The only thing, party has done is it has empowered bunch of loyal people in all the three regions of the state and gave them all what they needed, especially, money, jobs and contracts.
Kashmir seems to becoming an unending puzzle for the Indian political parties. The example in this regard is Congress which ruled the country for over six decades and has been instrumental in Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to Union of India in 1947. The party has deputed a high profile team headed by its former Prime minister, Manmohan Singh to the valley to study the root cause of political uncertainty in region. While the initiative of the group is to meet the cross section of people, however, the initiative of the party seems quite amateur and a good joke. The arrival of the high power delegation is opening a Pandora of questions for its handling this sensitive political problem in past and subsequent political measures and economic dolls it offered to restore the peace in the valley.
Majority of people including political analysts say that New Delhi knows what have been ailing in Kashmir, but are deliberately trying to watch it as a mute spectator, by indulging in politicking. In last one week, two high level delegations from New Delhi has visited J&K, one was headed by Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh and other delegation named as policy and planning group of Congress headed by former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
Both the delegations met people in Kashmir and also in Jammu and sought views from the cross section of people about the problems in J&K, especially in Valley. Though one of the main stake holders – separatists stayed away and didn’t met these groups, however, Union Minister, Rajnath Singh and former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh met dozens of delegations in summer and winter capitals of the state and tried to know about what they call ‘real problems’ in Kashmir.
Since taking over as Home Minister, it was Rajnath Singh’s fifth visit to Kashmir Valley and he promised to visit Kashmir 50 times to mitigate the problems of people and even said he has kept doors open for anybody who wishes to meet him. However, at the end of his tour, ambiguity remained there as he made two different statements on Article 35 A one in Srinagar and another at Jammu. The opposition and other stakeholders termed it as a double speak.
After the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani in 2016 which sparked massive protests in which around 100 civilians were killed and thousands injured and Valley remained closed for five months, several delegations visited Kashmir, like All Party Delegation comprising parliament members, civil society groups, former BJP ministers and journalists who travelled to different parts of the Valley to know the pulse of people and in search of solutions.
However, after the visits concluded and reports were submitted to stake holders in New Delhi, especially to Centre government no forward step was taken on these recommendations. This is not the first time New Delhi has adopted this tactics on Kashmir, many political pundits and analysts term it as a ploy to buy time to exhaust the resolve of common people, it has been happening from past many decades and it is one of the reasons why situation has been turned from bad to worse even after a brief phase of peaceful environs.
Congress has named its latest effort as Policy & Planning group and this group is being led by two time former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, former Home Minister, P Chidambaram, former J&K chief minister and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, J&K AICC in-charge Ambika Soni and Rajya Sabha member and former president of J&K, Karan Singh.
When Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister he made several visits to J&K, not only him, All India Congress president, Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice president, Rahul Gandhi also visited many times to Kashmir. Even Rahul Gandhi led a delegation of top businessmen to Srinagar with an aim to set big projects in Kashmir and help the alienated youths, however, none of these projects kicked off despite the relatively peaceful environment in the Valley.
The Congress which is the main opposition party had announced about the visit of its policy and planning group to J&K after former Srinagar Member Parliament, Tariq Hameed Karra joined party after leaving Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Karra was one of the founding members of the party however; he was averse to the PDP’s alliance with the BJP and had grudges with some senior PDP ministers including Nayeem Akthar, Altaf Bukhari and Haseeb Drabu. He (Karra) wanted all of them out from the cabinet.
When Mehbooba refused, Karra resigned and joined Congress. It was he who had proposed top Congress leadership to revise its Kashmir policy as people especially youth feel very much alienated with the PDP – BJP coalition government. “This visit is an endeavour to heal the wounds of people of Kashmir, who feel alienated especially after BJP took over the reins of power with the help of PDP,’’ Tariq Karra said, adding that Congress leadership after receiving the report of the Policy and Planning Group will take several measures to help people of the state.
Jammu and Kashmir, Pradesh Congress Committee president, Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that there was a tremendous response from the people towards the Policy and Planning Group.
“Threadbare discussions were held with original stake holders. Our group met genuine people and due to scarcity of time we couldn’t adjust all the people who had desired to meet our former Prime Minister and other esteemed members of the group.’’
Even the Congress delegation was conveyed that mainstream parties had aligned with secular India not with the communal forces and legislators of opposition parties conveyed the members of the group that tinkering with the Article 35 A or 370 will have serious consequences and Valley could erupt into chaos. The Congress policy group will be visiting to Ladakh in next week and listen to the people living in the cold desert region.
“The group will be visiting again to Kashmir in near future and even to district headquarters. Problems can’t be solved by taking decisions in New Delhi. You have to meet people and then frame a policy. And now Congress has adopted the same path and it will be fruitful and will bear good results,’’ Karra said.
For most of the time Congress has ruled India and from the beginning the leadership of Congress is aware about basic problems faced by people in J&K, especially in Kashmir. Unfortunately, the party always played a spoilsport. When situation was peaceful in Kashmir, it was Congress that out of turn got parliament attack convict Afzal Guru hanged in 2013.
That time party didn’t think about aspirations of common people in Kashmir, but the strategists of the party through this move will help them to win votes in the parliament elections, the out of turn hanging of Guru left people dejected.
Even body of Guru was not released and neither his family (wife and son) was given a chance to meet him last time. The agreements Kashmir’s leadership had done with Congress leaders were never fulfilled; in fact, it was Congress that made several attempts to erode the special powers given to Kashmir using one or the other alibi.
The main member of the Congress Policy Group who now claims that people of Kashmir should be given more powers, it was he who gave special powers to forces to tackle with civilians with an iron fist. The Congress framed several policy groups on Kashmir but when it was time to implement the recommendations, the party leadership remained silent.
Likewise, it was Congress whose former Prime Minister, Narsima Rao had once said that sky is the limit in context of resolving issues in Kashmir, however, the party didn’t even return single power project to boast the economy of the J&K. The only thing, party has done is it has empowered bunch of loyal people in all the three regions of the state and gave them all what they needed, especially, money, jobs and contracts. Congress has already termed the visit of its policy and planning group as a success and said that Union Minister Rajnath Singh’s recent visit to Kashmir was aimed to sabotage the visit of Congress group.
The Congress leaders say that now Centre government has also climbed down its rhetoric.
‘’The aim of the group’s visit was fulfilled when the Home minister climbed down from the earlier tough stand of not holding a dialogue with anybody. Only announcements won’t work and these have to be substantiated with follow up actions,’’ said Karra adding that it was the Congress pressure that ruling party has started feeling heat.
“First the hearing on Article 35 A in Supreme Court was deferred on Government’s request which was an indication of them feeling the heat. Both BJP -PDP are feeling uneasy, the home Minster has now come up with an assurance of not fiddling with the article,’’ he said and termed it as the first success.
However, majority of people feel that both BJP and the Congress are playing politics with common people. “Once in power, the attitude of these national parties changes abruptly. The Congress missed many opportunities; they never seriously tried to resolve this issue. Otherwise, lives of many civilians could have been saved had Congress tried to be sincere,’’ said a senior journalist working with a local English newspaper.