Thursday, July 18, 2024
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PM’s significant visit to Srinagar

K N Pandita

More than a hundred thousand people are said to have attended the public address of the Prime Minister when on his recent visit to Srinagar. The entire nation is happy that there is a positive change in the security situation in Kashmir Valley. It was the first requirement for starting a slew of developmental projects. Party cadres in the valley have done admirable groundwork and motivated the masses of people to respond to the initiative for peace and development undertaken by the ruling parity. A crowd of a hundred thousand people coming to hear the Prime Minister speak to them at the Bakhshi Stadium is remarkable comparing the situation with what it was two decades ago.

The Prime Minister's visit was the first ever after the abrogation of Article 370 and the State Reorganization Act of 5 – 6 August 2019. No protests or anti-reorganisation rallies in the aftermath of the passing of the Act and the hundred thousand strong attendance at the rally, all give a clear message to the dissident parties and groups in Kashmir Valley that the new course along which Kashmir will be moving forward is quite different from the one that had been chalked by the leadership in the valley over several decades in the past.

Kashmir’s special status is gone forever and the State's integration into the Indian Union is the eternal truth never to be compromised with. The daydreamers who stuck like leeches to the Pakistani slogan of "Kashmir banega Pakistan" will carry the wish to their graves.

The new scenario that is going to unfold in Kashmir will be of transfer of political power from a couple of ruling dynasties to the masses of the people. Another major change that is in the offing is the inevitable rejection of radical disposition and revival of sensible communal harmony among the people. It means rejection of the teachings of Jamaat-i-Islami and other extremist ideologues of Kashmir. Maybe Kashmir like the UAE becomes an ideal state where rational, humane and peaceful Islam will flourish.

PM’s speech was hinged on two important aspects viz peace and development. Any inquisitive student of history will agree that both of these primary stipulations were undermined in the Valley during seven decades of independence. It happened so because the masses of people were bullied to stick to political parties whose leadership cared for self-aggrandizement and not the people.

Kashmir Valley's traditional political leadership is perhaps the most myopic leadership that has closed its eyes and ears to the hugely changing times. A political party or ideology that does not keep pace with the changing times must perish. Instead of forging the much-needed ideological change in their parties, the traditional leadership is heading fast onto the abyss of collapse and disaster.

There has been subdued criticism of the Prime Minister that in his hour-long address at the Bakhshi Stadium, he spoke on a variety of subjects related to the State, especially about an era of peace and development. But he did not say a word on the holding of assembly elections or the restoration of the statehood to the Union Territory.
In our opinion, the PM was not expected to disclose in public a matter that is very closely under the consideration of the Home Ministry and has many ramifications. As a policy matter, the Home Minister has already announced that the Assembly elections will be held at the proper time and the statehood status will also be restored when circumstances allow. With this clear commitment by the Home Minister, the Prime Minister did not need to delve into this area. The Prime Minister cannot be accused of deliberately avoiding any mention of things like these.

An exhaustive statement on the developmental activities is the crux of the Kashmir issue. The NDA government has put its finger on the precise malaise and taken steps to cure it which is yielding dividends. Yes, he had the impending parliamentary election in his mind and he had also in his mind the pain of traditional political parties denying the masses of Kashmir an opportunity of sending such candidates to the Indian parliament as would care for them and not only for their dynasties and kith and kin. He has sent a message to the masses of people that here is an opportunity to get rid of dynastic rule and enjoy the fresh air of a truly popular rule.

However, while the criticism of the PM's address is not tenable in the overall estimation of the context, there is a genuine grouse expressed by the internally displaced people from the valley that the PM avoided a word to assuage their hurt feelings or to instil in them the hope of their return to their hometowns. Their exodus, life in exile and their deep-rooted wish to return to their place of origin are not political but human issues. We have noted that not only the Prime Minister but the entire ruling paraphernalia in New Delhi has adopted a tight-lipped strategy regarding this issue of Kashmir Valley’s ethnic cleansing in 1990. It means there is an explicit policy of the NDA Government to write off the Kashmir Valley IDPs. This Sphinx-like attitude gives rise to many doubts and misconceptions. Adopting silence of the grave over their ethnic cleansing and genocide stands in direct contrast to the BJP's manifesto for Kashmir. Thus, while BJP is inching towards its objective of "Congress mukt Bharat", it seems to be complementing with “Pandit mukt Kashmir” Why does the NDA government want to give vote bank politics a priority above humanism and Indian civilizational ethos? Does the NDA government follow the norm set forth by previous governments of "giving priority to the national minority" at the cost of the local minority?

The internally displaced minority community of the valley fails to understand the reason for the rightist government at the centre to be apathetic towards their plight and exodus. Is it because they are one hundred per cent educated, law abiding and patriotic? Is it because their presence in their land of birth is not liked by the local majority and the NDA would not go against the wishes of the valley majority? That is what vote-bank politics means. The decades-long insensitive and uncaring attitude of the NDA government has forced most of the valley IDPs to set out on wide dispersal not only within but also outside the country; The least which they expected was that the PM would inhis address appeal the leaders of the majority community of the valley to take the initiative of calling back their estranged compatriots and that the Union government would be prepared to offer its support for a noble cause. They never expected the NDA government to be disconcerted about their case. Restitution of the displaced community back in the valley with honour and dignity would immensely boost India’s image of secular state.

(KN Pandita is the former Director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University.)

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