Modi comes again, makes speech, returns

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Coming to  J&K one more time after his November speech in Srinagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again made no significant political announcement on Kashmir. He reiterated that his policy on Kashmir will be dictated by the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari  Vajpayee’s “Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat”, something that has become his stock slogan on the state.  But while Modi stresses the terms, he also divests the terms of their profound political import when understood in the light of Kashmir. He didn’t mention Insaniyat in terms of the willingness to talk to separatists outside the ambit of the Constitution but meant it literally as humanity. And Jamhooriyat for him remains the large turnout in the Assembly polls in the state and the everyday party politics. So far as Kashmiriyat is concerned, the term has become a cliché from its overuse in political references to J&K. However, in regard to tacking the historical problems of Kashmir, it signifies nothing beyond a fashionable catchword on the state. 

For political observers in the state, the PM once again missed a major opportunity to step out of his political straitjacket on the state.  Though this time around, there was little expectation of Modi making a significant  policy announcement on Kashmir, a sneaking desire in Valley looked forward to some outreach. More so, after the killings of five youth in Handwara. Many wanted him to give a clear-cut message of communal harmony to the country.  A message that would have certainly found a national and international resonance after the exacerbating intolerance and divisiveness in India over the past two years.  More so,  because it would have come from a political stage of the only Muslim majority state of India.  But Modi chose not to.

Incidentally, Modi also didn’t express his renewed commitment to the implementation of Agenda of Alliance. Nor did he announce action on some of the key demands made by Mehbooba Mufti while she was holding out against the centre over the last three months.  For example, PM didn’t announce two smart cities for the state – one each for Jammu and Srinagar. He also didn’t announce the return of any of the power projects owned by NHPC in the state.  The event at Katra was entirely and literally confined to the inauguration of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Super Specialty Hospital.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti too looked mellowed down and subdued. Breaking from her traditional political style, she railed against Pakistan. “In neighbouring Pakistan, though people of only one religion live, they still kill each other,” she said while lavishing praise on the “unity and communal harmony” in  India. She did bring up the problems in Kashmir but more so apologetically and metaphorically. She didn’t talk about the resolution of Kashmir but was at pains to tie the state’s political destiny to that of India. This was not the mercurial Mehbooba who we know as a grassroots politician. We all expected her to usher in a dramatic shift away from her father’s quiet style of governance.  Instead we have a leader who is seeking to play to and appease New Delhi. She also stayed short of demanding anything from the Agenda of Alliance for the state, something for which nor long ago she had put her chief ministerial chair on the line. Still it is early days for Mehbooba. She hasn’t yet completed even a month in power. Here is hoping that she does indeed deliver in the days to come. 

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