BJP backtracking on Kashmir shows lack of strategic thinking

“I have got the privilege to visit Jammu and Kashmir so often. This land draws me here”, said our Prime Minister Modi gallantly at a public rally in 2015. When the same Prime Minister visited Jammu and Kashmir again in 2017, multi-tier security grids had been placed to secure his visit from the protesting separatists in the State. These contradictory instances convey the growing unrest in the Himalayan State and now the time is ripe to address the cause of this unrest.

When Jammu and Kashmir’s Assembly Elections of 2014 witnessed highest voter turnout of 65.23% in 25 years, it was a proof of the people of Kashmir’s acceptance of Democracy. But ever since the chaotic coalition of People’s Democratic Party and Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, the situation has worsened with growing separatism.

The “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” offered to the people of Kashmir has been forgotten like a spoilt dish. The issues of J&K vary from that of the rest of India but also are very similar.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Finance minister P Chidambaram and others recently led a Congress delegation and held an Extended Executive meeting. Among them were Members of Jammu Bar Association, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kashmiri Pandit migrants and West Pakistan refugees. The delegation’s main objective was to address the issues of all stakeholders in the State with respect to the rise of Separatism.

Deflating bravado

The separatist movement in Kashmir, followed by the shallow promises made by the PDP-BJP alliance, reached its peak in 2016 violent stone-pelting incidents that stretched for over a year and still remains unresolved. The BJP’s national general secretary, who was instrumental in cementing the BJP-PDP alliance in Kashmir, unequivocally affirmed the Centre’s refusal to hold a dialogue with separatists and people who are “not loyal to India”. The Central government even submitted in the Supreme Court that it does not plan to hold talks with separatists. Even as political parties, human rights activists and interlocutors called for talks with separatists to end the impasse. Kashmiris’ disappointment with Modi government was evident with only 7.14% voter turnout, lowest in three decades, in Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll.

It is important to note that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in 2009, had held dialogues with separatists. This and the peace talks between India and Pakistan had greatly benefited to curb the insurgency in the Valley.

But what comes as a welcome surprise was the government’s u-turn on the issue.The BJP government led by PM Narendra Modi, failing to curb violence with toughness, has now finally decided to hold ‘unconditional talks’ with the separatist leaders. “The question should be asked to those who don’t want to be part of dialogue,” says the BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, forgetting that it was BJP in the first place that worsened the situation by refusing a dialogue.

Increasing unemployment and lack of socio-economic development in Kashmir, that is worse compared to other conflict-ridden states, has been the major cause of rising agitation. And the loss of trust from the people in Modi government that can only be termed as self-inflicted, displayed in recent stone pelting incidents, points towards the Central government’s failure in handling a volatile situation. The intervention and open dialogues are peaceful methods for resolving conflict, as evident by the precedence set by Dr. Manmohan Singh. This intervention by the Congress delegation will certainly be a reminder for the BJP government to stay away from knee jerk reactions and think strategically.

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