Amidst anticipation, hope and shut-down PM Modi stopped-over and left without sharing the pain of flood hit Kashmiris. Shah Abbas analysis the chain of events that make Modi’s Diwali visit to Kashmir much more than a solidarity mission
“The Indian Prime Minister lacks courage and honesty to admit that his visit to Kashmir on Diwali was actually meant for boosting……… morale of the Indian soldiers guarding Siachen glacier, not for the flood sufferers of Kashmir,” read a face book post of a Journalist as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Rajbhawan in Srinagar.
As Gujrat Chief Minister in 2001, Narendra Modi had spend Diwali in Bhuj to exhibit solidarity with the earthquake victims and after 13 years when he became the prime minister of India Modi came to Srinagar to “spent Diwali with the flood hit people of Kashmir”. Political and social circles of Kashmir however while criticising Modi’s visit to Kashmir said that in a Muslim majority region Modi should have come on Eid- celebrated recently- to exhibit solidarity with the flood hit people.
Many commentators take Modi’s Diwali trip to Kashmir not only as an attempt to woo voters before assembly elections which are due in a couple of months but also as a message to Pakistan.
Modi’s Siachan and Kashmir visit came amidst a recent eruption in violence along LoC with many civilians dying in cross-border skirmishes earlier this month amid mutual allegations over who provoked the firing. Near 30 thousand people stand displaced since October this year alone.
This all happened after India called off peace talks with Pakistan when the later continued its formality of consulting with Kashmiri separatists in New Delhi before talking to India. Calling off talks is seen as a sign of a tougher stance under the new right-wing government in New Delhi.
Notably, this was probably the first ever Diwali when Indian troops did not offer sweets to the Pakistan Rangers along LoC and IB in Jammu and Kashmir instead there was exchange of firing in two or three places along the working boundary in Jammu region.
Modi changed his mind at the eleventh hour and instead of Srinagar he landed on the world’s highest battlefield-Siachen Glacier. Modi took a special Air Force aircraft to Siachen and was flown by helicopter to the base camp at about 12,000 feet. He made an aerial survey of the glacier before meeting the troops.
Siachen that witnessed fierce fighting between India and Pakistan in 1987 is seen as the most unfriendly posting for any soldier. An estimated 8000 troops have died on the glacier since 1984 almost all of them from avalanches, landslides, frostbites, altitude sickness or heart failure rather than combat.
There is another aspect of the Modi visit to valley and it is about the relief of the flood victims. Modi categorically assert that his government will consider giving relief directly to those affected. He however announced a relief of Rs 750 crore from his own fund for the construction of residential houses and rebuilding and renovation of the six main hospitals.
In Srinagar, the PM interacted with the representatives of major political parties except Congress which boycotted meeting him, fruit and saffron growers association; hoteliers, houseboat owners, shikarawalas, travel agents; NGOs/Volunteers/Civil society; trade and industry; private / Missionary schools; Transporters; Handloom / handicraft sector and academicians. All the people who met Modi in Srinagar were “selected” and they briefed the PM about the latest political and relief scenario. According to sources majority of the delegations expressed their “unhappiness” with the state dispensation and stressed upon him for a comprehensive relief package for the state especially the valley.
However, according to Anil Goswami, union home secretary, centre is yet to receive a detailed assessment of losses from the State Government. The State Government has presented a memorandum for seeking special package of Rs 44,000 crore for rehabilitation of the flood victims. Sources said that the said memorandum is not made professionally and it lacks the essential details of requirements.
The Prime Minister, according to Goswami directed the concerned officers of the Central government that as soon as the detailed assessment of the State Government is completed, they should examine the memorandum quickly with due sensitivity.
Modi’s visit is also seen in the backdrop of upcoming state assembly elections. Many believe that Modi had come to Kashmir only to take forward his party president Amit Shah’s “Kashmir mission”. Shah according to BJP sources is personally supervising his party’s first ever attempt to install a Hindu Chief Minister in Jammu and Kashmir. BJP leaders and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadre are already working overtime to achieve the “impossible”. But many believe that Amit Shah’s “mission Kashmir” is not impossible. They argue that Modi’s slogan “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” has caught the imagination of the voters in J&K. Mission Kashmir is not just a slogan we are soon going to turn it into reality. Nobody thought BJP will win well over 272 seats in the Lok Sabha polls. We will once again prove everyone wrong. Amit Shah has already shown what he is capable of in Uttar Pradesh,” a BJP leader said.
“I’m not so concerned about the other states where elections are being held. We are winning in those states in any case. I want you to devote all your energy on winning Jammu and Kashmir,” Shah recently directed his party members at a function in Jammu.
Shah has categorically told his party cadre that this will send a meaningful message around the world. “Imagine the message that would go around the world, if we succeed in installing a BJP leader as the democratically elected chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Rumours are also making rounds that Amit Shah has succeeded in narrowing down on a Muslim chief ministerial candidate as an “alternative” and this “alternative” according to sources will be “used” if need arises.
To repeat its Lok Sabha performance in J&K, the BJP is not relying only on Jammu and Ladakh. Shah aspires to make a dent in the Muslim majority Valley as well. There are 2.5 lakh registered Kashmiri Pandit voters who are numerically significant in at least eight of the 46 seats of the Kashmir Valley. BJP leaders and RSS workers have embarked on a massive enrolment campaign to get Kashmiri Pandits to vote from no matter where they are settled in India. Sources said door-to-door enrolment is being carried out in Jammu, Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, and pockets of Punjab that have heavy concentration of the Pandit community.
Shah estimates that at present there are roughly four lakh eligible Kashmiri Pandit voters settled across India. But out of these only 126,000 are registered voters. BJP is going all out to enrol the remaining and has made significant progress so far. Pandits have substantial presence in segments like Habbakadal, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Islamabad, Tral, Amirakadal, Sopore and Khanyar. Tral also has a substantial Sikh population.