Déjà vu:Mufti elides over and skirts real issues in meeting with Modi


The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, met Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi today. Modi is now slated to visit the state on the 5th of November. CM Sayeed discussed with Modi the political and developmental situation obtaining in the state, besides elaborating on the measures brought about in bringing transparency and improving governance in the state. The two discussed wide-ranging issues including relations with Pakistan and cross-LoC trade and travel, skill development, infrastructure building, problems facing PoK refugees and the Agenda of the Alliance of the Coalition government.

The nature and the content of the meeting and discussion between Sayeed and Modi appear to be as vacuous as the politics that defines the state of Jammu and Kashmir contemporarily. At a time when the state of Jammu and Kashmir is in both a parlous and perilous state, all that the two leaders had to discuss were issues that have a tangential bearing on the problems that bedevil the state.

Three discussion points illustrate this. We will consider each one.

First is CM Mufti’s observation that adverse relations with Pakistan negatively impact the political and developmental processes in the state and pitching for expanding the scope of cross-LoC trade and travel. It is no rocket science to fathom that the Indian state , at this point in time, is cultivating hostility and animosity against Pakistan. This pertains to the negative narrative of nationalism that the Indian state is developing. Pakistan is being increasingly portrayed as India’s ‘Other’- locked in an existential battle with Pakistan. Even war talk is part of this narrative. This is paying political dividends domestically as more and more people are buying this narrative. The BJP, in this schema, is being portrayed as India’s savior. The motives and premises informing this approach appear to be in the nature of obscuring the governance and development failures of the BJP led government, among other things. From the point of view of Pakistan, the country now has limited leverage in fostering trouble in the state on account of structural and political reasons. CM Sayeed is then either blissfully unaware of realities obtaining on the ground or he is humoring Modi.

Now consider Mufti Sayeed’s gratitude to the Prime Minister for Centre’s support in construction of National Highway as well as in Railways, education, health and rural development sectors. Whilst we cannot speak about Railways, but we can state with confidence that there has been no discernible improvement in any of the sectors that Sayeed has mentioned and brought to Modi’s notice. All lag behind by any indicator of Government performance measurement.

The third related set of discussion points between Sayeed and Modi pertain  to what Sayeed called as a real challenge for the government- growing number of educated unemployed youth Sayeed sought active participation of the Central government agencies in absorbing the talented human resource of the state; the various initiatives being taken by the state government to fully harness the winter tourism potential in the state; the issue of skill development and the revival and branding of fabled Handicraft of the state. Whilst there are both conceptual and inter-sectoral linkages between these problems and sectors, but the real issue is neither support from the Centre for absorbing talent nor tinkering with winter tourism, skill development or branding handicrafts. The real issue is total and comprehensive revamp of the premises informing each. The problem then is of larger and effective ideas and rejigging these sectors in consonance with the needs and demands of the times.

CM Sayeed then has merely dwelt on and discussed themes that lack substance and have a marginal relevance to the state, its development and governance. This is the benign take or perspective on Sayeed’s discussion with Modi. A more robust take on the meeting would be that CM Sayeed has elided over the real issues and chosen to dwell on and discuss softer issues and themes. The major problem bedeviling the state at this point in time are the exploding and erupting of the fault lines that define the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The major fault line is the religious one. This has been brought to the fore by the beef ban controversy and the attacks on Kashmiri truck drivers in Udhampur. The polarization brought about by these may be the real and nagging issue that defines the state. However, Sayeed has chosen to ignore this and take on less pressing issues. The reason for this is obvious: the structure and nature of the alliance between the PDP and the BJP precludes discussions on issues that may damage the alliance and the government. Convenience and expedience has triumphed over what was the need of the hour: hard talk over the drift of events and politics in the state. Sayeed here may be corresponding to type: mainstream political space and representatives have long ago abdicated their voice and capacity to articulate, put forth, aggregate and expound issues that are of real significance and salience to the Centre.  Hence the skirting around real and substantive issues. This is a travesty for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Its denuded politics appears to be only a façade for mere power and power politics.

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