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Views from Srinagar

[Let us Embrace]

Shujaat Bukhari

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi has again sought to dispel the notion that he was not serious about tackling the problem of Kashmir. On August 15, in his customary speech on Independence Day, for a change he did not invoke former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s three-word expression “Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat” but said that the problem in Kashmir will be solved by embracing Kashmiris. “The problem will be solved neither by abuse nor bullets—it will be solved by embracing all Kashmiris…. And we are moving forward with this resolve,” he declared from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Soon after his remarks were made there was a flutter as none other than Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq welcomed them. He was followed by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and many others. But all of them insisted that action must follow.
Hardline approach: In his three years at the helm so far, Narendra Modi, despite having a strong mandate has not made any difference when it comes to Kashmir and instead has followed a stringent hardline policy that has been crafted by the Establishment. Dealing with the Kashmir uprising in 2016 has made it clear that only the stick would be used to tackle people’s deep sense of anger and frustration against the State.
What we saw was that the outcome of Delhi’s policy was killings, an unprecedented numbers of injuries and, more appallingly, the loss of eyesight or damaged vision to a high number of young boys and girls. The rule of thumb when rolling out the official narrative was to blame Pakistan for the trouble and demean Kashmiri people and their political aspirations. TV journalists went berserk projecting “five percent” theories to attempt to prove that a handful of people were responsible for the trouble in Kashmir. They sadly justified the killings and maiming of civilians. This all went hand-in-hand with the government policy.
No attempt was made to offer a healing touch nor was any effort made towards rapprochement. Despite being part of a coalition government with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was ideologically poles apart from it, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Delhi did not show even the slight respect for the Agenda of Alliance it had entered into with the party. The focus of the alliance was on political trouble and the BJP was committed to engaging with separatists such as the Hurriyat, and Pakistan and had also sworn to protect the special status of the state.
This hardline approach, however, did not yield any results that would suggest that Kashmir at large was responding to or reconciling with the situation. The graph of militancy went up and more and more young people started joining its ranks.
Squeezing the Hurriyat by bringing them into the National Investigating Agency (NIA) net to try to expose them for receiving Pakistani money to “sustain trouble” might have demoralized them temporarily but it has not helped create an alternative democratic space that would echo Modi’s policy in Kashmir.
To find a lasting solution, Jammu and Kashmir needs a palliative approach that has to be supplemented by a clear political recourse to assure people that a solution will be found through a sustained dialogue process. What Modi said on August 15 has few takers in Kashmir, and many would call it a “bear hug” that people may not be in a position to bear. In three years there has been no forward movement on a solution to the political problem.
By putting the armed forces on the forefront of dealing with Kashmir, the Modi government has only strengthened the perception that New Delhi is only interested in holding territory and not in “embracing the people of its integral part” by engaging with them on the political front. It has not honoured any promise made to its PDP ally and instead helped bury it under the heavy burden of political insult. From a political warrior, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (of the PDP) has been reduced to just an administrator and that too when major policy security decisions flow from Delhi. She has paid a huge price by being discredited on the ground.
Why no one believes him: There is a reason why Modi is not believed in Kashmir. In the past he has invoked Vajpayee’s Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat and Insaniyat (KJI), which he had used to lure people towards a possible political breakthrough. So far he has done it seven times. The first time was in 2014 when he was fighting elections to head towards Delhi. He had spoken about the magical KJI. On March 26, 2014 he told a public meeting in Jammu that he would follow the path shown by Vajpayee on Kashmir. “It is my wish to complete the work started by Vajpayee… It is my wish and I will come repeatedly here for that,” he said.
After his ascendency to the Prime Minister’s office, he did not change course and on July 4, 2014 he told a gathering in Katra that, “My message to the people of Jammu and Kashmir is that the government wants to carry forward former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s plan in the state. My aim is to win the hearts of the people of the state.” Similarly, on November 22, 2014, he said in Kishtwar that “democracy, humanity and Kashmiriyat, these words of Atal-ji have a special place in the hearts of Kashmiris and have ignited hope in every Kashmiri youth for a better future.”
On August 10, 2016 when Kashmir was burning with political unrest, he talked about this. But he has not moved an inch in that direction since he has come to power. But on the ground not even a shred of evidence is seen of concrete manifestation of these expressions. Vajpayee was bold and he took steps even as Pakistan backstabbed him.

—Courtesy: Engish Daily RK
[Author is Editor-in-Chief of his own Daily Rising Kashmir Srinagar]

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