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Amit Shah Addressing Kashmir Issue With Clarity, Confidence & Honesty

Following Vajpayee’s philosophy of 'Insaaniyat, Jamhuriyat and Kashmiriat'

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By Onkareshwar Pandey

Following late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s philosophy of ‘Insaaniyat, Jamhuriyat, and Kashmiriat’, Amit Shah, India’s most powerful Home Minister after LK Advani in the recent decades, has started his mission to solve the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. With clarity in thoughts and confidence of mandate given by the people of the country, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is addressing the issue of Kashmir with a completely positive mindset. Before his maiden speech in the Parliament, Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, who is also the BJP Chief, chose to visit Kashmir Valley. Apparently, he wished to get a grip of the situation there before speaking.

Amit Shah’s Fiery Speech in the Parliament

He sat through a detailed briefing on all political, social and security aspects with emphasis on the current security situation before giving one of the fieriest speeches in the parliament on June 28, 2019. Moving his first legislative proposal – a resolution to extend President’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Amit Shah blamed Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for political problems and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. “One-third of J&K is not with us. Who is responsible for it,” asked Amit Shah targeting the Congress whose Manish Tewari told the government to look into the historical reasons for problems and issues in Kashmir Valley. Tewari said the people of Kashmir Valley feel alienated and pinned the blame on the BJP’s alliance with the PDP after the 2014 state elections, which turned out to be a failed experiment. Amid shouting and cross-shouting from treasury and opposition benches Amit Shah said the Kashmir problem lies in the decisions made by Nehru as prime minister. He said when Pakistan sent its intruders in Jammu and Kashmir, Nehru decided against flushing out the infiltrators from the state. Amit Shah said, “Who called for ceasefire back then? It was Jawaharlal Nehru, who did it and gave that portion (PoK) to Pakistan. You say we don’t take people into confidence, but Nehru ji did it (announcing ceasefire) without taking the then home minister and deputy prime minister into confidence. So, Manish ji don’t teach us history.”

This led to a huge uproar from the Congress leaders, who objected to Amit Shah taking the name of Nehru and citing more than 70-year-old instances. Speaker Om Birla tried to maintain order in the house saying that the Congress members would be given chance to reply to Amit Shah’s remarks. But the din continued in the house. In the melee, Amit Shah countered the Congress’s objection saying that citing those incidents is relevant. He said, “Why should I not refer to these incidents. Thenation is paying a heavy price for these mistakes. Because of that mistake, thousands of people have been killed. Because of these mistakes, the country has become a victim of terrorism today. Why should not I take the name?”

However, later Amit Shah said that if the Congress members have an objection to him taking the name of Nehru, he would use the first prime minister instead in his speech. But the jibes flew thick and fast in the lower house from both sides. At one point, Speaker Birla got so infuriated that he chided the members saying, “Don’t preach Gyaan sitting on your seat. This is Parliament. Maintain decorum.”

Amit Shah’s Four Major Points in the Parliament

In his speech in parliament on the issue of Kashmir, Home Minister made four important statements.

  • “Modi Govt. has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards Terrorism and that will continue.”
  • “Article 370 is not permanent; we have not changed our stand on it.”
  • “Whenever the Election Commission says, we will conduct elections in the state.”
  • “We want to restore peace in the state”.

The home minister went on to allege that the state elections in 1957, 1962 and 1967 were held in Jammu and Kashmir in fraudulent manner leading doubts among the common people of the state. He said Congress government’s agents ensured that a large number of candidates were declared winner unopposed. Amit Shah said, “All these elections were mockery of democracy. This was the beginning of distrust among the people of Kashmir.”

