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The Full Circle


Who would have thought that BJP could be the party that Kashmiris wanted at the Center! A TSI analysis from the Kashmiri heartland on BJP's resurgence
HAROON RESHI | Issue Dated: April 13, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Narendra Modi | Mirwaiz | BJP | Jammu and Kashmir | A S Dulut | Atal Bihari Vajpayee |

Along with the rest of the country, BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi seems to be raising hopes and the expectations in the Muslim dominated troubled Kashmir as well.

Popular separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was first among the pro-secessionist camp to express his hope and trust on Modi, who was previously considered heavy for his baggage of being in power when the anti Muslim riots took place in Gujarat in 2002.

Mirwaiz said that he believes that a BJP led government at the Centre can deliver better than the UPA, vis-a-vis the Kashmir problem. Speaking to a media house recently, Mirwaiz had mentioned, “The BJP is the same party in whose tenure, under Vajpayee, most of the forward movement on the solution to the Kashmir problem happened.”

In an interview with TSI, Mirwaiz elaborates his view point, “Modi is commonly admired as a good administrator in India and I think if he will be the Prime Minister and really contributes in resolving the Kashmir issue, he has a scope to become a true statesman as well. Vajpayee tried his level best for a peaceful political solution to the Kashmir issue, during his tenure. He had a vision for the peaceful future of India, Pakistan and Kashmir and also about the entire South Asian region.”

“India itself needs a peaceful environment and stability in the region for its progress and better future. India itself needs the end of confrontations as much as anyone else does. India’s annual defense budged has crossed 37 billion dollar. On the other hand, the poverty rate of the country is getting higher, resulting in suffering of the common people including children. Someone has to stop it and I thing this can be a motivation for Modi. But for this, he has to follow the Vajpayee path. We have seen the Vajpayee led NDA government taking courageous steps for the solution of the problems here and to end the confrontations. That is why I say that NDA can deliver better than the UPA government at centre,” Mirwaiz added.

This BJP-praising by a Kashmiri separatist leader has generated a debate in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere too.

Former RAW Chief, A S Dulut, in a recent interview to a Srinagar based news agency CNS, said, “There is no doubt that with regard to Kashmir, NDA was far better than the present UPA regime and there are indications that if Narendara Modi comes to power, he will follow the policies of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”

“I was myself the adviser of Vajpayee and I know he was interested in resolving the K-issue. Unfortunately, the UPA government relinquished his policies; as a result, there was no breakthrough on the issue from past 10 years,” CNS quoted Dulat.

As a matter of fact, Vajpayee did take several unprecedented and bossy steps regarding the Kashmir issue during his tenure (1998-2004) as the Prime Minister of the country.

He was the first Prime Minister to visit the troubled state in April 2003 since militancy had erupted here in 1989. During his visit to the Valley, the then Prime Minister Vajpayee addressed a huge rally in a cricket ground in Srinagar, offering his help for “dialogue and reconciliation.”

It was noted at time that the Prime Minister repeated the word “dialogue” more than a dozen times in his 12- minute long speech.

“I believe the gun is no solution to problems. It would only kill people and would not solve any problem. The time has come to change Kashmir’s fate.” Vajpayee had said in the Srinagar rally.

In his speech, the towering Indian leader had also offered Kashmiri separatists a golden chance to resume talks, “Not only are our doors [open], but also our hearts [which] are always open for you. You should come to us with your grievances.” This was the same occasion in which Vajpayee had proposed a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan as well, which was soon reciprocated by the neighboring country and the offer later became the foundation for an overwhelming peace process in-between the two countries, which were not seeing eye to eye with each other at that time.

A few months after his Srinagar speech, Vajpayee visited Pakistan to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in January 2004, five years after the Kargil battle and three years after the Parliament attack.

On the occasion, the Indian Prime Minister and the then Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf announced the start of a “composite dialogue” between the two countries. As many as eight issues – peace and security including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachin, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage, terrorism and drug trafficking – were identified to be discussed in the high profile bilateral talks.

