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BJP quit ruling coalition in IHK

20 June, 2018

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NEW DELHI: India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in India-held Jammu and Kashmir state on Tuesday and called for federal control over the disputed region, citing a deterioration in security that could herald a new crackdown.

The Hindu nationalist BJP had entered into an unlikely alliance with a regional party after an inconclusive election in 2014 to govern the region where Indian forces have struggled to quell a freedom movement for decades.

“It has become untenable for the BJP to continue in the alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir,” Ram Madhav, party general secretary, told reporters.

He said the security situation in the region had worsened and it should be put under “governor’s rule”, or direct rule from New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a general election in 2014, vowing to end the movement in Kashmir but militant violence has worsened in recent months.

Last week, India rejected a UN report that accused it of having used excessive force in the disputed region to kill and wound civilians since 2016. The United Nations also called for an international inquiry into accusations of human rights violations.

Direct rule by the central government would give the BJP a free hand to control the state ahead of a general election that must be called within a year.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, of the regional People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said she had resigned and that her party would not seek the support of other parties to restore a majority. “A muscular policy will not work here,” she told reporters.

The BJP has long favoured a tough approach to quell the movement, while the PDP had advocated a softer touch to address the grievances in the region where tens of people have been killed since an armed campaign began in 1989.

More than 130 people have died in escalating violence in Kashmir this year. Last week, gunmen shot dead a prominent newspaper editor in Srinagar who had been a strong advocate of peace in the region.

“Basically, keeping in mind the larger national interest of India’s integrity and security, in order to bring control over the situation prevailing in the state, we have decided that it is time the reins of power be handed over to the state governor,” Madhav said.

The state’s governor, a figurehead who is appointed by New Delhi, will rule the disputed region until fresh elections are held or a new coalition is formed.

The decision to quit the coalition government would allow the BJP to act tough on Kashmir before a general election next year in which Modi would seek a second term in office, analysts said.

“What it (BJP) will do between now and elections is increase its political rhetoric against the separatists in Kashmir,” said Manoj Joshi from the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

“It will be political rhetoric of how the BJP will save the situation in the northern region of the state,” he said.

The decision means the BJP controls one less state. But it will still govern 18 of India’s 29 states outright or in coalitions.

The PDP has long demanded the removal of a draconian law that gives Indian forces sweeping powers to search, enter property and shoot on sight.

The BJP says the law is needed to curb militants fighting for Kashmir’s independence or for its merger with Pakistan.

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