sinha-led delegation which visited the valley recently.
"Most Kashmiris believe that the manner in which the BJP masterminded the fall of the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government had little to do with the situation in the valley."
"The local perception is that the withdrawal of support was a part of a grand strategy of the BJP with an eye on the 2019 general election," the report by Sinha-led Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) read.
The 80-year-old Sinha, who has been a vocal critic of the current BJP leadership, had quit the party in April and had announced the launch of a campaign to "save democracy" in the country.
The CCG has been engaging in informal talks with a cross section of society in Jammu and Kashmir.
It said the BJP perhaps felt that by going along with the PDP, "an impression was gaining ground that the party favoured secessionists and her policies were more focused on the Kashmir valley to the detriment of Jammu and Ladakh".
"The common perception was that the Narendra Modi government had nothing much to showcase in terms of its achievements for the 2019 general election, there were no new fault lines emerging in Indian polity which could be exploited electorally, hence the fall-back option of using Kashmir to communally polarise the electorate in the state as well as the rest of India."
"The Kashmiris think that the harder the slap on their face, the better the electoral fallout in the rest of India. Most are reconciled, however, to the fact that they have been reduced to a pawn in the larger politics of the BJP," the report read.
The Kashmiris tend to think that the PDP was taken by surprise by the timing of the development as the chief minister was holding meetings at the state secretariat, including the one with the Centre's interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma on June 19, when her fate was being decided in Delhi, the CCG said.
"Had she known what was coming, they felt, she herself would have withdrawn support to pre-empt the BJP and gained political mileage," it said.
On the overall situation in the state, the CCG claimed it was 'alarming' and did not show any signs of improvement.
"The overall political and security situation in the Kashmir valley did not show any indication of improving. While the general public was shedding no tears after the collapse of the BJP-PDP alliance, it was also not enthused by the imposition of Governor's rule. There was a sense of dejection and expectation of worse to come as the discourse on Kashmir seemed to be becoming more aggressive by the day," it said.
"No one expected the Modi government to take a peace initiative. People were already looking beyond the next general election due in April-May 2019 and hoping for a change in Delhi's policies after that. Until then the people believed that harsh security measures or 'danda-raj', as they called it, was likely to continue as the dominant doctrine, irrespective of who implemented it."
"The change of guard in Srinagar would make no difference. The political space in the valley has shrunk and along with it the prospect of a dialogue for peace has also become distant," the report said.
It said the most disturbing aspect of the present situation was that the Kashmiri youth was "under nobody's control".
"Such was the sense of disempowerment and helplessness among the youngsters that not even parental control seemed to work on those intent on joining the ranks of militants," the CCG claimed.
"There was "glamorisation of violence" among them. The youth read about the lynching of members of the minority community in the rest of India and this probably further "fuelled their antipathy towards the Indian state", it added.
"The overall message that seemed to have gone around was that Delhi either did not recognise the Kashmir issue as political or that even if it did, it did not want to do anything about it. This perception might become very difficult for Indian democracy to deal with, even if there were a change of guard in Delhi in May 2019," the CCG said.
Referring to the Centre's "unilateral ceasefire" for the month of Ramzan, it said most of the Kashmiris felt that there were two positive outcomes of the truce "civilian killings" and "incidents of stone-pelting by protestors" came down drastically "as there were no offensive operations".
"And as a result youngsters did not get in retaliatory action by the security forces. The security forces did not move out unless they had specific information about the presence of militants. This created a positive feeling among the common people," the group said.
The CCG, which visited the valley from June 19 to 23, held interactions in Srinagar with civil society representatives, journalists and political leaders -- including former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Abdul Ghani Bhat.
However, it said, the entire exercise was 'overshadowed' by the political developments leading up to the imposition of Governor's rule in the state and the fear instilled in civil society in the wake of veteran journalist Shujaat Bukhari's brutal murder.