Modi’s first visit to Kashmir as Indian PM left many riddles unsolved. From angry Pandits seeking separate homeland to separatists smelling conspiracy to state head shying away, it was all there. Shah Abbas reports the chaos left behind by Modi  

Modi-and-Omar-AbdullahModi became perhaps the first prime minister of India who was politically opposed by both the separatists and the unionists when he visited Jammu and Kashmir in the first week of July even though the visit was “apolitical”.

Separatists welcomed him by a complete shutdown and the head of the ruling coalition, the chief minister Omar Abdullah skipped the meeting meant for his own state’s security!

According to separatists the shutdown call was not against Modi as a person, but against the visit of “the prime minister of a country that has subjugated Kashmiris”.

And to Omar, “I met him (Modi) in Delhi a few weeks ago and discussed issues regarding the state, so I am not a part of that meeting.” But sources said that Omar was not informed about any meeting meant for reviewing the security situation of the state and if such was the case and sources are to be believed then “it was a humiliation to the state of J&K.”

Many analysts say that by not attending the sensitive meeting presided over by Modi, state CM Omar in fact paved the way for New Delhi to look after the security situation of the state itself. “Strange, the state’s security situation was being discussed and decisions regarding it were being taken in the premises of 15 Corps of army but the state head did not attend,” a Srinagar based Journalist told Kashmir Life.

Commentators are of the opinion that Omar missed an opportunity of convincing the PM in the presence of the officials of the security grid about the revocation of controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Interestingly Omar has more than once promised and assured the revocation of AFSPA in his regime which has not more than four months left now.

Political pundits of the state opine that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit was “purely government business”. “There were no political rallies or meetings. Even the MPs and MLAs of the concerned areas were not officially communicated to be present,” said a BJP leader in Jammu. He added that the Divisional Commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir coordinated the tour.

PM Modi inaugurated the 25 kilometre long Katra –Udhampur rail link. He reviewed security at the LoC, borders with Pakistan and China and also in the hinterlands at a high level meeting in Srinagar, inaugurated the 240 megawatt hydro-electric power project in the border town of Uri and returned to New Delhi the same day i.e., on July 4. He announced to “take the Vajpayee formula to its logical conclusion through development and win the hearts of the J&K people”.

Modi’s perceptible unpopularity in Kashmir is perhaps not surprising. His only planned initiative in the region so far is a mass movement of Hindu population. Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits – Hindus who had fled the Kashmir valley in the 1990s in the wake of militancy– are to be returned to their ancestral land and rehabilitated with “full dignity, security and assured livelihood”.

Will the security planned for the Pandits heighten repression against the majority community among whom they will be settled in one of the world’s most heavily militarised regions?

Hindu pilgrims from all over India can now directly reach Katra, the Mata Vaishno Devi Hindu shrine, by rail after Modi flagged off the first train. Modi himself called the train “as a gift to the devotees of Mata”.

Will majority population of the state be allowed to live with “full dignity, security and assured livelihood” like the Pandits who are to be rehabilitated among them? Only Narendra Modi and his cabinet have the answers.

Modi has long been associated with the Hindu nationalist organisation that wants to end the special status that the Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir nominally enjoys. His government has promised to renew the debate on this sensitive issue.

Even Modi’s flagging off train from Katra is criticised and looked through the prism of Hinduism. “Modi’s flagging off  train from Katra and not from Udhampur only exhibits his (Modi’s) religious extremism,” said a political science student. It was a train from Udhampur and should have been flagged off from Udhampur. But Modi this time annoyed even the majority Hindu by not paying homage at Mata Vaishno Devi Darbar during his visit.

By not making any political statement during his visit, Modi’s party BJP is now facing music even in Jammu, the strong bastion of the party where it won all the two seats during the last LS polls. The party even defeated former chief minister and influential Congress man Ghulam Nabi Azad. “Modi’s J&K visit was unplanned because he ignored the most burning issues of Jammu Migrants and PaK refugees with whom BJP had been making false promises to deliver them justice,” Prof Bhim Singh said while reacting on the PM’s state visit.

Bhim alleged that flagging off the train from Katra only shows Modi’s dislikes for Udhampur. “It was done only because Udhampur MLA belongs to Panthers Party,” Bhim alleged.

Many political spheres of Jammu division especially Jammu district are annoyed with Modi for not mentioning anything about the abrogation of Article 370.  “Modi had proposed a national level discussion on Article 370 during his speech at Jammu during last LS election campaign.  He forgot to mention Article 370 or even the name of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee,” said Bhim. These spheres included the political players who demand and support the theory of “the re-organization of J&K”. The “reorganization” of Jammu and Kashmir to them means formation of three states, Jammu State, Kashmir State and Ladakh-Gilgit State.

CPI (M) state secretary led AMM also expressed disappointment over “weird” silence maintained by Modi during his recent visit over a range of burning issues being faced by the people in Jammu and Kashmir.  “Modi’s ceremonial visit has disappointed one and all,” Tarigami said.

