Embracing Kashmir

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Asem Mohiuddin

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On August 15, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech made a special reference on Kashmir and said – “Na goli se, na gaali se, Kashmir ki samasya suljhegi gale lagaane se (Kashmir’s problems can be solved only with embracing the people of Kashmir, not with bullets or abuses). It was for the first time when instead of tough words, PM Modi used soft words on Kashmir and towards the people. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership was eagerly waiting for these soft words from the PM and it was not only responded by mainstream politicians, but separatist leaders also welcomed it, however, they had apprehensions whether words could be translated into action. So far Centre and State government has only used iron fist, even separatist leaders who had been waiting for call from the centre were completely ignored by the current dispensation in New Delhi, though BJP’s alliance partner, the PDP has been trying its level best to arrange talks between Centre and separatist leadership.

Welcoming the remarks of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi,  J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti said she has all along believed that only dialogue and peaceful means can help in resolving issues because the futility of violence has been established. “The slogan, Bandook se na goli se/Baat banegi boli se (neither guns nor bullets, only dialogue can resolve the issue), coined by the PDP some 15 years ago, is as relevant today as it was then.”

However, at the same time she cautioned the Centre that once it comes to defending the special status of Kashmir, all the mainstream political parties are one like a fist.

“When it comes to safeguarding our status, we are one… like a fist’’, she said.

 Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti further said that separatism can only be defeated by embracing Kashmiris and not through violence. Despite some reservations on the Article 35 A which BJP wants to remove along with the Article 370, the PDP leadership are hopeful that PM’s remarks on the Independence Day is a signal that Centre will support state government on Article 35 A and Article 370. Though Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti met Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh and the BJP general secretary, Ram Madhav who has actually drafted the Agenda of Alliance with the PDP, however, Mufti didn’t get any concrete assurance from the Centre, though after coming out after meeting with PM Modi, Mehbooba Mufti said that she got assurance from the Centre on Article 370 and Article 35 A.  

However, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said the BJP will take a call on issues like Article 370 and Article 35 A when it forms a government on its own in J&K.

“The BJP stand on Article 370 and Article 35 A is very clear and we still stick to our stand,’’ Singh told reporters after the Independence Day parade. “If people of Jammu & Kashmir give us 44 plus seats in the legislative assembly, we will take a call.

But today, the government is sticking to the Agenda of Alliance in which we have agreed to maintain status quo on constitutional provisions,’’ he said.

This statement though gave a hope to the PDP, however, opposition parties don’t trust alliance partner of PDP and feels that they could ditch the state government on this issue as BJP and the RSS has been saying that they want to remove the Article 370 and Article 35 A. They have been all along saying that, Ek Nishaan,  Ek Vidhan and Ek Pradhaan.

Former chief minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah said the Prime Minister’s words on Kashmir have been very well received by people here but everyone is weary of more talk and no concrete action.

In tweets, Abdullah said: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We look forward to being embraced in the warm grip of understanding, acceptance & respect. That respect must include respect for the unique status of J&K enjoys within the Constitution of India that sets it apart from all other states.’’ Omar has apprehensions that BJP will never keep its word and believes that these statements are for public consumption and in reality neither PM Modi nor BJP will keep its promise.

Even PM’s remarks on Kashmir have been welcomed by the senior separatist leader Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also welcomed the remarks of the Prime Minister. “Welcome @narendramodi also believes ‘Goli & gaali will not help resolve Kashmir’ if insaniyat & insaaf replace them. Resolution can become a Reality,’’ he tweeted hours after the remarks on Kashmir. After this statement, a hope has rekindled within the PDP leadership; however, it will be put to test in Supereme Court during the hearing on Article 35 A. If Centre will submit the affidavit in support of state government, then it is an indication that PM Modi has kept his word, otherwise, if the Centre will leave this matter on the state then everyone will believe that this is a ploy from PM Modi.

Majority of people in Kashmir and opposition leaders believe that Modi  never translates his promises into reality. “It is another statement from PM, like the statements he has been making on various issues since he assumed power. He will never keep his word, as BJP and RSS has a different ideology vis-a-vis Kashmir. And the PDP by forming government has given them credence. Very soon PDP will realize its mistake,’’ a senior Congress leader said.

Even the PDP has realized the Centre couldn’t be 100 percent sincere and has already started establishing contacts with opposition parties, Mehbooba not only met NC patron Farooq Abdullah, but also had detailed meeting with three senior mainstream politicians – Hakeem Yasin, Ghulam Hassan Mir and Mohammad Yusuf Taragami and sought their valuable opinions on various political issues. Even Mehbooba Mufti praised former J&K chief minister and NC leader Farooq Abdullah during her Independence Day speech at Bakshi Stadium. “Mehbooba Mufti has realized her mistake of trusting the BJP, so she is slowly trying to mend fences with opposition parties that is a good step.

So BJP has never entertained its coalition partner, PDP on the political front, even at times have embarrassed the party that gave them chance to rule in India’s only Muslim majority state,’’ said a political analyst.

“It is good the PDP has now started looking for other options, otherwise, they could be politically isolated or vanished.’’ 

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Even majority of people in Kashmir and those on social media didn’t believe on the words of Modi like Gali and Gooli. In fact, it generated a big debate on the social media.  “Now Kashmiri people will receive hugs instead of pellets and bullets,’’ wrote a youth on his face book page.

Even many people feel that like old promises, this promise will not be kept.

“New Delhi has made many promises to people of Kashmir, however instead of giving concessions, the people of the state were denied their rights even now attempts are being made to tinker with Article 35 A, that is dangerous and could put entire state in jeopardy and fresh violence and killings are inevitable,’’ said Bashir Ahmad who works in Kashmir University.

On the other hand now the opposition parties skeptical on the moves of New Delhi and have now asked the J&K chief minister to call special session of the J&K Legislative Assembly to discuss the Article 35 A and its defense before August 28.

First the demand was made during a Round Table Conference that was organized by independent legislator, engineer Rashid in which leaders from mainstream parties and separatists groups participated besides the members of civil society. Not only NC but other mainstream parties have endorsed this demand for calling special session of the J&K Legislative Assembly. It is now up to state government whether to accept it or not.  

NC working president, Omar Abdullah said the special session should be called to frame an appropriate response to counter any narrative with regard to tampering or repealing Article 35A. “The issue is of vital importance to the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, as abrogation of Article 35A will have serious ramifications,” he said.

Omar and other NC leaders have been trying to rope in leaders of all three regions of the state and trying to highlight them how they all will face problems incase Article 35 A will be abrogated, even NC has launched a public campaign along with other civil society groups.  Most of the people in J&K feel that all depends on the Modi and his sincerity towards people of Kashmir, however, only after few weeks, it will be realized whether the speech of Modi on Independence Day was just another political stunt or it was aimed to put healing balm on the wounds of Kashmiri people who have been losing lives on everyday basis in the ongoing political chaos.  

The author can be reached at bhatasem@gmail.com

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