There were no references to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat, Kashmiriyat,” a phrase whose spirit Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself invoked in 2017 and 2018. But on Thursday, in his address to the nation after the passage of the Bill to split Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, Modi used the commonplace — daily life and work — to make his larger point.
Referring to hope, aspiration and opportunity, he told the people of J&K that withdrawing the state’s special status was not about claiming territory but an instrument for their development and prosperity.
In a bid to assure them that the move was not aimed at ruling the state from distant Delhi, he called for duly elected representatives of the state very soon — a new wave of “young, energetic” legislators. In particular, Modi sought to suggest that the move was an effort to bring parity between Jammu and Kashmir and other states, Central government laws and schemes.
His key theme echoed his 2018 Independence Day speech in which he had talked about “an ordinary person’s aspirations” and “balanced development” of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
“Whether it is Ladakh or Jammu or Srinagar Valley. We want balanced development where an ordinary person’s aspirations are fulfilled, infrastructure is strengthened; we want to move ahead with brotherhood in our hearts. We do not want to move on the road of bullets and abuses, we want to move ahead with love and affection with the Kashmiri people who have stood with us in patriotic fervour,” Modi had said from Red Fort in 2018.
This speech built on his theme of “embracing Kashmiris” outlined in his Independence Day speech from a year earlier. “The problem will be solved neither by abuse or bullets (gaali vs goli) — it will be solved by embracing all Kashmiris,” he had said in 2017.
Decoding Modi’s address on Kashmir: Words and ideas in the Prime Minister’s speech
Incidentally, Jammu and Kashmir did not find separate references in Modi’s first two speeches from Red Fort in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, too, it found no separate reference as Modi used the occasion to take on Pakistan by referring to Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Thursday’s speech used the trope of development for all (Dalits, Tribals, Safai karmcharis, Ladakhis, women, Government servants, police and others); potential of people and the opportunities that need to be generated – a clear echo of his 2014 election campaign plank. In this context, he cited a range of possibilities — from film shooting to revising the perks of government employees.
Barring the exclusion of Jawaharlal Nehru while referring to Ambedkar, Patel and Vajpayee and one reference to “dynasty,” Modi avoided any overt political swipes. In fact, he acknowledged that there were political “differences” and “objections” during the debate and voting in Parliament and urged critics to look at the interests of Jammu and Kashmir.
Modi also sought to remind the public that the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were deeply connected to those of the entire country. “The concerns of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are our concerns, the concerns of each of 130 crore people,” he said. “We aren’t removed from their happiness and their sorrow.” He said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir themselves had bravely stood up to Pakistan’s polt to spread terror in the state.