Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said it again: Kashmir problem can be resolved only by embracing its people, not with bullets or abuses. In his address on the 72nd I-Day at the Red Fort, Modi said his government was following the teachings of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Kashmir. The PM again invoked the Vajpayee’s words of ‘Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat,’ terming it the correct path, basically repeating the words that he had said during last year’s August 15 speech.
However, the PM said nothing that would suggest the centre wants to start a process to address the issues in the state. On the contrary, centre has continued with its security-centric approach towards the state. And this approach has produced only death and destruction in its wake. And militancy which it is sought to be obliterated has only grown from strength to strength. More and more youth are taking up the arms. Recent data revealed 126 youth have joined the militancy in just seven months of this year.
But this hardly detracts from the significance of the PM’s message. Few people in Kashmir expected Modi to reach out considering a consistent hard-line policy of his government towards the state.
The PMs message will certainly go some way in easing the growing concerns in Kashmir about New Delhis policies towards the state. But at the same time the message constitutes more of a goodwill gesture than a substantive policy statement. Basically, the PM says nothing. If the past year is anything to go by, he has just made a feel-good statement. That is all. There is no commitment to the state’s special status, no commitment to dialogue and no signal that the centre wants a resolution of the festering Kashmir issue.
For example, the biggest issue Kashmir is facing at this time is the deep public anxiety about the Article 35A. Modis message hardly calms the frayed nerves on this score. It says nothing about the Centres commitment to the continuation of J&Ks special status. But so far neither the PM nor any senior government functionary has publicly voiced support for Article 35A. So, the immediate test of the PM’s intentions will be how the centre responds to the petitions against Article 35A in Supreme Court. This is what is currently keeping the Valley on edge.
As for the dialogue with Kashmiri dissident opinion or for that matter with Pakistan is concerned, Modi has maintained a studied silence. But even if he had spoken, it would have hardly meant much. The truth is the PM is in power for just nine more months and thus any political initiative on Kashmir won’t mean much in terms of the steps to address the situation. But the PM can still take steps to build the confidence of the people of the state as to the intentions of his government. And to do it, the PM would first need to address the deepening anxiety about the fate of the Article 35A in the upcoming hearing in the Supreme Court.
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