Jammu: Home Minister Amit Shah spent a hectic weekend in Jammu and Kashmir addressing a BJP rally, inaugurating series of projects and reviewing the security scenario, but he didn’t say a single a word on what everyone in the erstwhile state, including his party’s core constituency, is eager to hear back on the solemn promises he and Prime Minister Modi have made inside and outside the Parliament.
Shah’s whirlwind visit on June 23-24, had two interesting coincidences: exactly five years ago, five days after demolition of last elected government of Jammu and Kashmir state, Shah was in Jammu on June 23, 2018, explaining the reasons why Mehbooba Mufti regime had to be brought down, in interest of Jammu, in interest of Ladakh, and in national interest. Shah’s visit also comes exactly two years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an unprecedented meeting with leaders of all political parties from Jammu and Kashmir in, what was described then, an olive outreach to break the post August 2019 logjam. The outreach worked well, gave parties and people, even the worst critics of August 2019, a hope for normalisation of politics even on Centre’s terms.
Shah spoke to a BJP workers’ meeting in Jammu Saturday morning. For the audience and observers, his address was just 15 minutes shorter than his earlier speech five years ago, as it touched none what everyone was eager to hear about -restoration of statehood and elections to state assembly. In Jammu and Kashmir, this is the current common minimum ground for everyone, irrespective of who supports or who opposes the August 2019 events.
Ever since Home Minister made solemn commitment on sacred floor of the Parliament that statehood to Jammu and Kashmir shall be restored and elections to state assembly shall be held soon after peace prevails, everyone in the erstwhile state looked forward hearing back from him on the promise. On August 5, 2019, when Home Minister piloted the legislative and executive process to withdraw special status, downgrade and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir, he gave the impression that Union Territory was a transitionary arrangement and elections were due to be held soon after fresh delimitation.
For the constituency, including BJP’s own base, which didn’t have much to protest against decommissioning of Article 370, the commitment on restoration of the state and holding elections appeared quite promising for a fresh beginning. Over a year after Delimitation Commission has submitted its final report, which has also been notified and laid in the Parliament, there is not even a hint from the Centre on the elections.
When top political leaders visit any state, a package, a political package, an announcement or vital political communication is widely expected. With addition of some statistics, Shah’s speech in Jammu was a single-story narrative that he has been offering since June 2018 -the Gandhis, Abdullahs and Muftis ruined Jammu and Kashmir which has been successfully rescued by Modi and now here is a bright future.
He said 7327 incidents of militant violence happened under ten years of Congress led UPA regime, while figure came down by around 70% with only 2350 such incidents under nine years of Modi government. Similarly, 2056 civilians died in these incidents under UPA, while only 377 civilians lost lives in the last nine years. In 47 months since Article 370 repeal, Shah said, only 32 calls for protest shutdowns have ever been given in Kashmir -remarkable decline from previous scenario. Similarly, the incidents of stone pelting have down by 90 percent, he said.
Shah’s speech was packed with heavy statistics on social security schemes, development infrastructure, industrial investment and employment in the post 2019 scenario. This all sounds great but the most remarkable achievement, by government’s own claims, is on the security front as supported by the above statistics.
If the security situation has been brought to near normal and peace is all prevalent, then why not to go back on the promise made on the floor of the Parliament: restore state and hold assembly elections.
After the much needed tight control on terrorism and terror funding by way of field and legal actions, the security agencies are once again seeing a renewed pattern of violent incidents, particularly in Jammu region. Well established global experiences tell us that separatist, militancy and terrorism cannot be completely defeated in entire and prolonged political vacuum.
Whether on security front, development or the recast political and social order, the government could see potential slide in the gains it achieved after 2019, if this opportunity is not seized by honouring the promises by highest leadership of the country.
Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah narrate their Jammu and Kashmir success story at every major platform home and abroad. This success has primarily been achieved by support of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The same people also deserve the fruits of Indian democracy as enjoyed by people in other parts of the country.
There has been a long argument on harmonising Jammu and Kashmir -constitutionally, politically and emotionally -with rest of the country, then why to keep this erstwhile state special by denying its people the rightly deserved statehood and elected government.
At the Jammu rally, the Home Minister asked people to support Prime Minister Modi in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in early 2024 as he took potshots at the opposition conclave in Bihar on the same day. He has returned to Delhi without making any announcement for restoration of state or holding elections and this leaves Jammu and Kashmir guessing for its political future.