“There should be an institutional and structured dialogue while taking the stakeholders on board from all the three regions. The rhetoric shall go and action should come. The Kashmir is facing severe emotional disconnect with the rest of country,” (PDP)
On Saturday, September 30th, 2017, the newly inducted Union Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman concluded her two day visit to the border state of Jammu and Kashmir after holding meetings with the concerned officers and discussing the prevailing situation in the hinterland and on the borders. Sitahraman is only the second woman defence minister of India and has recently been inducted by the Modi government. Within the last one month, it has been the third high profile visit from New Delhi to the troubled valley in the backdrop of raids on separatists over allegedly illegal financial transactions by National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Earlier, the Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured that he was willing to visit the valley even fifty times, if needed, to improve the situation on ground. “Not just five times, if there is a need to 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.”
Rajnath Singh told reporters during a press conference on his visit to Kashmir. He said that the permanent solution to the Kashmir problem was based on the five C’s i.e. compassion, communication, co-existence, confidence building and consistency. Although, he did not make any direct offer to the separatist faction for talks, he however hinted about a possible dialogue with the aggrieved class in Kashmir. The shift in New Delhi’s policy towards Kashmir was more evident when BJP’s Kashmir affairs In-charge Ram Madhav made a direct offer of talks to the separatists without any pre-conditions during his visit to Kashmir few weeks back.
Ram Madhav, who was also the key person in stitching the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ to run the coalition in the state with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was on a visit to meet the ruling party ministers and his party leaders in the state to get apprised about the ongoing developments and the government’s functioning. Madhav has been keenly observing the ongoing developments in the state and has always come forward to save the coalition from falling apart during the many tough times when the differences between the parties were brewing up.
Following his visit, Sitharaman, the woman defence minister who visited the state and assessed the security situation directed the security forces to adopt the “stick and carrot” policy to deal with the situation. However, she urged the forces to win the trust of the people and work towards restoring peace in the valley. “You need to ensure that no more youth are recruited to join militancy. Let the Kashmiri youth associate itself with the mainstream and excel in various fields.” She was quoted saying by reliable media sources.
Sitharaman has been on a valley tour after security forces achieved major success in killing over 150 militants, including 9 top militant commanders in the last few months. Militarily, it is being considered as a major success and the defence minister has been vocal in hailing the security forces responsible for it on the ground. She, however, realizes that this is a short term achievement and can’t help alone in improving the situation in Kashmir, where militancy is deep rooted.
Following NIAs crackdown on separatists and their relatives for their alleged role in receiving funds for fanning trouble in Kashmir from across the border, the Union government is persistently making efforts to reach out to the people of Kashmir. As per a local politician, there is a clear indication that while New Delhi wants to use an iron fist to deal with the militants and the separatists, they are also keen to improve governance in the state and reduce the trust deficit with the local people.
According to him, the Modi government has a different Kashmir agenda from what was being practiced in the past. The government is working to localize this 70 year old political issue and find a solution within the framework of the constitution.
Meanwhile, the BJP, which always believed that the trouble in Kashmir was rooted in Pakistan for its alleged financial, military and political support substantiated their claims by pointing at the ongoing lull in stone pelting and spontaneous anti India protests in the valley following the NIA raids.
The raids which proved successful in tackling the streets protests has been a morale booster for the Modi government which was cornered by the opposition at the centre for pushing the valley towards further alienation and deteriorating its fragile peace.
“The Congress had adopted an appeasing policy in which a group of people were taking the entire interests of the state and its peace hostage to their personal interests. We have to shunt these inimical elements out and ensure no one is taking benefit of the untoward situation,” said the BJP leader wishing not to be named. He was firm in saying that the separatist detained by NIA will be produced before the court for their alleged involvement without any compromise.
“We have to remove this toothache forever. If not now, it won’t happen ever. The Modi government after witnessing the large scale protests of 2016 post the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani, have made it clear that no compromise would be made on Kashmir issue,” he said. He further added that the functioning of the NIA is personally being monitored by the Prime Minister’s office this time to avoid any leniency and lapses.
The BJP, however, also wants to speed up the developmental work in Kashmir and reduce the governance deficit that Kashmir has been witnessing, which is also a major reason for its alienation.
“The BJP has always believed in dialogue and that is evident from the statements of Prime Minster during his visits to Kashmir.
“First time he said that the solution to Kashmir issue will be under the ambit of Insaniyat, jumhuriyat and Kashmiriyat. And second time in Srinagar he reiterated his words and said that they are concerned about Kashmir and know how to resolve it though he doesn’t need anybody’s suggestion,” BJP MLC Surinder Amberdar said.
“But the question is with whom to talk. Some people make issue of dialogue and the government has not received any concrete proposal from anyone to initiate the process. Even no one responded officially to the offer of union home minister, Rajnath Singh for dialogue,” he adds. “The policy of Union government is open and the statements of union ministers are reflecting that.”
The PDP while welcoming the policy shift of New Delhi from its hardliner approach is optimistic to see its statements transpiring into action. The party believes that Kashmir is actually facing an emotional disconnect with the rest of country and India needs to work on that and move beyond rhetoric.
“There should be an institutional and structured dialogue while taking the stakeholders on board from all the three regions. The rhetoric shall go and action should come. The Kashmir is facing severe emotional disconnect with the rest of country,” says the media analyst of Jammu and Kashmir government in Chief Minister’s office, Tahir Syeed.
While the shift in policy of New Delhi is welcomed by the mainstream political parties, however, observes believe that New Delhi is playing with the fire in state after detaining the separatists.
“People are watching the developments after NIA detained the separatists for allegedly receiving funds from Pakistan. The NIA needs to prove it in court of law and people are waiting for it. In case it fails to prove the situation altogether will be different in Kashmir and the trust deficit will rise and will worsen the situation,” said a senior political professor, wishing not to be named.