Unprecedented: Hindu Nationalist Party Takes Control of Indian Muslim-Majority Kashmir

The BJP ended its almost 40-month alliance with the PDP on Tuesday and chief minister Mehbooba Mufti resigned, paving the way for direct Central rule to be overseen by governor NN Vohra.(AP)

The New Delhi-based federal government ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently took direct control of the Indian-held region of Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority territory in the country, following the collapse of a fragile coalition with a local political group.

On Monday, the Diplomat reported:

The fragile alliance came together despite vastly different ideologies in 2015, marking the first time the BJP was in power in the state. However, the alliance remained uneasy, and came under increasing stress recently following accusations of support by state BJP leaders of the accused in a horrific rape of an eight-year-old in Kathua, as well as the Centre’s decision not to extend a ceasefire in the valley during the month of Ramzan [Ramadan].

With the imposition of direct rule in the state, Jammu and Kashmir is likely to face a hardline security policy directed by New Delhi, with increasing counter-insurgency operations, according to reports. Indeed, according to a retired commander who served in Jammu and Kashmir, “the army and other security forces will find it easier to operate under the governor. The Unified Command will be under the governor, instead of the CM. This means political sensitivity won’t come in the way of operations.” This focus on counterinsurgency also comes at a time where the Central Government’s focus has been on the Amarnath Yatra, scheduled to begin on June 28.

On June 20, a day after the ruling party’s alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ended, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party officially took direct control of the portion of Kashmir (or Jammu and Kashmir) controlled by India.

The Associated Press reported:

India’s federal government took direct control of Kashmir state Wednesday after the ruling Hindu nationalist party ended its long-troubled alliance there with a Kashmiri political party. The move instigated protests which led to further violent clashes in Kashmir…The shift to direct rule in the disputed region was approved after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) withdrew its support Tuesday for the People’s Democratic Party, following years of feuding and a deteriorating security situation. The BJP also heads the central government, and officials say Prime Minister Narendra Modi was involved in the decision to withdraw from the coalition.

Thousands of pro-Pakistan residents and separatists across Kashmir took to the streets to protest the BJP’s rule over the region, AP noted.

Kashmir is a Himalayan region contested by India and its regional foes, Pakistan and China.

In 2015, the BJP — linked to a hardline approach against pro-Pakistan and separatist groups fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir — entered into an alliance with the PDP, a pro-Kashmir group known to favor reconciliation.

The coalition marked the “the first time that the BJP has been in government in India’s only Muslim-majority state,” the Guardian reported in February 2015.

There were vast ideological differences between the BJP party — linked to Hindu extremists accused of persecuting Christians and Muslims —and the PDP, prompting various analysts to deem the relationship doomed from the start.

BBC reported last week that during the three years of coalition rule, Indian-controlled Kashmir “saw increased violence and protests against Indian rule, with civilians often clashing with security forces. The two parties disagreed over how to handle the situation. While the PDP called for more restraint, the BJP advocated a more hardline approach.”

“During this time Indian forces were also accused of using ‘disproportionate violence’ against civilian protesters” in the Muslim-majority region, it added. “The use of pellet guns to disperse protests was condemned around the world as thousands of civilians suffered injuries. Many lost their sight completely.”

Now, the Hindu nationalist BJP is ruling the Muslim-majority Indian-controlled Kashmir region by itself.


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