Union Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement that sentiments of people of Kashmir will be given respect will give a boost to the ruling PDP as party leadership has been under tremendous pressure from various quarters to defend it and many had criticized the party leadership that it has failed to safeguard the interests of the people.
On Tuesday Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh concluded his four day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, one of the longest visits of any Home Minister in the recent past. This was Singh’s fifth visit to Kashmir and came in the backdrop of the statement of Prime Minister; Narendra Modi that Kashmir’s problems can be solved only with embracing the people of Kashmir, not with bullets or abuses.
During his stay, Union Minister Rajnath Singh met around 50 delegations comprising leaders of mainstream political parties, social organizations and business delegations and said that he is willing to come to Kashmir 50 times in a year, if required to restore peace.
“Not just five times, if there is a need to come visit Kashmir 50 times in a year I shall come. Whatever efforts need to be made for bringing peace and prosperity I will do it…,’’ Last time, the Union Minister Singh along with J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had to leave press conference half way when he was confronted with tough questions, however, this time Singh looked confident and spoke after the permanent solution of Kashmir problem.
“A permanent solution to Kashmir issue is based on five ‘C’s — compassion, communication, coexistence, confidence building and consistency,’’ he told reporters.
Rajnath Singh though dropped hints that he is willing to talk to all the stakeholders, however, on ground no concrete steps were taken that could have paved way for any talks with the separatist leadership who hold sway in the public. “I would like to talk to all the stakeholders, I have always said this. I am not here keeping any reservation in mind.’’ Union Minister also said that situation has seen a tremendous change in the Valley. “The situation is not better but far better than past months. The seeds of peace have stated sprouting in the valley’’
Rajnath Singh also said that kids below the age of 18 will be treated in accordance with the Juvenile Act and not like criminals. “…kids below the age of 18 should not be treated like criminals; whatever investigation needs to be done it must be in accordance with juveline act. They must not be sent to prison, must be sent to juvenile homes.” Of late many young boys were detained in the police stations and this will send a positive signal among the masses.
Rajnath Singh said that efforts should be taken to give boast to the Valley’s economic and Tourism and appealed to tourists to come and visit Kashmir and business men to invest in the region. “To boost tourism, Centre will undertake a special promotional drive…,” he said. Singh on the first day had a detailed meeting with several groups affiliated with Tour and Travel industry, who conveyed the Union Minister difficulties the sector is facing in the backdrop of negative publicity given by the Indian news channels. The tour and travel operators also conveyed Union Minister how the number of tourist arrival has considerably declined.
When asked about the Article 35A and special status given to Jammu and Kashmir Singh said that no steps will be taken that will be against the sentiments of the people of the state. “The Centre would never take any step that would hurt the people’s sentiments.”
From past several months there are apprehensions that Centre is hand in glove with those organizations that are opposed to Article 35A and special status of the Jammu and Kashmir. Not only the leadership of separatist organization, but politicians of all the mainstream parties has warned Centre of dire consequences if Article 35 A will be tinkered. In fact, the opposition has formed a joint forum comprising leaders of different parties to defend the Article 35 A. It is for the first time when on any issue ruling People’s Democratic Party and the opposition National Conference are on the same page.
Union Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement that sentiments of people of Kashmir will be given respect will give a boost to the ruling PDP as party leadership has been under tremendous pressure from various quarters to defend it and many had criticized the party leadership that it has failed to safeguard the interests of the people. However, in the remarks of Union Minister, Rajnath Singh’s, the PDP leadership could find a solace that finally they have been able to convince people especially those in power in New Delhi about the importance of the Article 35 A existing in the constitution of India.
During his stay in Kashmir, Union Minister, Rajnath Singh met around dozens of delegations, however, prominent trade union bodies and separatists or their sympathizers didn’t met Union Minister. Even three prominent separatist leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman, Yasin Malik and Hurriyat chairman, Syed Ali Geelani were arrested.
The leaders of mainstream political parties, the PDP and NC that was led by former J&K chief minister, Omar Abdullah told the Home Minister, Rajnath Singh about the Article 35 A and consequences it will have in J&K in case it is abolished. Leaders of other mainstream parties expressed similar apprehensions.
NC working president, Omar Abdullah registered his party’s concern and disappointment over the Central Government’s ambiguity in defending the State’s Special Status in the Supreme Court with respect to Article 35-A and also highlighted the worsened and constantly deteriorating situation in the Valley. The NC delegation also sought a sustained and open-ended political engagement with stakeholders in Kashmir irrespective of their ideology and urged New Delhi and Islamabad to make sincere and sustained efforts towards resumption of a comprehensive dialogue on all outstanding issues including that of Kashmir.
“The party delegation also reiterated its struggle for the restoration of Autonomy and urged the Central Government to initiate a process of reversing erosions made to the State’s Autonomy that had been violated by extending various hitherto inapplicable Central Laws to the State, with GST being the most recent example,’’ the NC spokesman said adding that the party also decried the singular focus on operational and military mechanisms in dealing with an inherently political issue and asked the Central Government to reach out to the alienated and isolated youth of the Valley.
The Congress delegation also warned the Union Minister that abolishing of Article 35 A could plunge Valley into chaos and confusion and the blood -shed. Singh besides reviewing the Centre package also visited district police lines Anantnag and a CRPF camp in south Kashmir where he interacted with the forces personnel. In Anantnag, Rajnath Singh assured cops that every step will be taken to safeguard their lives and new equipment like Bullet Proof vehicles for every police station and blood proof jackets will be procured. He also mentioned about Zohra daughter of assistant sub inspector Abdul Rashid who was killed by the militants.
Union Minister also travelled to Jammu where he visited a forces camp at Rajouri and met several delegations in Jammu who apprised him about the situation in Jammu.
The visit of Rajnath Singh comes after several delegations comprising civil society members and former politicians visited Kashmir and met cross section of people. Recently, Citizens Group comprising of the Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, Air Vice Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak, Executive Director, Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve and Editor, Catch News Bharat Bhushan released a report.
‘The most disquieting conclusion of the interactions that the CCG had with Kashmiri students, civil society, and political leaders this time around was that as compared to the previous visits, the sense of dismay and despondency in the people had grown. The proximate reasons for this not only seemed to be the lack of dialogue with the Kashmiris but also because tourism had plummeted, hotel business was in dire straits, there was flight of capital and an overall economic downturn leading to greater unemployment and economic distress,” the group said in the report.
Though during his visit, Union Minister made several promises, however, it remains to be seen whether this will be translated into action, especially the remarks which he made about Article 35 A. Majority of people here don’t trust BJP and its leadership and have apprehensions that they will do everything to harm the special status that has been given to the J&K. Even they see latest attempt made by the proxies of the BJP and RSS through Supreme Court.
Though, ruling PDP welcomed the remarks of the Union Minister Rajnath Singh, the opposition leader, Omar Abdullah still has doubt what Union Minister has said about Article 35 A.
‘’The Union government must now file a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court to defend article 35-A. That is the way to carry this assurance forward,’’ Omar wrote on social networking site Twitter.
Even the common people have apprehensions that BJP will keep its promise and see this party as anti Muslim. However, if Centre files a counter affidavit in Supreme Court, it is going to moral boaster for its coalition partner in J&K, the PDP and its leadership is eagerly waiting for some sort of political relief so far that has been denied by the BJP.