A day after he concluded his two-day valley visit, Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the bill on Reservation and a resolution on the extension of President’s Rule in Kashmir for six more months. Amid the unyielding political posturing, the local unionists see the iron-fisted rule in Kashmir growing.
Hailed as BJP’s Chanakya, whose Mission-44 once sounded a misplaced Utopia in Kashmir, Amit Shah as Indian home minister made it certain with his maiden visit to the valley that he was seeking new engagements and terms. Snubbing regional unionists, he showed up at the slain cop’s house in Srinagar’s Karan Nagar and thus made Modi government’s priorities clear in Kashmir.
In a security meeting, later, Shah praised counterinsurgent efforts of JK Police. As per J&K Chief Secretary BVR Sumbramanyam, who addressed a presser at the end of the high-profile visit, Shah “directed that the state government should commemorate the martyrdom of its policemen in their hometowns and villages in an appropriate manner each year. Prominent public places should also be named after martyred policemen.”
In Srinagar, which went on with business as usual on Shah’s visit, the home minister found ample mention in public discourse.
“Shah gave a cold shoulder to the local unionists—excepting his own party members, whom he reportedly told that anti-India dissenters will have a tough time in Kashmir, is a clear statement of how New Delhi is still mulling iron-fist dealing with Kashmir,” said a senior scribe, with over two decades experience in political reporting for different New Delhi-based publications from Kashmir.
“In the garb of his focussed security and governance issues,” the scribe said, “Shah skipped the traditional engagement between Srinagar and New Delhi and thus sent a clear message across that BJP won’t be listening to anyone on Kashmir.”
While many were expecting that Shah might reach out to Hurriyat Conference and break ice on talks, he instead impressed upon security forces in Jammu and Kashmir to “show zero-tolerance towards militancy and take strict action against terror funding in the state”.
Shah’s tough talk did ruffle feathers in the unionist camp. “Forgetting sufferings of Kashmiris and just asking for focusing on eliminating militancy and improving Governance may not help New Delhi as J&K is a political issue,” said Er Rasheed, Kashmir’s firebrand politician. “Not only Amit Shah but Prime Minister and other top BJP leaders have claimed from time to time that Kashmir dispute is because of the wrong policies of India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru.”
If BJP can wipe off Nehru’s name from the list of Indian Prime Ministers, Kashmiris will stop talking about Kashmir issue and UN resolutions, Rasheed said. “Let Modi and Amit Shah use the heavy mandate they have got from the masses and help in addressing the real sufferings of people of entire sub-continent and the world.”
A day after his Valley visit, the emboldened Shah spoke about Kashmir in the Parliament, proposing a six-month President’s rule and tabling the Reservation Bill for the state. He added that preparations to hold the Assembly elections by the end of the year are underway.
Shah informed the Parliament that the situation in Kashmir is being constantly monitored and the construction of bunkers in border areas will be done within time limit set by the previous home minister Rajnath Singh. “Life of every individual is important to us,” he said.
Even as Opposition tried to corner the NDA government on its Kashmir handling, Shah stood unmoved and recalled the time “when there was no sign of India in Kashmir”.
“State Bank of India signboard was [once] seen with a cloth covering ‘India’ word. Murli Manohar Joshi and Narendra Modi risked their lives and unfurled tricolour at Lal Chowk. We [BJP] were not in power then,” he said. “Some say there is an atmosphere of fear there [in Kashmir]. Those who are against India should have fear in their hearts. We are not part of tukde tukde gang. We are not against common people of J&K. We have started process of providing them jobs and all govt schemes.”
Back home, however, CPI (M) leader MY Tarigami termed Shah’s announcement as “disappointing” for the people of the state. “The overall situation is very bad in Kashmir,” the comrade said. “Only effective response to this situation would have been to hold early Assembly polls as there is no justification to delay it, neither political nor constitutional.”
The first responsibility for this is with the BJP because they hold power in Delhi and are directly ruling the state for last more than a year, Tarigami said. “They should without any further delay recommend to the Election Commission for announcing Assembly polls,” he said.
Meanwhile, taking part in the discussion in the Lok Sabha on the statutory resolution moved by Shah which seeks six-month extension of President’s Rule in Jammu and Kashmir with effect from July 3, Congress member Manish Tewari said if there is an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir then it will give strength in “fighting terrorism and separatist forces”.
“We will support government in fighting terrorism but the battle against terrorism can only be won if the people support you,” Tewari said.
Adding to the debate, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi changed the narrative in Kashmir. “Some people have vested interests in continuation of militancy in the state and beneficiaries are from the mainstream who want their generations to benefit from the troubled situation in the state,” Singh said.
The minister said “one is terrorism”, and the “other is intellectual terrorism which is causing as much harm as terrorism”.
However, National Conference’s Member Parliament from South Kashmir Hasnain Masoodi questioned that why is the ‘Dance of Democracy’ being kept away from Jammu and Kashmir.
“Even though the Governor is efficient, he is not the elected representative of the people therefore it would be best to hold the assembly elections in the state in order to form a responsible and answerable government,” Masoodi said in his speech.
Clearly, in the competing pitches in the parliament, Kashmir once again turned heads, but without hammering out any departure from the usual solution.