Modi Govt Sets A Plan In Motion For Jammu And Kashmir
NEW DELHI: “There was a time when...prime ministers would not come (Jammu and Kashmir) but now the prime minister has come here twice, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Leh. “Your affection draws me here,” he added.
He was right, as he has in the first few weeks of being in government visited the border state twice, addressing the troops in Leh on this second visit. His visits have underlined the importance that Jammu and Kashmir holds for the current government which is gradually revealing a plan of action for the border state. This will be implemented with caution, and without haste but clearly a game plan for the state has been chalked out.
The Modi government is clear on at least three counts insofar as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned. One, the government is clear about resettling the displaced Kashmiri pandits in the Valley. "See the condition of Jammu & Kashmir where 20 per cent of the population is displaced. We want to settle these displaced people and give them opportunity of their livelihood," Modi said while inaugurating the 44 MW Chutak hydro-power project.
Top functionaries of the government have made this clear as well on several occasions with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh informing Parliament on a calling attention motion on this issue, “whenever we make a commitment, we do so after giving a full thought and strong conviction. Whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Parsi no one will be a refugee in his own land.” He spoke here of “past experience” but did not elaborate. A not very substantial budget has been set aside for the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits. At present, according to agency figures, a total of 60,452 Kashmiri migrants are registered of which 38,119 are in Jammu, 19,338 in Delhi and 1,995 in other states.
Significantly all Kashmiris support the return of the pandits with separatist leaders like JKLF’s Yasin Malik visiting their camps in Jammu on several occasions and urging them to return. He received a warm welcome. Hurriyat faction leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have both been welcoming the return of the Kashmiri migrants, assuring them of security and safety.
However, reports that the government was planning to set up security fortified conclaves for the migrants in the Valley has generated a controversy as Kashmiris are worried about the segregated nature of these conclaves, and the damage this could do to communal amity in the state. This has been stated in so many words, but there is no real clarity as yet as to how New Delhi is planning to handle this major issue. Except of course for repeated assertions from the government that the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri pandits is a priority on its agenda.
Two, the government seems to be keen on opening the doors for a dialogue. Singh’s statement in Parliament on August 11 was perhaps the first concrete indication of this. "We want to find a permanent solution," Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Rajya Sabha. "We are ready for any kind of dialogue within the Constitutional framework. If necessary, we are even willing to hold dialogue within the framework of 'insaniyat'," he told the Rajya Sabha. This was also the term used by former Prime Minister and BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee who did start the dialogue with all sections of Kashmiri society, with even the separatists being invited for the discussions. However, they did not attend but the working groups moved forward with some specific recommendations that were not heard of again, particularly after the UPA came to power.
Singh did not spell out any details but sources said that the Modi government seems to be keen to restart the talks although the agenda and the participants will throw further light on the intent. However, this government is not keeping Jammu and Kashmir on the backburner is more than apparent from the attention---one way or the other---the state has been receiving.
Three, PM Modi does not seem to want to create unnecessary controversy, at least at the moment, in the state, and his government been taking steps to dilute this as and where required. The first controversy was on Article 370, the revocation of which is part of the old BJP agenda, and that was mentioned by junior minister in the Prime Ministers Office Jitendra Singh when he assumed office. Singh is also the MP from Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir. The government did not respond to this directly, but Singh was made to back off maintaining that he had been misquoted after there was protest from all sections of opinion in Kashmir.
On the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Singh did not take the earlier BJP position when it was in opposition but merely said, “there has been no consensus on this.” The BJP had strongly opposed the removal of AFSPA as was being demanded by even the state chief minister Omar Abdullah. This is an emotive issue in the Valley but the Army and successive central governments have refused to withdraw the Act that is described as “draconian” by Kashmiri politicians and others.
The Prime Minister in fact also added two more categories that he said were of concern to his government, apart from the Kashmiri migrants. He said that the refugees from Pakistan as well as the relatives of those who had been killed in terrorist violence would be given special attention by his government. Incidentally, a large number of Kashmiri’s have died in terrorist violence as well. The annual budget has not made any financial allocations for these two additional categories mentioned by the PM at Kargil.
He said the governments in the past have shown apathy towards ensuring that all these “20 lakh displaced people” live a life of dignity and self-respect. “Now those days have gone. Whatever kind of displaced people are there from Jammu and Kashmir, they are our brothers and sisters and our family. Their joys and sorrows are ours. Their development is our determination and we will move forward on this through a number of schemes,” he said.
“We will do whatever it takes to do it and we are determined for that,” the PM added. The central government’s effort to blunt the Kousar nag yatra controversy is being seen as a major reason for this reaching out by Modi. The Home Minister in Parliament insisted that the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri pandits was not linked to the pilgrimage that had taken on a polarised hue, maintaining,.“Prior to migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, they used to take Kulgam route. The yatra was resumed after improvement in security scenario and since 2010 they have been using Riasi route from Jammu. This year too they had permission from district administration but due to certain issues and the permission was cancelled. However, some pilgrims visited Kousar Nag.” He said that for the time being the issue had subsided. Several Kashmiri pandit organisations had expressed anger and displeasure over New Delhi’s ambivalent position on the yatra.