“There was one Abdul Khaliq, the district magistrate of Srinagar, which then covered half of the Valley. There used to be two types of MLAs back then, one elected by people and the other by Khaliq Saheb. Papers were filed before Khaliq Saheb, who would accept the papers and ensure that 25-31 MLAs were elected unopposed,” he said. Free and fair election was conducted by Morarji Desai government in 1977 and then by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, he said. He further alleged dilly-dallying by the Congress with Sheikh Abdullah, the most influential politician in the Kashmir Valley post-Independence. In 1931 Muslim Conference was established by Sheikh Abdullah, for long Congress did not start its unit there and supported Muslim Conference. The Congress put all its eggs in Abdullah’s basket but Abdullah ran away with basket, as a result Sheikh Abdullah became the prime minister there, he said. Amit Shah praised former Jan Sangh leader Syama Prasad Mookerjee for trying to ensure full integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India. He said, in 1953, when Syama Prasad Mookerjee ji entered Kashmir protesting against the two prime ministers in a country rule, he was thrown in jail. His death was also not probed. Why? Was he not a senior Opposition leader? He was a former Union Minister and a leader from Bengal. Amit Shah said the NDA government created an environment in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure free and fair local body elections. He also said that the government is ready for assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir “whenever Election Commission announces the schedule”.

Shah’s Kashmir speech was on the lines of RSS-BJP’s policy

Amit Shah’s Kashmir speech was completely on the lines of RSS-BJP’s thinking and policy on Kashmir. Before this speech, Home Minister Shah, in his missive to the administration and security forces, reiterated the Government’s policy of zero tolerance to terrorism while also giving due importance to putting a plug on the recruitment of local terrorists and removing the disillusionment of the people. During his visit to the Kashmir Valley, he also asked the administration to plug terror funding and enforce rule of law in the state.

Separatists refrained from issuing a shutdown call on Shah’s visit

Amit Shah’s visit to Srinagar on June 26 didn’t see any troubles with even the traffic plying smoothly and the markets remaining busy with activity. The Home Minister was flanked by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and several top officials from his office. He even visited Balgarden area of the city and offered his condolences to the family of slain police Inspector, Arshad Khan, who was killed in a militant attack in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district along with five CRPF personnel on June 12. Most importantly, breaking years of tradition, separatists in the state refrained from issuing a shutdown call on the day of Amit Shah’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir. It was for the first time since the inception of militancy in Kashmir valley that the separatist leaders have refrained from giving such a call. Let alone a shutdown call, the separatists didn’t even react to Shah’s visit. Separatist leaders of Kashmir seem to be changing their mindset after the second massive victory of BJP in the Parliamentary Elections. This is evident from their non-interfering attitude during Amit Shah’s visit. There are clear indications that the separatists are also looking for a dialogue to solve the Kashmir issue and don’t want to take any blame on their head now.

“If New Delhi is ready to offer a dialogue through Home Minister in Kashmir and we issue a shutdown call, the message will go that we are sabotaging the possible talks,” a person close to Geelani communicated to him as per sources in his office. “Let the ball be in their court.”

Talks of Dialogue in the Valley

Earlier, the Governments have been talking about the ‘dialogue’ and most of the time separatists have been refusing it. But now, it was Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq first, who had urged India and Pakistan to open dialogue on the Kashmir issue. His words were later picked up by the Governor of the state, Satya Pal Malik who said that separatists in Kashmir are ready for talks. Mirwaiz again reacted to Malik’s statement saying that ‘dialogue’ is the only way to resolve the Kashmir problem. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the 92-year-old top separatist leader, had also planned to issue a statement on the reports of dialogue. After Shah left Kashmir and flew to Dehradun, Geelani issued a statement appealing people for “peaceful protests after Friday prayers in all parts of the valley” over the plight of Kashmiri prisoners in different jails of state and outside.

The separatists in the valley were dealt with a heavy hand in Modi government’s first tenure. Many of the separatist leaders were arrested in different cases and are lodged in the state’s jails. For many, abstaining from issuing the shutdown call on the visit of Union Home Minister depicted that the separatist camp is weakening. But it is also a chance for New-Delhi to engage them in a dialogue. On his first visit to Kashmir as Union home minister, Amit Shah tried to infuse a sense of confidence among the people. On one hand, he asked the civil administration to dismantle the “corrupt and elitist” structure and, on other hand he also asked them to reach out to the last citizen of the state.

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“Let an ordinary Kashmiri feel that it is his government and not of the elites,” Shah told the state bureaucracy two days ago in Srinagar. Officials who attended the meetings told TOI that the home minister “asked the administration to reorient the state “towards the needs of individual citizens.”

