Challenges ahead for Amit Shah in Kashmir

Challenges ahead for Amit Shah in Kashmir

Hari Jaisingh

Notwithstanding his bravado as the Union Home Minister and BJP Chief,can Amit Shah reverse the process of history in Jammu and Kashmir in a jiffy? Not all that easy. What matters in Kashmir is the challenge of taking Kashmiris along with his “Mission Kashmir”. But, the problem with Amit Shah is that he is in a hurry and generally possesses a one-track mindset without properly ascertaining the ground realities and diverse groups of people in the Valley.

The PDP-BJP alliance collapsed because the BJP leaders entrusted with the task of understanding the Kashmir situation allowed themselves to be carried away more by their half-baked concepts rather than the hard realities and designs of visible and invisible persons who call the shots in the Valley. In fact, over the decades the leaders in the State and at the Centre, Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru
included, lacked an integrated vision on undivided J & K whose historical roots go back to India’s Vedic age.

Looking back, I must say that most Muslims of the Valley have had a history of respecting other faiths. The rich tradition of Sufism along with the cult of Rishis had provided for a healthy and multilayered religious homogeneity at the ground level, though some Muslim leaders,over a long period, have worked actively against this trend.

The feeling of animosity that we see in the Valley has now got mixed up with economics of deprivation and denial of “autonomy” and “freedom”. Small wonder, the separatists and fundamentalists in the Valley have been trying their best to wean away the converts from the past. This process has been going on for decades and decades. We have to see the future of Kashmiri Pandits against the backdrop of the growth of fundamentalism. So, what if the Pandits talk proudly about their great achievements for their Kashmiri ancestors? This is anathema to the converts who are getting more and more wedded to hardcore Islamic concepts and pan-Islamic culture. Things have gone from bad to worse because of the Pakistani factor of the Islamic proxy war.

Amidst today’s uneasy setting of terrorism and the dialogue syndrome, Amit Shah apparently has evolved his own agenda to tackle the Kashmir problem. However, he does not seem to have finalized his script for peace in the Valley. For the present, the Centre’s priority is to “break the backbone of militancy” through various means to eliminate terrorists and block the flow of funds from foreign sources. So, the State Assembly elections will have to wait at least for a few more months.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear on several occasions that “terror and talks cannot go together”. This is on top of the Centre’s agenda on Kashmir. Breaking of all communication channels with Pakistan needs to be seen in this larger policy framework.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam also made this clear on the second day of Amit Shah’s visit to Srinagar while reviewing the security scene in the state. I broadly agree with the official line of thinking that terror and talks can’t go together.Still, I am of the view that the dialogue door will have to be kept ajar for the right opportunity for talks with varied interest groups.

Of course, there is no scope for talks with hardliners among the separatists. They have to be put in place for their anti-India activities. But, what about moderate Hurriyet leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq?  He has been insisting on talks for more than a month. He says that the Hurriyet “will respond positively if the Centre initiates “meaningful talks” on Kashmir.

What could be the nature of such “meaningful talks” is not clear. For the present, the Centre wishes to continue with its crackdown against separatists and militants. Thus, the existing deadlock will continue in Kashmir until New Delhi feels that the situation is favourable for imposing its ‘brand’ of politics in the Valley.

This looks like a tall order. The moot point is: can we call a spade a spade and ensure evolution of people-friendly Kashmir politics? It is for the Union Home Minister to see J & K in a new perspective, and not selectively.

According to an analyst quoted by The Wire on the condition of anonymity, the BJP and the Centre “want to create their own stakeholders in the Valley” and have already begun acting on their long-term strategy of weakening not only separatists, but even those political actors who represent various vested interests.

Amit Shah is, of course, a master tactician. He can talk in different idioms at different settings and to different audiences. On Monday (July 1) in the Rajya Sabha, he invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s mantra of “Jamhooriat, Kashmiriyat and Insaniyat” and said that the Modi government was working for all-round development of the State. He also appealed to the Valley youth that they “should not be misled” by those asking them to hurl stones”. This is easier said than done.

The government’s top priority must be to work out a blueprint for economic rejuvenation of the State, especially keeping in view the generation of jobs for young persons. This calls for a new agenda and reforms for all-round development in the State.

There are, however, several odd elements in the Jammu and Kashmir situation in which the voices of the Valley are louder than somewhat faint voices of Jammu and Ladakh.

Looking back, Sheikh Abdullah through the manipulation of the electoral system, managed to give the Valley a permanent majority over the rest of the state. The amazing thing is that the then Central leaders allowed this outage to continue. Here, I would also like to recall that Sheikh Abdullah carved out a Muslim majority area in Ladakh (Kargil) when the Muslims demanded self-rule. This was done without any fuss or opposition from any quarter, the Centre included.Ironically, no one bothered to identify an area in the Valley where there were more Pandits than elsewhere.

If I read him correctly, Home Minister Amit Shah wishes to reverse the process of history through his varied moves, including delimitation,which is opposed by the Valley’s political parties.

Looking around, I feel the Kashmir problem is, first of all, our own creation. It began in 1947. After the horrendous experience of Partition, a direct result of Muslim separatism, we should have grown wiser. But we only make a series of mistakes. No purpose will be served by debunking Nehru for Kashmir’s all mistakes. We all have to look back on history objectively and rationally. But we have continued to make mistakes and repeat the process of history.

Even today, we are groping in the dark in the absence of a clear policy framework. In fact, the happenings in Kashmir are a reflection of our failure over the past decades, nay, even centuries, to evolve a comprehensive policy towards the minorities. The problem is that the BJP has its own one-track mindset which does not take into account India’s diversity and ethnicity. We are, therefore, not sure whether Amit Shah has been able to grasp the ground realities so as to understand the mindset, hopes and aspirations of the Valley Muslims in tune with 120 million Muslim population in the rest of the country.

Well, the RSS-BJP leadership may not like the Congress-Socialist brand of secularism. At the same time, the ruling class at the Centre cannot overlook the all-inclusive elements of secularism without the lynching of minorities at the ground level amidst the changing face of modern India. Over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.