Finally it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Srinagar to address his maiden election rally.
Prior to his arrival, the city and its adjoining areas were fortified. Contrary to the claims of police officials that “there will be no restrictions on peoples’ movement,” the movement was seen nowhere. Early morning pictures of city revealed that only men in uniform, smoke emanating from wood burning on road, ammunition and long bamboos were seen.
The sequence of day for Modi was first he addressed rally in Jammu’s Samba, then visited Kashmir’s army cantonment to pay tributes to slain army men and then arrived in stadium named after National Conference’s founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
Watching closely the developments, as per reports the seating arrangement was nearly for 6000 people, but at around 12 in the noon, except media men and organizers, not many people were seen. This was exactly when Modi was addressing impressive rally in Samba.
As he landed in Srinagar, the number of people in SK stadium was significant. Though earlier Omar Abdullah accused People’s Conference’s Sajjad Gani Lone of sending his supporters from north Kashmir in eighty trucks. Similarly Omar said that two train loads of people were coming from Banihal. Whatever, finally the gathering was modest.
I am writing this piece just to share my impression of Mr. Modi’s visit and speech, though his speech vis a vis Jammu and Kashmir are same from day one. So here goes it: As religion, tradition, culture, and liking has always been exploited in Kashmir for personal gains, Modi is no exception. Some did it by reciting Quran before addressing gatherings, others used green colour to use sentiment, few took slogans of 1987’s Muslim United Front like ‘Jeet Hamari Insha Allah, Dushman Haeri In sha Allah’. And Modi who in Gujrat refused to wear skull cap gifted by Muslims and in valley he was looking more comfortable in pheran– possibly this is what they call politics.
‘Pradhan Sewak’ Modi is the first Prime Minister of India who has visited valley so frequently. This time Modi reiterated that “Baaiyo Behno, 2015 mei bi aavunga.” His initial remarks were that his visit is “to share sorrow of Kashmir”, and not to take anything along, but his final remarks contradicted to what he said initially.
He talked again about Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s dream. It seems that no one before or after Vajpayee has slept. That is why they talk about his ‘dream’ only. Probably this is ‘mistake’ of our own people, both unionists and separatist that they gave enough importance to ‘Dream’ of Vajpayee. Modi wants to fulfill the dream. But at what cost, he never mentions that. “Kashmir ko 21st century ki aaan, shaan aur baan banavunga,” may be he wants to explore the ‘light’ seen by Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi.
Interestingly Modi said that after 1983, nobody dared to organize a rally in SK Stadium. What happened then in 2003 when his senior, Vajpayee addressed people in Srinagar. Or Vajpayee did not belong to the world of Modi.
Modi gave a feel that his heart ‘synchronizes’ with sufferings of people in valley. He did not mention the atrocities done by men in uniform. He probably does not know that when he boosted to claim that, “(Sawa Crore janta ne Modi ko Chuna hai,”), he had no idea that all roads leading to venue of his rally were sealed. He talks about replacing AK-47 with Android application; probably he did know not that government machinery had snapped the even basic internet connection.
He felt passionate when he talked about the tourism and possibilities of exploring it in valley. But at the same time he was candid to reveal what lies beneath, “Kashmir se Badh Kar Hindustan ke paas kaunsi Jagah hai.” Mr Modi is this an attempt to have destination more beautiful for tourists or anybody from outside India who wants to see more natures beauty. Is place more important than people?
Mr Modi talked about an incident when he had come to visit Dal Lake, He referred to tourists from Gujrat and said people from my place had come in turbulent times just to ‘contribute’ in living of people of Kashmir.
Modi talked about development in Kutch (Gujrat) after the devastating earthquake and related to floods in Kashmir to prove his point, “Jab Kutch aaj best districts mei ek hai, Kashmir kyun nahi hosakhta.” He counted the steps taken in rebuilding the Muslim dominated district of Gujrat. Modi had a point here, apparently to convey that he won’t talk about Pakistan in Kashmir as his sole agenda is “sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas.” He said that in Kutch people asked him not to talk about Pakistan (Kutch shares boundary with Pakistan) and need only development. “Kutch jo musalmaan aabdi wala ilaqa hai, wahan logun ne bola Modi ji aap se ginti hai ki baqiyun ki tarah aap Pakistan ke bhare mei baat mat kijiye.””Mei ne apna ye mantra banaya ki mei Pakistan ke bhare mei baat nahi karunga.”