Shah also held a review meeting over security and law and order situation in the state with Governor Satya Pal Malik. The Home Minister chaired a high-level security meeting for the pilgrimage and also reviewed the progress of development projects in the state like the Prime Minister’s Development Programme and the implementation of central schemes in the state. He asked state officers to ensure equitable development. While reviewing security arrangements, Shah laid emphasis on securing the twin routes to the Himalayan cave shrine and preparations to deal with “any natural calamity”.

Shah’s Heart-Touching Directions on the Path of “Insaniyat” (Humanity)

Amit Shah, while appreciating the improvements in the security scenario in the last year, went on for a detailed discussion on what further improvements could be made for restoring peace normalcy in the state. And then, following the path of ‘Insaniyat’ (humanity) he gave heart-touching directions for the welfare of the common citizen of the state, which are worth mentioning. He talked about ensuring timely delivery of old age, disability, and widow pensions to all those entitled to these and also assured to give additional funds. Recognising the great potential of dairy, animal husbandry and poultry sectors, Shah directed to the State administration to work towards signing an MOU with Amul or Mother Dairy and create a programme for ensuring that it becomes surplus in this sector. He also asked to create schemes for improving the poultry sector as this sector improves the livelihoods of the poorest. For the growth of Handloom and Handicraft sector in the state, which has potential to increase employment and livelihoods of poor households, Home Minister Shah said, “The Handloom and Handicraft Sector is one of the brightest spots on J&K’s economic landscape. The potential in this has not been fully captured. The state should take the help of the Khadi & Village Industries, MSME and Textiles departments of the Central Government to improve nearly 40 various spheres in this sector.”

Implementation of ‘Jamhuriyat’ (Democracy)

His instruction to ensure that newly established Panchayati Raj and Urban Local Body system in the state takes deep roots and establishes itself as the third tier of government, was nothing other than the implementation of ‘Jamhuriyat’ (democracy) in the true sense.  “There should be a drive to ensure that Panchayats and ULBs spend the funds given to them. These funds run into thousands of crores of rupees and ensuring their proper utilization would benefit the people,” said Shah. He also took note of socially disadvantaged groups in the state such as Paharis, Gujars, Bakarwals and other Economically Weaker Sections and said, “The reservation benefits extended to them should be implemented vigorously and no posts in these classes should go vacant.”

Shah also asked to take steps to ensure that the newly created Anti-Corruption Bureau focuses on cases of rampant corruption by the high and mighty. Giving special attention to the women and youth, Amit Shah has directed the state to keep women at the centre of all programmes. “The state should work in this direction so that women can get better employment opportunities and livelihoods. Similarly, the state should prepare a programme for reaching out to the youth who are highly skilled such as MBBS, Engineers, MBAs, etc. and do not have gainful employment or livelihood,” he said. For the first time, Home Minister Shah cautioned the State Officers to be fully sensitive towards a balanced development of all the three regions, – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Appreciated the culture of ‘Kashmiriat’

Appreciating the whole-hearted cooperation of the people of the State in the successful conduct of the Shri Amarnathji Yatra, which is a centuries-old tradition and culture of ‘Kashmiriat’ the Union Home Minister reassured his commitment towards best possible arrangements and directed all security agencies to be fully alert and take all preventive steps to ensure violence-free Yatra. He directed that:

  1. No laxity in the enforcement of the SOPs. Senior officers should personally supervise the arrangements.
  2. Ensure optimum use of the latest technologies and gadgets not only for the security of the Yatra but also to facilitate the movement of the devotees and the tourists.

Amit Shah’s gave clear directions:

  1. There should be zero tolerance towards terrorism and terrorists.
  2. There should be continued strict action against terror funding.
  3. The Rule of Law should be enforced.

He praised the work of JK Police in countering terrorism and militancy and directed that the State Government should commemorate the martyrdom of its policemen in their hometowns/villages in an appropriate manner each year. Prominent public places should also be named after martyred policemen. Shah further added that he would review periodically the performance of the state on multiple fronts.

