Post-mortem of Modi’s speech

  • GOWHAR GEELANI
  • Publish Date: Aug 24 2017 8:21PM
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  • Updated Date: Aug 24 2017 8:21PM
Post-mortem of Modi’s speech

By ‘embracing’ Kashmiris, does Mr Modi mean to assimilate Jammu and Kashmir in the Union of India?

 

In his fourth Independence Day speech as India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, besides many other things, also talked about Kashmir. Mr Modi said the problems in the Kashmir Valley cannot be resolved through “gaali” (abuse) or “goli” (bullets). A change, he said, can only come by “embracing Kashmiris”.

 From the ramparts of Delhi’s historic Red Fort, Mr Modi also said: “On Kashmir, there is rhetoric and politics. But I am clear in my belief on how to win the war against separatism, which is spread by a handful of people (Algavwadi, mutthi bhar algavwadi, ye algavwadi jis prakar ke naye naye paintre rachte hain).”

“Na gaali se samasya sulajhne waali hai, na goli se samasya sulajhne waali hai, samasya suljhegi, samasya har Kashmiri ko gale laga kar sulajhne waali hai. Na gaali se, na goli se, parivartan hoga sabko gale lagakar (The problem will be solved neither by abuse or bullets, it will be solved by embracing all Kashmiris),” he added.

In fact, Mr Modi’s lines make for good rhetoric. Words like goli and gaali are rhythmic, too. But what is the substance? What is the ground reality? Will Mr Modi match his words with tangible action on the ground? Or, will this be just another ‘jumla’ of his to hoodwink?

Expectedly, some Delhi-based analysts were quick in showering a heap of praises on Mr Modi’s speech. They declared that his was an attempt to reach out to the valley’s beleaguered populace. But is this a fair analysis?

On Kashmir’s turf, the Srinagar-based Mirwaiz, who also heads a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), responded to Mr Modi’s speech by sending out a tweet: “Welcome@narendramodi also believes ‘Goli&gali’ will not help resolve Kashmir. If ‘insaniyat & insaaf’ replace them, resolution can become a reality.”

Indeed, it was a smart move by the Mirwaiz. Also, a mature statement through which Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tried to put the ball back in New Delhi’s court. He also put the onus back on Delhi to instil confidence among the people of Jammu and Kashmir by first restoring credibility of the institution of dialogue. At present, any dialogue with Delhi lacks social sanctity in Kashmir. Thanks largely to Delhi’s denialism regarding the core issue of Kashmir.

After Burhan Wani’s killing last year in July, there is the absence of even semblance of normalcy in Kashmir today. Crackdowns, cordon-and-search-operations, which include government forces going door to door for frisking, encounters between forces and rebels, civilian killings near the encounter sites, protest strikes, and also the NIA and ED raids on houses of the prominent members of the Hurriyat Conference and business fraternity, etc have become a norm.

In this atmosphere of political uncertainty and environment of fear, what exactly are Mr Modi’s concrete plans to restore confidence of the people of Kashmir? How does he want to ‘embrace’ Kashmiris when Kashmir’s old and fragile fathers are forced to lower bodies’ of their young sons into the grave on a daily basis? Who is speaking to Kashmiris through the barrel of gun? Who is hurling abuse?

By ‘embracing’ Kashmiris, does Mr Modi mean to assimilate Jammu and Kashmir in the Union of India or, did he give signal that  the central government will go easy on the issue of Article 35-A? Only the time will tell.

Moreover, Mr Rajnath Singh often talks about finding a ‘permanent solution’ to Jammu and Kashmir? What is his permanent solution? Is it the scrapping of Article 35-A by committing a judicial ‘fraud’? Needless to say that Article 35-A allows permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir to buy properties and land in the state besides giving them access to employment opportunities and right to scholarships. Is the permanent solution the continued state-sponsored violence to quell dissent in Kashmir through a multi-pronged strategy? Is it the continued demonization of Kashmiris through vitriolic commentary by sections of Indian media in prime time debates?

Last eighteen months have been blood-spattered in Kashmir.

In 2008, over 60 civilians were killed during pro-Aazadi protests. In 2010, over 120 civilians, mostly boys in their teens, were killed in government forces’ action against civilian protesters. In 2016, 110 civilians lost their lives. And this year, Kashmir has lost over 40 civilians. In last eight years, Kashmir has lost more than 500 civilians, most of them young boys, in government’s crackdown on civilian dissenters.

This is Kashmir’s ground reality.

Purely from a Kashmiri perspective, it is New Delhi which is speaking to Kashmiris through the barrel of a gun. Militant violence against government forces aside, there is hardly any doubt that much of the violence that has ravaged Kashmir today emanates from New Delhi.

Is this continued state violence against civilians a ‘permanent solution’? Is this how the BJP government wants to ‘embrace’ Kashmiris? Is this the BJP plans to bring about ‘parivartan’ (change)?

Mr Modi also made a point by declaring “there is no question of being soft on terrorism or terrorists. We have been asking the separatists to join the mainstream. Democracy provides an equal opportunity and rights to be heard for all. The process of engagement can take place only by their joining the mainstream”.

The case is solved. The verdict is out.

Mr Modi doesn’t want to acknowledge that there is a substantial pro-Aazadi constituency in Kashmir. He doesn’t want to admit the ground reality and engage with those who favour a solution to Kashmir dispute outside the ambits of the Indian constitution. That implies the problem will remain unresolved. Saying that the process of engagement can take place only by joining the mainstream is akin to closing one’s eyes on seeing a big fat elephant in the room.

No matter how unpalatable it might be for New Delhi to hear, the truth is that no country has yet produced weapons to kill political aspirations. And the fact that Kashmir dispute is a big elephant in the room which isn’t going anywhere!

This Habib Jalib’s verse may prove helpful:

Tum se pehle woh jo ek shakhs yahan takht-nashin tha

uss ko bhi apne khuda hone pe itna hi yaqin tha