By Arun Joshi
It’s throwback to the 2014 days when Narendra Modi became Prime Minister for the first time with a thumping majority – Kashmir is renewing its hopes on Prime Minister for everything from a greater sense of justice to the overall solution of Kashmir issue.
This hope has renewed both in the political theatre and the common discourse in the Valley that is tired of the atmosphere in which it finds that only other alternative is nowhere to go . The path out of it is to trust Modi and entrust him for good of the territory and the people .
Individuals and political groups in Kashmir have veered around to the central theme that Modi alone can solve the Kashmir issue and address all its problems whether internal or external . This is a paradigm shift in the Kashmiri thinking because the interruption of August 5, 2019 when the specials tatus of Jammu and Kashmir state was scrapped and its geography divided into two different political maps of two separate union territories of Ladakh and J&K had sullied the mood in the Valley and a feeling of distrust had creeped in as Kashmiris were kept indoors with their windows opening to the sight of troops patrolling streets and the neighbourhood chained by the barbed wire rolls.
That interruption followed by overwhelming presence of the security forces and the lockdown imposed on the movement of people, arrest of political leaders, including those who had ruled the state – three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah , Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – and complete communication clampdown that did not spare even the landlines , had changed the mood in the Valley. It was not happy the way the special status and exclusive rights of the state and its people were dumped in one go without consulting the political leadership of the state.
Now all this is changing at a speed that was unthinkable in the last calendar year. The change was reflected clearly when all the top Kashmiri leaders attended the June 24 all -party Meeting hosted by Prime Minister at his residence in Delhi where the views were exchanged in an unusually candida and cordial atmosphere. That was mainstreaming of the narrative that Modi alone can set the things right in Kashmir .
In all essence , the discourse revolves around two issues- Modi is the only leader in the subcontinent who can draw a roadmap for Kashmir and pull it out of the mess in which it has landed because of the crosscurrents of the clashing political ideologies and violence of the decades . All the pathways that could have taken Kashmir on right development and positive thinking were littered with doubts , guns and grenades . It has been fully recognised in the beginning of the second-half of 2021 that Modi is having an unmatched mandate and the respect that he commands across the nation places him in a position to address the Kashmir issue comprehensively .
Kashmir is in need of a firm look forward moment in which elections to the Assembly , statehood and certain guarantees to the land and jobs and encouragement to the local entrepreneurs form the core. . That, Kashmiris know is not possible unless Modi- Amit Shah take steps in this direction ..
Second , there is an external dimension , and that is Pakistan . Pakistan is in illegal occupation of one third of the original territory of J&K . Pakistan fondly calls the occupied territory as “ Azad Jammu and Kashmir. India is insistent on getting this territory back from Pakistan . At the same time India wants Pakistan to cease all its terror export ventures into Jammu and Kashmir . Modi is seen as a strong leader even in Pakistan , and that’s why it is flip-flopping on dialogue with India. In one breath , Islamabad calls for the necessity of dialogue with India , and in the very next it retracts from the same . It is clear that only Modi can define the course of Indo-Pak history on the right trajectory. Pakistan is making excuses for not sitting across the table, for it fears that its fragmented approach will not be able to stand up to the formidable image and policy of Prime Minister Modi.
In Kashmir, things are changing, Pakistan is conscious of this . All its moves to breach Kashmir are bouncing back.
“ We fully trust Prime Minister and we know that he, and Home Minister Amit Shah , can change the whole landscape in Kashmir ,” Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari told this columnist . “ I am saying this out of experience of our party with the Centre,” he said, and elaborated : “ We were the first to meet Prime Minister and Home Minister in March 2020 , and we got the domicile certificate introduced in J&K so that our people are not overwhelmed by others , , similarly we got modifications made to the land laws and got all jobs reserved for our people.” These achievements were possible because Prime Minister had a soft corner for the people of Kashmir , and this has proven all those wrong who had tried to present a distorted image of the Prime Minister.
Altaf Bukhari exudes optimism that other issues concerning J&K , particularly the elections and the restoration of the statehood, too would be taken care of in the near future. The Delimitation Process has started and soon things would be clear .” I am convinced that once we prepare an atmosphere in which peace and progress walk lockstep, the Centre would accede to our demands and as far the debate on Article 370 is concerned, we believe that Supreme Court will take a decision that will be as per aspirations of the people of J&K.”
For more than one year, Altaf Bukhari remained a lone voice , other regional political parties in Kashmir who had made the restoration of the Article 370 as the prime goal and were not expecting anything from the Centre that had “ snatched” everything that was given to J&K by the Constitution of India , were pinning hopes on China and Pakistan .
Farooq Abdullah while speaking this columnist last year had asked : “ how could we hope to get back things from the government that took away all our constitutional guarantees and rights.” Now, he , too, has changed his tone . “ It is the government of India that can redress our grievances and we have only one door to knock and that is Delhi,” he had said before and after the all-party-meet .
Farooq was the first one to welcome the All-Party -meet and his party-National Conference enthusiastically presented memorandum to the Delimitation Commission , which it had refused to recognize few months ago..
Most bitter critic of the August 5, 2019, decisions of GoI , the scrapping of special status of J&K , , PDP president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti , too, is getting round to the idea that her party will take part in the elections as and when held, though she herself has decided not to take part in the polls unless the Article 370 is restored in letter and spirit. But the change is too obvious to be ignored.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with