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BJP accused of fanning tensions in Jammu and Kashmir

Opponents claim pro-Hindu party is increasing divisions ahead of India's national elections next year

Umar Manzoor Shah, Srinagar

Umar Manzoor Shah, Srinagar

Published: July 02, 2018 03:59 AM GMT

Updated: July 02, 2018 04:05 AM GMT

BJP accused of fanning tensions in Jammu and Kashmir

Congress members carry an effigy of Amit Shah, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), during a protest in Kolkata on June 27. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP)

India's pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after toppling the coalition government in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state, now stands accused of trying to widen local social, religious and political divisions.

Observers say the BJP's aim is to secure a political advantage ahead of next year's national elections.

BJP president Amit Shah told a June 24 gathering that the party withdrew from the state coalition led by the Muslim-based People’s Democratic Party (PDP) partly because of its focus on Muslim-majority Kashmir while ignoring the Hindu Jammu and Buddhist-dominated Ladakh areas.

Shah’s statement, made at a political rally in Jammu, signaled the BJP’s intention to increase tensions between communities, Irfan Yasin, a political commentator, said.

"This is what the BJP is famous for doing across the country," Yasin added.

However, treating Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist areas differently in order to galvanize political support would be disastrous, he predicted.

On June 19, BJP leaders in New Delhi announced that the coalition government deal it stitched together with the PDP in March 2015 had broken down.

Apart from regional bias, another stated factor influencing the decision was that the PDP had been demanding talks with separatist groups, as well as Pakistan, to end the six-decade-long Kashmir conflict.

"The PDP-led government ignored the interests of Jammu and Ladakh," Shah said while addressing the rally in Jammu.

Development in both these regions, which voted overwhelmingly for the BJP during the last parliamentary and state polls, had lagged.

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"So we decided to quit the government," Shah said.

Intellectuals such as Manish Gupta, a Jammu-based writer, told ucanews.com that the BJP would be biased against the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley as it had no hope that Muslims there would vote for it.

However, such a move would create communal rifts.

Gupta said that BJP chief Amit Shah had used the Jammu rally to poison people’s minds by telling them Muslims in Kashmir were given the lion’s share of resources and benefits by the PDP while Hindus and Buddhists were left in the lurch.

Sibat Aara, a social activist based in Kashmir, described the BJP’s strategy to engineeer schisms as dangerous.

"There is already a spike in violence being witnessed on the ground," Aara said.

"Does the BJP want more trouble by dividing the state on religious lines? This is something really unacceptable."

The state has 12.5 million people, 68 percent of them Muslims and 28 percent Hindus.

However, most Hindus are in Jammu area, where they constitute some 63 percent and Sikhs constitute about four percent, making Muslims a minority.

In the Ladakh area, bordering China, 40 percent are Buddhists and Hindus are 12 percent. The rest are Muslims.

In contrast, 96.4 percent of the people in Kashmir valley are Muslim, where Hindus constitute only 2.5 percent.

The state has seen widespread violence since Islamic groups took up arms against Indian rule.

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