An Enigma

They came, they saw and they left.  Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi’s high profile visit left almost everybody fuming, including their political allies in Kashmir, as none talked about K-issue.  Shah Abbas, analyses the long term impact of their silence on the already alienated youth in Kashmir.         

PM Manmohan Singh flagging  off the Banihal-Qazigund train. Pic: Bilal Bahadur
PM Manmohan Singh flagging off the Banihal-Qazigund train.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Not announcing any political package for Kashmir, nor uttering a single word about ‘K’ issue during his recent two day visit of Jammu and Kashmir, clearly indicates that Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh has left many such packages for his successor expected to be elected early next year. But Manmohan tried to ‘integrate’ Kashmir with New Delhi by inaugurating the ‘national project’ of Qazigund-Banihal railway line.

During his short but loaded speech at the inaugural function held at Banihal, the Prime Minister said it will make Kashmir an integral part of India’s progress.

“It is a wonderful engineering marvel that was chiseled inside the Himalayas for seven years,” Dr Singh said, adding, “with this we have realized the dream that Maharaja Partap Singh visualized in 1858.” The tunnel, Dr Singh said, “will make Kashmir an integral part of India’s progress.”

It was in fact the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who gave the context to what the Prime Minister said. “For us it is the second watershed event after the inclusion of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution,” Omar said. “While the Article 370 established J&K relations with the Union constitutionally, the tunnel across Pir Panchal established the relations physically.”

Manmohan is surely not the next prime ministerial candidate. “He is just passing his last months in the Prime Minister’s office and can’t take any decision on the sensitive issue like Kashmir,” Mubarak  Ahmad, a political science scholar told Kashmir Life. “By tracing the history of rail in the State to the then Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1858, the Prime Minister in fact tried to justify the autocratic rule in Jammu and Kashmir, against which the National Conference, the present ally of Congress in J&K, has a history,” Mubarak added.

“Dr Singh described the Qazigund-Banihal rail as a ‘national project’ is enough to understand that he intended to forward a message that the project was aimed to integrate Kashmir,” Mubarak concluded.

In late fifties, when Jawahar Tunnel was inaugurated on Srinagar-Jammu highway, same kind of statement had come from late Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru. “But the integration which was sought to be achieved through its construction seems to have boomeranged in the field,”  political analyst who teaches at university level, Dr Sheikh Showkat, said.

Last year before Pakistan’s general elections, President Aasif Ali Zardari had stated that the Kashmir issue should be left to the next generation. The statement was highly resisted by not only some frontline Pakistani political parties but also by all Kashmiri separatist leaders.

Now the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh did not use the term “K-issue” during his two day stay in the state clearly indicates that UPA does not want to provide Narindra Modi a horse to ride on.

New Delhi has pursued a counterinsurgency strategy that merges police surveillance, crackdown on separatists, job programmes and some development works as well. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s visit was to inaugurate a rail line that will eventually link the Kashmir Valley with India.

“It is part of New Delhi’s efforts to fully integrate the disputed region with India,” Nayeem  Khan, a senior separatist leader told Kashmir Life, adding, “but the fact remains that when hearts are apart, railway links and highway connectivity won’t work. Such efforts have proved a failure, though for some time they fascinate a selected section of people.”

The recent uprisings in 2008 and 2010 are still fresh in people’s memories. That is why analysts see a huge distance between Srinagar and New Delhi despite the two tunnels passing the mighty Himalayas. “Indian state might have physically made it possible to reach to the valley of Kashmir, but it still remains far away from the hearts and minds of its inhabitants,” opined Dr Shawkat, adding “the physical distances might have diminished, the emotional distance keep on getting wider with every passing day.”

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