Relating development of Gujrat Muslim dominated area and the Tourists he met in valley, does it seem insignificant to relate that Modi wants Gujrat type development in Kashmir, probably with the help of Gujrati baniyas.
No visiting guest in Kashmir can evade to talk about the water resources of valley. Modi too made his point. But surprisingly for me at least, he wanted to convey in clear terms to continue more vigorously the process of using water of Kashmir in rest of India. “Yahan ki pani se puraa Hindustan roshan hoga.” Is this the point to empower agencies like NHPC who by virtue of the agreement use water of Kashmir, levy charges on us and then sell us the same at exorbitant rates.’ Did not he had a word to talk about scarcity of electricity in Kashmir and that too when winter has set in when most of the valley remains in darkness.
In his famous style, Modi in a veiled manner said that, “hum ne sab kuch kiya, kuch nahi huva, lekin ab vikaas ki bhari hai.” Was he in a mood to say that with his “developmental” agenda he wants to do what previous regimes in New Delhi were unable to do?
The ‘bias’ which Modi said has creped in state of Jammu and Kashmir and need to be do away with. Was this the message for people of Jammu that if at all valley had upper hand in any way (which though does seem to exist), he will end that?
About his visit during floods, he said that “government here was in deep slumber,” and he was the one, “mei baagha baagha chala aaya,” but the recordings suggest that he was accompanied by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. In sarcastic tone, Modi said that people even media men were surprised to see when he announced grant of Rs 1000 Crore. “Laog hairaan reh gaye ki ye kaisa pradhan Mnatri hai jis ne khade khade itna paisa diya.” Rs 1000 do not make even half per cent of losses. Is Modi of the opinion that Kashmir is backward to the extent that Rs 1000 crore aid was ‘surprising?’
Upbeat Modi talked about Diwali and the way he celebrated it in Kashmir. Where was he when flood affected majority was living in shambles on Eid. He did not spare a word of courtesy on Muslim festival. Not even greeting.
He did not mention AFSPA, but had all praises for security agencies and said that, “Democracy is guarded by the security forces.” Exactly Mr. Modi it is ‘guarded’ by government forces. You made a point.
Modi tried hard, but he had to mention what his ‘guards of democracy’ did in valley. Though he quoted one instance with intension to say how powerful is this ‘Pradhan Sewak’ when he said “in last thirty years it is Modi’s government that army accepted that they killed two youth, apologized and even set inquiry commission.” Modi unknowingly, you said what we always wanted to convey to the power corridors in New Delhi. This point of yours is simple that even before Chattergam, government forces used to kill youth of valley from last thirty years.
Your heart goes out to girls studying in Rajasthan and your are desirous to set institutions in valley so that girls from outside will come and study here. First why you are so generous to see girls in trouble from other parts, when you could not bear same for Kashmiri girls. Or is this your mechanism to have moiré control here and engage youth.
You felt pained to see twelve girls in one room, but it did not matter for you to see half widows in valley. Same girls who lost their husbands in prime of youth. Asiya and Neelofar too were girls of Kashmir. Mass graves had no impact on you. Forced disappearance did not matter. Even democratically elected representative talks about his “12 years of forced labour.”
To end his address, he asked people to give decisive mandate to candidates of BJP. He went to the extent that,” Kashmir ke liye jaan dene liye tayaar hoon.” He asked people, “aapke sapne, mere sapne.” Please as an ordinary Kashmiri let me tell you that, this valley is wounded beyond scales. We are forlorn lot. Every man has a pain to share. Our graveyards are fattened. Our fathers have shouldered coffins of their sons. Sisters have seen mehandi turning red with blood of their brothers. Don’t be under impression that 71 per cent turn out means referendum. Even your people who seek vote deny this logic. If you think this is true, then please have a look at gatherings of 2008, 2009 and 2010. Problems persists in Kashmir and it needs political solution and not your ‘Vikaas’.
(Ideas expressed are personal)