Modi used Kashmir to heighten Hindu Nationalism and bolster masculine image of “Chowkidar”

In a new bid to cripple the economy of Indian-occupied Kashmir valley and heighten restrictions on movement, New Delhi banned civilian traffic on the arterial highway that connects Srinagar with Jammu, along with connecting the far-flung valleys and villages of Kashmir with economic zones. New Delhi, much like Israel’s use of unspecified threats to ban movements in Gaza, used the pretext of security threats for its military convoys to impose a two-day ban on civilian traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway, a heavy-handed measure that has caused unprecedented inconvenience to civilians, students, professionals and particularly those seeking medical attention. This decision, however, is only one of the many heavy-handed measures ordered under the brutal regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that began in 2014. The careful maneuvering of the Congress-led governments and Vajpayee’s carrot-and-stick techniques are long forgotten in the Indian-occupied valley as PM Modi has marred their minds with agonizing brutality by giving the military a free hand to counter all resistance, not just against freedom fighters but also civilian protestors, who are showered with rubber bullets fired through the notorious pellet guns. BJP has led a strategy of gaining unpopularity in Kashmir and using the occupied valley as a stage to fuel the heightening sentiments of Hindu nationalism. Analysts believe that by marginalizing the Muslims of Kashmir, Modi and BJP seek to sideline many other issues faced by the Indian nation. Nitasha Kaul, a Kashmiri novelist and associate professor of politics and international relations at the University of Westminster explained while speaking to PRI, how the Modi-led government uses the media to engage Pakistan and present Kashmir as a national security issue that needs to be dealt with force. Kaul explains, “India uses exceptional violence as well as nationalist propaganda around Kashmir and presents it as a Pakistan-sponsored Islamist problem and the media in the country is mostly complicit with it.” Minutes after the Pulwama incident occurred, New Delhi resorted to its typical knee-jerk reaction of blaming Pakistan without conducting any kind of investigation, a move that analysts regard as the beginning of Modi’s election campaign that would present him as the “chowkidar” or watchman of the Indian nation, a claim that was further strengthened by the Indian claim of carrying out the alleged Balakot strike. The five-week Indian election began in Kashmir on 11th April, marked by a wave of crackdown, brutal nocturnal raids, search and cordon operations, and arrests of hundreds of Kashmiri leaders, human rights lawyers and activists. On Monday 6th May, the districts of Pulwama and Shopian in southern Kashmir entered the fifth phase of the Indian election, which is set to end on 23rd May. New Delhi has taken heavy-handed measures to quell protests and the Kashmiri resilience with heightened military presence, an increase in the number of checkpoints, widespread internet blackout, and increased clashes between the security personnel and civilians. Reports suggest that more than 70,000 innocents have died in the valley, and while India media and New Delhi portray the militarization of Kashmir as a fight against militancy, numerous international human rights groups has highlighted the human right’s abuses and violations undertaken by the Indian troops against unarmed civilians.

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Since the Indian-occupied valley comprises of no more than six seats, a historically low turnout of 12.8%, as reported by All India Radio News, in Kashmir is certainly not a disappointment to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The occupied people of Kashmir have boycotted the election, dismissing it as an “illegitimate exercise” imposed on them by a brutal military occupation. Even though the election has no consequences on the justified demand for Kashmiri freedom, the valley is of great importance to feed and fuel Modi’s rhetoric of national security, militancy across Kashmir and the alleged threats emerging from Pakistan.

Modi’s Masculine Hindu Nationalism: Cashing on the Pulwama Attack

Mohammad Junaid, an expert on the freedom movements of Kashmir and assistant professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, explained while speaking to The Intercept, “For Congress, at least at the level of rhetoric, Kashmiris are viewed as citizens of India. Their rhetoric suggests that eventually, India has to find a nonmilitary solution to the problems in Kashmir. The BJP, on the other hand, sees Kashmiri Muslims themselves as a problem. They dislike the fact that Kashmir is a majority Muslim region of India and foresee a ‘demographic solution’ for the province, which would entail bringing settlers from elsewhere in India to colonize the region.” Junaid explains that the Modi-led government has altered the political dynamics of the valley such that “it is the Indian military establishment that determines what occurs in Kashmir”.