A Successful Visit

HOME minister Amit Shah’s two-day visit to Kashmir has turned out to be very successful. He addressed two rallies, one at Rajouri in the Jammu division and another at Baramulla in the Kashmir Valley, both attended by a large gathering of people. The Baramulla rally, however, was notable for the size of the crowd and the significance of the event. It was once unthinkable that a rally of this size could be held by a top BJP leader in a north Kashmir town, once roiled by militancy and conflict. The government had imposed tight security in the town to ensure the rally passed without an incident. And it did. In the run-up to the visit, however, there were a few incidents of violence in Jammu including the blast on passenger buses and the killing of the DGP Prisons H K Lohia, the latter termed by the police as a crime.

The home minister’s visit was marked by outreach to Gujjar, Bakerwal and Pahari communities. Shah announced the implementation of reservations for economically disadvantaged communities. Addressing the rally in Rajouri, the home minister said minorities and Dalits living in the Union Territory would not have gotten reservation rights if there was no abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in 2019. And in Baramulla, he reiterated the reservation promise to the three communities.

The home minister once again refused to start a dialogue with Pakistan, saying instead he would prefer to hold talks with Gujjars and Paharis and also with the youth of Kashmir. In a packed schedule, the home minister made sure he pays close attention to the problems of the former state. The visit, however, was primarily not political in nature. The home minister tried to keep the focus on the development of J&K. As with his visit last year,  he didn’t, however, announce any big-ticket economic or political initiative as is otherwise expected from a  high-profile visit like that of a home minister. And that too as powerful as Amit Shah. In fact, the visit even dampened the expectations of talks with Pakistan.

It is true, in the last over three years New Delhi has tried to cleanse Kashmir of its Pakistan and separatist discourse. And it has so far been successful in that. Though there had been some back-channel contact between the two neighbours towards the end of 2020 which culminated into a re-affirmation of 2003 ceasefire in February 2021, the dialogue failed to move on after India apparently refused to reverse the revocation of Article 370. And ever since the two countries have drifted apart. Their relations have become tense again. And it is unlikely that the neighbours can negotiate their way out of this dead-end unless there is a minimum level of mutual confidence between them. In the current circumstances, it seems unimaginable how this confidence could be restored. Meanwhile, the home minister’s visit has almost sounded the election bugle in Kashmir. His outreach to the tribal communities has signaled that elections could likely be held by this year end or early next year.

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