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Reaching out

Centre’s package for J&K is substantial. But where’s the political healing touch?

By: Express News Service |
Updated: November 10, 2015 12:40:57 am
bihar election results, Narendra Modi, bihar 2015 election results, Nitish Kumar, bihar polls results, bihar election, bihar polls, bihar polls results, nitish kumar, lalu prasad yadav, grand alliance, mahagathbandan, bihar, bihar news, india news, latest news Prime Minister Modi. (Express Photo by: Prashant Ravi)

Long in the making, the Centre’s Rs 80,000 crore development assistance package for Jammu and Kashmir, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Srinagar last week on Saturday, is a massive leg-up to the state. The assistance is separate from other financial allocations to J&K and will make for strengthened humanitarian relief and post-flood infrastructure reconstruction. It also seeks to look ahead from the 2014 calamity by apportioning the money among several heads of an overall economic plan that includes, vitally, development of skills and creation of job opportunities for youth over the next five years. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who had once explained the PDP’s improbable ruling alliance with the BJP as an arrangement that would bring development to the state, has described it as a “historic opportunity”. Certainly, the money cannot be scoffed at, as mainstream opposition parties and the separatists have done. They would have been the first to lash out, had there been no financial package. What J&K has got is nearly double the amount the previous Omar Abdullah government had sought from the Centre.

Where the Opposition parties and the Hurriyat are right, though, is that the alienation in Kashmir needs a healing touch that is more than an economic package. If any further evidence of this was required, it was there for all to see in the extraordinary security arrangements during the PM’s visit; the arrests and detentions; the suspension of internet services; and the violent protests in the aftermath of the visit that led to the death of one person. The Valley has shut down in protest on a call from both factions of the Hurriyat. The PDP had hoped that Modi would be Vajpayee-esque in Srinagar, and reach out to Pakistan and Kashmiris, including the separatists, with a political initiative, as the BJP-PDP common programme sets out. But in a remarkably underwhelming speech, Modi made no mention of a political healing touch, focusing entirely on the financial package. He invoked Vajpayee’s phrase of “Kashmiriyat, jamhooriyat, and insaniyat” but linked these, not to a political resolution of the Kashmir issue as Vajpayee had done, but to economic development.

The continued suppression of dissent and the absence of a dialogue on Kashmir with stakeholders in the state and with Pakistan, has created a vacuum that a new breed of young Kashmiri militants — educated, with professional qualifications — is rushing to fill. Hundreds of people have been turning out for funerals of militants killed by security forces, and it is not just due to lack of economic development. Modi said he needs neither advice nor analysis on Kashmir, “from anyone in the world”. But the least he could do is listen to the BJP’s own coalition partner in the state.

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