Kashmir Government in Turmoil as Coalition Breaks Down

33

Last week, the United Nations released its first report on atrocities committed in Kashmir by India and Pakistan. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the global organization’s high commissioner for human rights, called for an international investigation into reports of sexual violence and torture, sharply criticizing Indian security forces as using excessive force on protesters, including firing blinding pellet guns into crowds.Within minutes of the report’s release, the Indian government rejected the contents, calling them “fallacious, tendentious and motivated.”The 2015 alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the Peoples Democratic Party created a state government in Jammu and Kashmir to try to bring peace to the region.The two parties came together after months of negotiations over their different views on key issues, including whether to repeal a law that gives Indian soldiers broad immunity from prosecution in civilian courts, including in cases involving the suspected rape and murder of Kashmiris.Elections held in 2014 drew record turnouts, with the Bharatiya Janata Party winning 25 seats, all in districts with big Hindu populations, and the Peoples Democratic Party winning 28, the most in the Legislative Assembly. At least 44 seats are required for a majority.But the alliance was always an uncomfortable one, with many Kashmiris characterizing the Peoples Democratic Party’s decision to govern with the Bharatiya Janata Party as a betrayal. In the years since the alliance took shape, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has become highly polarized along religious lines. The Jammu part of the state is a political base for the Bharatiya Janata Party and a Hindu stronghold, while the Kashmir part is a Muslim-majority area.Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, a lawmaker in Kashmir, said, “Instead of reconciliation and coming together or narrowing the gap between two regions and two communities, the facts remain that the divide has become deeper.”