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What Modi didn’t say but meant – govt’s take-over would end Islamisation of Kashmir

Modi implied that his government was actually saving J&K and its people from Pakistani domination and control through its local political brokers.

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After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Kashmir coup on 5 August, those who expected mega pronouncements, economic packages, and a slew of morale-boosting measures would have been disappointed by his speech Thursday evening. Modi offered neither apologies nor compensatory sops to the people of the Valley. Indeed, he did not even single them out for special treatment.

Instead, though he dwelled most on Jammu & Kashmir, mentioning the latter 69 times, he also paid attention to Ladakh. He spoke of, or rather to, the youth of the region promising them equal opportunities with the rest of India.

Appealing to aspirational Kashmiri youth

Prime Minister Modi emphasised how Article 370 had been an obstacle not just to the integration of Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of India, but also to development of the state and fulfillment of the aspirations of its people. The argument that economic and social indicators of J&K were already higher than several major Indian states, especially in the Hindi belt, would not take anything away from Modi’s appeal. Why would Kashmiris compare themselves with UPites or Biharis? Their aspirations are much higher.

With a favourable investment climate, better educational institutions, and the revival of the tourism industry, it is precisely to such aspirational Kashmiri youth that Modi would make sense. Modi’s masterly messaging was both persuasive and plausible, without hyped-up promises or blandishments.

He also spoke with both affection and familiarity about Ladakh, including its fabled and rejuvenating “Leh berry” or seabuckthorn. The eco-tourist potential of the new UT, one of the most stunningly beautiful parts of the world, though apparently almost barren and beyond the tree line, was not to be overlooked or forgotten either.

Also read: With Kashmir move, Modi has ensured map-making comes to an end in subcontinent

The statesman Modi

On the other hand, Modi did not overplay the Pakistan card. Its antics in trying to destabilise India or internationalise J&K were none of India’s concern. What was India’s internal matter ought to remain so, he seemed to suggest.

Similarly, not once did he speak of the opposition, especially the Congress, which stood exposed, shaken, bewildered, and utterly divided over his government’s sudden and swift move against Article 370. Let naysayers fend for themselves was his position.

But Modi, like a statesman, did admit that the drastic change in Article 370 that ended both its special status as well as the statehood of J&K was indeed contentious. It had divided public opinion in India despite receiving overwhelming support across the world. He wanted to assure not only the scare-mongers but also genuinely concerned citizens of his government’s good intentions or nek iraade. Most notably, his commitment to the future of democracy, emphasising that J&K’s UT status would not be permanent and free and fair elections would be conducted in the future.

He also emphasised how Panchayati Raj, in the meanwhile, would be strengthened and supported, with direct injections of cash and resources at the local levels. This is how the big shift would be effected, ending the monopoly of power and pelf of few families who ran the state like a private fiefdom for decades.

No to separatism & appeasement

What the Prime Minister did not spell out, but those reading between the lines would have guessed, was that the government’s take-over would also end the Islamisation and separatism of the Valley. By cutting off the pipelines of largesse from across the border and sidelining Valley politicians, Modi implied that his government was actually saving J&K and its people from Pakistani domination and control through its local political brokers.

The most important take-away from the Prime Minister’s speech was that there would be no more appeasement in the Valley but the promise of equal treatment with the rest of India. This did not mean that Modi was insensitive to the cultural difference of the Muslim-dominated Valley from the rest of India. He announced that all measures would be taken for a peaceful tidying over of Eid during which many Kashmiris return home to be with their families.

Also read: Art 370 killed because Hindu Jammu, Buddhist Ladakh & Muslim Kashmir only benefitted Pakistan

Straight talk, straight action

Modi’s speech also exposed the hypocrisy of those crying that their rights were trampled upon when they themselves denied the rights of several of their own fellow-Kashmiris, whether these were Kashmiri pandits or other residents still disenfranchised. He referred to those who could vote for the Lok Sabha election but remained without voting rights in state elections despite living in Kashmir since the formation of the state.

Modi’s strong, sober as well as becalming message was meant to reassure the nation that the unnecessary hype and threats of violence in the Valley would be counteracted by the government’s resolve to maintain peace and order. Modi, without being dramatic or sentimental, seemed to reiterate the resolve that in addition to sabka saath sabka vikas, his government also wanted to win sabka vishwas, in this case, the trust of the people of Kashmir.

