What Stops BJP Workers From Coming Out Openly In J&K? A Saffron Cadre Explains

In the conflict-ridden Kashmir, it is not easy to be with the BJP either. In the past few years, a number of BJP workers have been killed by militants in different districts of the Valley.

A soldier stands alert while BJP workers take part in a meeting in J-K.

Aijaz Hussain gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) its only District Development Council (DDC) seat in Kashmir in December 2020, when he won from the Khanmoh area of Srinagar, a Shia Muslim-dominated locality.

Hussain (36), an engineer by profession, defeated a candidate of the People's Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration.

Though the party lost the DDC polls badly, Hussain says he is happy with the BJP and will remain in the party for life.

“There is in no question of even thinking of any other party other than the BJP. The BJP has a vision for J&K. It is the vision of peace and development. And the party doesn't believe in false narratives,”  he says.

While the BJP is trying hard to enrol its members in Jammu and Kashmir since 2014, the party hasn’t had any great success. The Block Development Council and the DDC polls are indicative of the same. The People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration, a grouping of different regional parties that seeks restoration of Article 370, had pushed the BJP to the margins in J&K after the district development polls. The alliance fought the DDC polls jointly on individual party symbols, which were held in November and December 2020 and won an impressive 110 seats out of the total 280 constituencies.

The results shocked the BJP, which had heavily invested in the polls with Union Cabinet Ministers and senior BJP leaders campaigning during the polls across Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP was expecting to sweep the polls but couldn't move beyond the Hindu heartland of the Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, and Samba districts.

Hussain joined the BJP when he was studying engineering at Chennai’s Bharath University.  He says he felt J&K had seen an entirely different politics which would keep people away from the national mainstream. He says the BJP’s unambiguous policies attracted him to the party.

He underlines that youths are fed up with powerful political families in Jammu and Kashmir and they want to take recourse to different political forces, thus BJP becomes an alternative.

He says after the abrogation of Article 370, two political parties, the National Conference and PDP,  have been talking about demographic change to exploit people’s sentiment. “They have been exploiting the people for decades making Article 370 a sensitive issue because they have nothing to show. They can’t ask for votes for development and jobs. Kashmir was part of India with Article 370 and it’s very much part of India without it, if someone thinks different let them challenge the status quo,” he adds.

He says there was no surprise in the BJP’s move to abrogate Article 370. “I was with ABVP and then with BJP. I knew BJP will abrogate Article 370. It was an ideological mission to integrate J&K fully,” he adds.

Hussain boasts that he organised a pro-CAA protest in his area when hundreds of Muslims were protesting against it in Shaheen Bagh. “Not only this, the first rally was organised by us after the abrogation of Article 370 at Tagore hall and we named it as Jasne-Kashmir,” he adds.

However, in the conflict-ridden Kashmir, he says, it is not easy to be with the BJP either. In the past few years, a number of BJP workers have been killed by militants in different districts of the Valley. “This makes life difficult especially for my family and my children. My family feels terrified at times and sometimes I get fearful of what is in store. It’s not easy to be a worker of a hard-core nationalist party like BJP in Kashmir.”  Hussain lives under security cover having Z-cover.

About the BJP’s dismissal performance in the DDC polls, he holds the politics of regional parties responsible for it. He says the regional parties are exploiting people on some emotive issues.

He says sooner or later Jammu and Kashmir will get its statehood back as promised by Home Minister Amit Shah on the floor of the House. “I will tell you in the coming Assembly polls there will be a surprise for the traditional regional parties from the BJP. Their rhetoric will not work,” he adds.