Prime Minister Narendra Modi is flying to the state for a day and the security grid is on tenterhooks. The premier’s visit to Kashmir is global news. Because Kashmir, for a long time now, has been dominating the home security and the foreign policy at the national level; everybody takes it very seriously.
The visit follows the budget proposals by Piyush Goyal to the Lok Sabha. There was not much in it for the embattled state. Barring listing 1.854 per cent of the net national tax proceeds as the share of the Jammu and Kashmir (Rs 15,658 crore), the budget has actually reduced the state’s special industry incentive under MHA from Rs 100 to Rs 50 crore. Even the relief and rehabilitation of migrants has been reduced from Rs 1047.73 crore to Rs 809.33 crore. This makes the BJP government’s insistence on migrant Pandits highly doubtful.
But economic developments are something that does not require budgetary announcements. These can happen if and when the government decides to do as has happened in the past during the reigns of Vajpyee and Manmohan Singh. Even Modi announced a special package during his last visit when he rebuffed his ally, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, a few weeks before he died in AIIMS.
Development is important and it has been taking place, regardless of the pace with which it has been happening for decades. The real crisis Kashmir faces is the security situation that is the outcome of a political crisis. During his reign, there has not been anything happening barring a harsh hard state approach. The Vajpayee era interventions were carried by the Congress for some time but once the leadership changed, all activities froze.
In 2015 when the BJP and PDP shook hands, it indicated that there will be a process that will actually help the state move out of the crisis. But it did not happen. Instead, the government fell under its own weight. Now the state is being directly ruled by the central government.
Although a direct rule by Delhi for any kind of intervention is best, it is apparently impossible to have any kind of initiative because it is election time. But there are possibilities of making some incremental interventions that will help Jammu and Kashmir breathe easy. Even though the number of young men picking up the gun has gone down, there is an informal denial to one section of the political landscape to operate. If it is permitted, it can help reduce the potential for young boys to take the extreme step because engagement is fundamental to the political life. Besides, it will also have a cooling effect on the overall situation so that the parties seeking elections would also be able to move and campaign.
Prime Minister Modi, who is facing an election in the immediate future, can use his visit to send a clear message to the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir that Delhi is not interested in damaging the distinct character and identity of the state. There is a lot of tension about some of the constitutional guarantees that, even though hollowed in the last many decades, are of crucial importance to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Modi can clear the air on that.