Home Minister’s Visit

THE home minister Amit Shah has been on a three-day visit to J&K from October 23, his first since the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019. The home minister’s visit came in the wake of the recent civilian killings and the ongoing Poonch encounter which has so far led to the killing of nine security personnel. He along with Lt. Gov Manoj Sinha reviewed the security situation with the security brass in Srinagar.

Though the visit has not had a major political component, Shah on Monday made it clear that the government would rather talk to the people of Kashmir than Pakistan as advocated by the National Conference chief Dr Farooq Abdullah. If anything, this shows that the union government is not keen on talks with Pakistan with whom it was allegedly involved in a back-channel engagement early this year, culminating in February in re-affirmation of the 2003 LoC ceasefire.

Earlier in his visit, the home minister interacted with the representatives of 4,500 youth clubs in J&K that work at panchayat level. During the meeting he made it clear that the terrorism and stone-pelting had disappeared in Kashmir and those who wanted to disrupt peace here would be dealt with an iron hand. Talking about the development of J&K in the last two years, Shah painted a positive picture saying that J&K has received Rs 12,000 crore investment in the past six months compared to a total of Rs 15,000 crore in the past seven years.

As for the all-important subject of statehood, the home minister said it will be followed by the fresh delimitation of Assembly seats in J&K and the subsequengt elections. A delimitation commission has already been in place for the last over a year and it may soon complete its mandate. The enhancement of the Assembly seats, Shah said, will be followed by holding of the elections within the union territory framework.

It is not clear whether this statehood that would hopefully come after delimitation and the election would be full or a truncated one where the real power would vest with the governor. Such an arrangement, according to mainstream J&K politicians, would hardly be enough to make a redeeming difference to the existing state of affairs, as fundamentally there won’t be much that would change on the ground. There is thus a demand, both in the Valley and Jammu, that the centre must be more considerate and sensitive towards the demands of the people of J&K and start the process of outreach with the restoration of statehood itself. As things stand, this seems unlikely to happen. But we can only hope that this happens as the statehood alone will give people of J&K a sense of empowerment.

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