Migrant Kashmiri Pandits too were expecting some announcement about their rehabilitation from Modi, but were “disappointed”. “Modi has disappointed us by not making any mention about Kashmiri Migrant Pandits,” Roshan (Name changed on request) told Kashmir Life. He, however,  said, “Pandits have already started returning to their homeland and this summer in particular saw some major developments in this regard.”

However, according to sources Modi’s recent J&K visit seemed to be a dummy run of PM’s expecting state tour in the coming election days. They said that Modi will be visiting J&K again during the upcoming assembly election to campaign for his party but he cannot make any political or economic announcements at that time because of the election Code of Conduct (CoC). They added that Modi’s coming visit will be confined to Jammu division only.

But Modi’s problem is not just the opposition by the separatists or the other political players of Kashmir or Jammu. He has to face the huge challenges of security and development in a situation where he has to address the political concerns of his own party which has already embarked on an ambitious political strategy to get at least “five lotuses” from the Valley. BJP also plans to improve its political fortunes in the Jammu region as well. So the cautious Modi did not do any visible politics but left everything for election time.

Modi’s recent J&K visit was a result of opportunities the previous government created for him. Both the projects he inaugurated were actually ready during the tenure of the previous government.

On his maiden visit to the state after assuming office, when the prime minister returned to New Delhi after a day’s busy schedule encompassing development and security, the Congress leader and a Cabinet minister in the Omar led government; Taj Mohiuddin dropped the bomb shell. He alleged that Modi in fact had inaugurated “an illegal” 240 MW Uri-II Hydro Electric Project at Uri because the project has no license to operate.

“The NHPC had applied for license for this projects which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi but the license has not been issued because NHPC has not completed any formalities so far,” the minister for health and medical education told a local news gathering agency.

Taj said that NHPC has started the project without any license. “NHPC was supposed to obtain the license under Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources Act but they have not completed the modalities required for the same. NHPC authorities have no respect for the local laws.”

Pertinently, the separatist camp calls the NHPC as “a tool of occupation” which acts as “the East India Company”.

Taj alleged that NHPC has always deceived the state of Jammu and Kashmir. “There is an agreement between the state government and the central government wherein NHPC was supposed to construct a bridge, set up a stadium, construct a bus stand besides providing employment to the local youth. But the NHPC authorities have failed to implement this agreement. They have not done anything,” Taj said.

Taj revealed that he as the minister for PHE and Irrigation had written to then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and informed the PMO that the NHPC has not obtained any license for the project so Dr Singh should not give his consent to inaugurate the project.

But fact of the matter is that Modi during his “apolitical” visit did inaugurate the “illegal” project, changed the track of “Vajpayee formula” from “Insaanyat” to “development” and reviewed and directed about the security of the state in the absence of the chief minister. Is still there any need to find the political threads of the PM Mod’s first Kashmir visit?

Following The Heart

BJP’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seemingly followed his heart and not mind while making allocations in Jammu and Kashmir. Son-in-law of a prominent Congress family of Jammu, Jaitley delivered on the party promise that the temple city will get an IIT, a major professional infrastructure.

Kashmiri Pandits, mostly living as migrants in Jammu and elsewhere across India got a moral boost as the budget adding more than Rs 500 crore for their relief and rehabilitation. This, apparently, is over and above the larger package that state government wants centre to announce for the community’s dignified return.

The arid Ladakh desert where the party sprung a surprise by a heavily divided vote between Congress on communal lines, Jaitely allocated substantial Rs 500 crore for solar energy.

Kashmir that has traditionally been accused of usurping rights of other two regions was at the tail end of the resource allocation: Rs 50 crore for Pashmina and Rs 20 crore for other crafts, yet to be specified. An allocation of Rs 100 crore each for Srinagar and Jammu was also made for upgrading the indoor stadia. This is in addition to the devolution of Rs 4887 crore that J&K would get as net proceeds from Union Taxes and Duties. Jammu and Kashmir gets 1.551% share from corporation tax, income tax, wealth tax, customs, union excise duty, but no share from service and other taxes and duties.

It got praise for the proposals. Rana Sr, who is a MoS in PMO thanked Jaitley for the exceptional delivery. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had returned from Delhi, a day earlier, after meeting a number of central ministers and seeking help on various fronts. The party was silent and did not react.

But, curiously, that was not the case with opposition PDP. The party that represents Kashmir in Lok Sabha reacted and it was interesting. It termed the budget “states-centric and gender-friendly” and “welcomed the special funding for various initiatives”. Instead of stating out-rightly that Kashmir was ignored, the party politely sought an IIM for Kashmir “so that the youth don’t feel a sense of neglect”. Apart from demanding an IIMS at Srinagar and Jammu, and fair share in border area development, the party demanded allocations on north-eastern pattern. PDP belies Jammu and Kashmir would get Rs 7800 crore including plan which is nothing as compared to Rs 53000 crore that north east got.

The curiosity remains: was PDP’s lame-duck response part of a possible tie-up or simply the party does not want to start with confrontation. Possibly time will tell the rest of the story.

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