These all show that the policy of the newly elected NDA-2 Government at the centre is based on the twin prongs of addressing and removing the disenchantment of the people and weaning the youth away from the path of terrorism. Self-sufficiency has emerged as the mainstay of the development process, more so in the Kashmir Valley.  Gainful employment and empowerment at the grassroots are the conduits that have been identified to steer this process to its logical conclusion. To accomplish this the government is willing to go the extra mile, it is now up to the people to also move ahead to avail this very good opportunity. The military, political and diplomatic misadventures that Pakistan has a proclivity to indulge in are receiving great punishment along the Line of Control (LOC). The Home Minister has asked the Army and the Border Security Force (BSF) to explore ways to completely stop infiltration along the LoC and the International Border (IB).

The remnants of terrorism in the hinterland of the Kashmir Valley are being actively engaging and eliminated despite all odds. Counter-terrorist operations in the hinterland in Kashmir spearheaded by the Indian Army and conducted with complete support of Jammu Kashmir Police (JKP), paramilitary forces and the local populace, have witnessed astounding results.  Reports suggest that more than 120 terrorists, including senior commanders of foreign origin, have been eliminated in this year itself. The intention of clearing the region of the scourge of terrorism before the end of this year is quite visible. When terrorists of local origin come in the dragnet of the security forces, people gather into a crowd, pelt stones and interfere in the operation in a desperate bid to save them. The security forces have complete sanction from the government to carry on with their work regardless of this interference. Pressure from the media and other political avenues is not being allowed to play on the minds of the security forces.  Of course, standard operating procedures are in place to keep the locals at bay while ensuring their safety.

In the realm of dialogue the government has, despite pressure from many quarters, maintained a righteous stand of not opening talks with separatist, secessionist and criminal elements on their terms. The Hurriyat has recently attempted to pressurise the government into talks by misleading Governor Satya Pal Malik, but the government sent a firm message that talks can be held only if the leaders of the conglomerate commits themselves to loyalty to the Constitution. This firm stand has taken the wind out of the sails of the duplicitous posturing of the Hurriyat. On the diplomatic front, PM Narendra Modi has received great accolades in the recently held meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the G-20. He has successfully convinced the world leaders to come together in the fight against terrorism and Pakistan has been universally identified as the chief global sponsor of terror. Pakistan, as such, is becoming quite isolated worldwide as its perfidy gets exposed more and more.

It is heartening to see the government at the center exhibit such clarity of mind and confidence in dealing with the situation in trouble-torn Kashmir. While, on the one hand, the government has given an open-ended sanction to the security forces to eliminate the cult of terrorism and tackle violence and disruption with a firm hand, on the other hand, it is pursuing its development agenda aggressively. Undoubtedly, there is political and social pressure accentuated by a shrill media, but it has not deterred the government from pursuing a well laid out policy and consistent posture with a transparent approach. One gets the impression that the government is quite sure of getting the desired result of ushering peace and development in the trouble torn region sooner than later.

Certain pressure groups within the country and outside are trying their level best to derail the initiative of the government. A sustained campaign is in place to denounce its policy as tough and inflexible. It is for the better that the government has chosen to ignore the diatribe and carry on with its firm, unambiguous and righteous policy which is, most importantly, producing the desired results on the ground. The negative campaign which is eliciting great public outrage will die down sooner than later. Gone are the days when the separatists and the terrorist had their individual space and tremendous support from Pakistan. The Modi government today has charted a path that meets the aspirations of the people by providing to them what they need the most – peace and development. Under the prevailing circumstances, the anti-national and anti-Kashmir forces stand isolated and defeated.  An ability to sustain its confidence is bound to reap good results. Amit Shah’s honest approach will surely win the hearts of Kashmiri people and yield positive result also.

(Writer Onkareshwar Pandey has been covering J&K since last three decades. He broke the story of Kargil Intrusion and wrote a book titled – Ghati me Aatank Aur Kargil, which was released by the then Union Home Minister LK Advani in 2000. He also anchored a special Television show on Kashmir for over one year.)

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