After decades of lying, hypocrisy and betrayals, Kashmiris, Jammuits, and Ladakhis could now look forward to straight talk, followed by straight action. No wonder, across the troubled territory, every Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri eagerly awaited the PM’s address, listened to it with rapt attention, and must have been reasonably reassured by it.

The USP of the Modi brand – good governance and responsible leadership – was so evident, once again, in Thursday’s epoch-marking speech.

Also read: Article 370 has put us in a dilemma: Should we choose Constitution’s letter or its spirit?

The author is a Professor and Director at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. His views are personal. His Twitter handle is @makrandparanspe.

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  1. It can be argued that though Nehru messed up Kashmir, Indira had a chance to do precisely what Modi did, immediately after 1971 and before Simla Agreement. This was missed and perhaps, no one had a vision of this possibility. That would have killed the domestic dimension of Kashmir issue at that time itself. That this move by Modi is in the national interest taken at a right time is not the issue but it is also incidentally ticking many other desirable boxes like RSS agenda, BJP manifesto, long pending idea, Ladakh demand for UT status etc. It gives enough fodder for the usual Modi haters to call it a cold blooded murder of democracy, death of federalism and constitutional propriety etc. That national interest basically means protecting Kashmir from separatism and Islamization is rightly pointed out by Makrand. With the obliteration of J&K state, now the only issue to be settled with Pak is how to take over POK. With this momentous decision being successfully executed, now other issues like Ram Mandir, Uniform Civil Code appear to be mundane for this government. With a major political issue now sorted, Modi ought to invest his time in getting economy right. He needs a fresh approach there untied to the past thinking. While poor needs to be supported fully, the environment and infrastructure for business must be able to compete internationally with China. With that aim, he should drive his policies and take economy on the ascending trajectory. That would be the real test for Modi. Similarly, the other major folly of Nehru, border issue with China, must be next on his priority before 2024. With those two blunders out of the way, we can give real ‘mukti’ to Panditji’ s soul and fondly remember ‘Chacha Nehru’ for his positive contribution to India in the field of science and technology, education, setting up modern manufacturing economy etc.

    • Indira Gandhi was genuinely patriotic (unlike her grandson) and smart (unlike her grandson).

      Snake Bhutto begged and fooled her and escaped with the Simla accord.

  2. Very correct summation. Any person without a preconceived bias or prejudice listening to this last night would have appreciated the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation with revised status of the state as a step in the positive direction with only benefits for the people for Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.. Only the usual Modi and BJP haters could have managed to find anything repugnant in it. But they will do that anyway. You cannot wake up a person pretending to be asleep.

  3. What Modi didn’t say but meant – govt’s take-over would end Islamisation of Kashmir” – about time too! Enough of this nonsense going on for past 2-3 decades. India should not and will not tolerate Islamists. Their apologists should get over this! I say that this prospect should be further reduced by assimilation of substantial number of Hindus in Kashmir. India is and will remain a pluralistic society but any separatist tendencies or insurgency in the name of promoting fundamentalism will not be allowed and tolerated. Those that do not agree with that are welcome to move to countries that sponsor such values and lifestyle.

  4. The author has right to praise Modi. Idolising him is statesman does not gel well. He has kept real speech for political platform in the up coming elections. The decision on diluted 370 had two purpose. One to full fill long cherished dream of RSS. The second is to consolidate majority votes

    • Indira Gandhi was genuinely patriotic (unlike her grandson) and smart (unlike her grandson).

      Snake Bhutto begged and fooled her and escaped with the Simla accord.

  5. There are people, still some people, who always think that Kashmir would have not survived without the help of 3 families. It is the same group, which still thinks Congress will not survive without a person from Nehru clan head that. We call our selves as democracy, the largest, and still continue with pleasing dynasties. The author, even though started with a negative note saying Modi wanted to end Islamisation in Kashmir and he was not apologetic to anything happened. First why would Modi be apologetic to what happened in Kashmir for the past 70 years or even for the decision taken on article 370. Many were debating that we should involve stake holders in discussion. Kashmir had many stake holders. If that would have been successful, why they have not done for the past 70 years. Had Sardar Patel waited for all stake holders to come be part of Mahasabh while integrating 500+ princely states, we will still dealing with 500 + countries within India. No one talk about half a million people driven out of valley. The insurgencies were allowed to exist with local support and the local governments had no will power to take the people under confidence. Instead of educating people, stone pelters were encouraged by getting funds from across the border. Sardar Patel involved initially integrating 500+ princely states and J&K was one of them. Where Nehru was involved and Mount Batten pushed his agenda, the issue went into mess. No congress person ever would want to admit the folles of Nehru for the injustice done to Kashmiris. Common Kashmiris had no say, when J&K was governed by only few families. The common people have become victim of politics played by Pakistan, local politicians, and separatists. What Modi has done is within the legal frame work. If some of the opposition keep crying hoarse, they are only talking the language of Pakistan. No other country ever wanted in interfere in what is called India’s internal affairs.