The enthusiastic talks immediately brought the people of the two countries nearer to each other. Several steps were taken under the dialogue process. To name a few – the first bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad (In PoK), the resumption of the bus services from Lahore to Amritsar, resumption of the train links between Munabao in Rajasthan and Khokhrapar in Sindh, and the Samjhauta Express between Delhi and Lahore. Weekly flights between the two countries also increased from 12 to 28.

“The composed dialogue had proved so fruitful that even in the initial rounds of talks, things like cross-border travel and trade and the people to people contact started flourishing,” recalls Shah Abass, a well know political analyst.

On the domestic front, the NDA government initiated peace talks with separatist leaders. Hurriyat leaders started meetings with the Centre in 2004. Mirwaiz and his other companions held several rounds of talks with the then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, who held the home affairs portfolio too.

“This was for the first time when a proper communication channel between the Centre and the Kashmiri separatist leaders was established. Earlier, the medium of communication between the two was through unofficial interlocutors, in a way causing further communication gaps. These kinds of talks gave the separatists a hope and relevance in Indian political scenario.” Says Riyaz Masroor, a veteran journalist and BBC’s Kashmir correspondent.

Bilal Gani Lone, People’s Conference factional chairman, who also had met Advani with other Hurriyat leaders, believes that talks were possible only because BJP was at the helm of affairs at the Centre and no one was opposing the process in New Delhi.

“The initiative became possible only because the BJP was leading the government. Though the Congress-led UPA later carried forward the practice in its tenure, but initiating the process was really a big deal and it could have been done by none other than the BJP,” Lone tells TSI.

Analysts  too say that BJP is the only party in the country which has the confidence and the capacity to take controversial decision regarding sensitive issues like Kashmir.

“There is no doubt that the BJP is the only party which has probably managed to take some bold steps on these crucial issues. And this, I think, is the reason that Kashmiris want the party in power at Centre.” Tahir Mohiddin, Editor of popular daily Chattan and a political commentator tells TSI.

A common question being asked in Kashmir these days is that if Modi becomes the Prime Minister, will he be interested to take Vajpayee’s Kashmir policy forward or not?

About three months ago, in his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir on December 1, 2013, Narendra Modi, while addressing a huge rally in the winter capital Jammu, talked about his wish to “heal the wounds of Kashmir”... “Vajpayee had sought to win over the heart of Kashmir with compassion, love and dialogue. Had he been elected to power in 2004, he would have succeeded in his Kashmir policy,” Modi said in the rally, which was named as “Lalkaar”.

“Only time can tell whether he (Modi) will deliver (on the Kashmir issue) or not. But one thing is for sure that Congress is going to do nothing on this issue. They (Congress led UPA) had got the opportunity but they did nothing in 10 years except treating the issue only in a security prism,” saus Mirwaiz.

Interestingly, Modi has not generated hope only in the separatist camp but some important mainstream parties also seem to be expectant.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed recently stressed that the new government at the Centre needs to start a “dialogue process with all stakeholders to resolve the Kashmir issue”, just like the Vajpayee-led NDA had tried to do.

Mufti, on the occasion of releasing his party manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections in Srinagar, on March 21 said, “The new government (at the Centre) will have to extend a hand of friendship to Pakistan... There is no alternative... It will also have to engage with all shades of opinion in the state including Hurriyat if it wants to resolve the Kashmir issue.”

Mehbooba Mufti, PDP President tells TSI, “We are praising them (the NDA) because we have seen them supporting wholeheartedly our (PDP’s) healing touch policy. Vajpayee was a statesman. He was a visionary leader. He knew how important it was to end the ground level war and to bring peace. We don’t know that if the NDA comes to power, it will carry on its Kashmir policy again.”

“Modi will bring back the days of Vajpayee. We will like to remind you that it is the NDA which is being seen with hope... BJP's position on J&K is well known.” BJP’s spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said hours after the Mirwaiz’s NDA praising statement came. Well, make what you may of it, the fact is that Kashmir seems to be wanting Modi and BJP more than ever before.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017