PM's Call To Adopt The Path Of Conciliation In Kashmir Raises Hopes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprung a welcome surprise on Independence Day last Tuesday exhorting Kashmiris to adopt the path of conciliation.
The question is why did it take the Head of Government so long to make efforts in ending the drift when he held forth from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort that "na goli se, na galli se, Kashmir ki Samasya suljhegi gala milne se (neither bullet, nor abuse but conciliation will solve the Kashmir tangle.)
It is becoming apparent that Modi is trying to invoke former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's policy on Kashmir. The endeavour is to create an atmosphere conducive for talks.
Discriminating J&K watchers and others have repeatedly impressed upon the Modi government that the only way forward in Kashmir is to sit across the table in hammering out a solution.
The hardline approach was fine in fighting the terrorists aided and abetted by their masters across the border in Pakistan. However, such an approach alone was not the panacea to the long pending problem.
The late Mufti Sayeed who made it possible for the unthinkable PDP (North Pole) and BJP (South Pole) to form a coalition government in J&K had emphasised that dialogue was the only way out.
It is not surprising that the Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has backed the Prime Minister's move. Does this mean that Modi wants the talks to begin afresh even as efforts are under way to reopen the constitutional status of the only Muslim majority state in the country.
Since May 26, 2014 when Modi came to power the situation has deteriorated steadily in the Valley. Hardly any efforts were made to return to the negotiating table even as the policy towards the separatists and the militants hardened. The Prime Minister's suggestion for conciliation has taken Kashmiris by surprise even as independent attempts from various quarters including certain senior leaders of the Lotus party trying to get the dialogue process back on the rails. The Centre was not enthused by these efforts.
Even as security forces were making gains in Kashmir in the war against terror aided and abetted by their masters across the border, there has been some relief with Modi ruling out any hasty action to abrogate Article 35A providing for special status to J&K.
It may be recalled that Article 35A was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954 according special rights and privileges to the citizens of J&K. It also empowers the state's legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the Right to Equality of people from other states or any other right under the Constitution.
When J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti met Union Home minister Rajnath Singh and the Prime Minister recently, she feared the worst in the wake of suggestions that Article 35A might be scrapped.
Her assertion in the wake of all this that there will be no one to hold the Indian Tricolour aloft if Kashmir's special status is nullified was uncalled for though it alerted the Centre for maintaining restraint on scarpping Article 35A.
All the political parties in the Valley had come together on this issue. NC's former chief minister Omar Abdullah stressed it was an "important message from the Prime Minister and should be viewed as a beginning and not an end in itself. Let us wait and see what action follows."
At the same time it is widely believed in the Valley that the first thing that the Prime Minister can do is "embrace the pro-India parties by ensuring that Kashmir's special status is protected."