  6. Pakistan will benefit most from this Modi coup.

    Instead of wasting precious resources on battling India over Kashmir, they should get over this 70-year old obsession and get down to solving their own serious financial problems.

    Finally with the coming peace in Afghanistan and the checkmate with India, maybe, just maybe, the Pakistan army will be cut to size.

    Eventually, once the storm blows ever, Kashmir will have open borders with the other Kashmir, and the problem of it being Indian or Pakistan will become irrelevant.

    The tragedy is that so many lives have been lost over the years for what is basically a silly problem.

  7. My slender knowledge of the modern history of Kashmir suggests Sheikh Abdullah was a fine person, someone who played an important role in bringing the state to India. Three generations of his family have served as CMs. Dr Farooq Abdullah was a large hearted, colourful personality, with his heart and head in the right place, loyal to India. Omar Abdullah had his baptism by fire in the summer of 2010. He once said, Delhi feels we are not Indian enough; the people of the state feel we are not Kashmiri enough. That underlines the dichotomy or dissonance that has always existed between India and Kashmir. So perhaps we should not rush to discount the contribution the mainstream parties have made to the public life of the state. There are prosperous dynasties in every part of the country. If we try to see unfolding events from the eyes of ordinary Kashmiris, at the moment the future looks a little hazy.

    • The concept of nation, the state, and sovereignty are not dead yet; on the contrary, these notions are thriving in spite of unions (e.g. The EU) and trade zones. Nations too have egos (libertarians may squirm at this). People are always secondary in these notions unless they rise up to decide what kind of set-up they want in their nation-state (e.g. the Romans and ancient Greeks; the French Revolution; India in 1947 etc). Internal revolutions – independent of religion and those particularly peaceful – are seen as very legitimate means of shaping a nation-state. In the 20th century, treaties (the Treaty of Paris), bilateral agreements (Simla agreement) etc. have aided efforts in shaping a nation-state in the event of a conflict. However, in the past three decade, precisely since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and subsequent Anglo-Saxon-Paki-Saudi led covert warfare in Afghanistan, have given rise to a dangerous, delusional and illegitimate groups that harbour ambitions of expansionism driven by extreme religious ideology (particularly those aiming to revive the grandeur of the Ottoman empire). These groups are more than likely to creep in crevices left unguarded by the nation-state (especially when these have the support of an enemy state). This socio-religious metastasis (e.g. extreme Islamism) has the potential to afflict the existing healthy social set-up. In these circumstances, what should the nation-state do? It is precisely in this context that GOI’s move on J&K is very timely and correct. It is similar to excision of tissues that could be affected by Islamist metastasis. Yes, there may be some after-affects, but if right steps are taken, then healing is likely to happen.

    • You are being extremely charitable to the Abdullah right from Sheik to Omar. Very frankly Sheikh Abdullah was an astute politician who had grassroot support but all he wanted was to have all cards with him and rule the state for ever.
      He was smart enough to realise that he could never get that in Pakistan. So he opted for India nothing wrong with that except he also wanted Islamisation and did not care for people else he would have given adult franchise to all residents of J&K.
      Farooq is a debauch corrupt and inept and antinational personality who will speak one thing in Delhi and completely the opposite in India. His inaction at the height of buildup of Kashmir terrorism and exodus and rapes of Hindu Kashmiri speaks volumes about his character.
      Let us recognise the wolves in sheep’s clothing.Omar is a product of times zero ground level understanding and support but he is certainly better than his father.All he wants and is capable of is being a part of ruling elite and continue extending the legacy of Abdullahs which has done nothing for the common man of the state

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