Evokes mixed response from traders, civil society
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Jammu Kashmir on November 5 has not generated much hype, and traders, civil society activists, and Kashmir watchers have not pinned too many hopes on him.
The development package that Modi is set to announce, according to reports, is expected to be worth around Rs 92,000 crore but it has not generated much interest in Kashmir valley.
Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) member and social activist, Shakeel Qalander said people in Kashmir had lost faith in Modi after waiting for over a year for the flood relief package.
He said previously too, a Rs 1000 crore package announced by the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was announced for the State but of it Rs 992 crore were meant for National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and a further Rs 6 crore were spent by the then chief minister, Farooq Abdullah on converting the City Forest into a golf course, leaving just Rs 2 crore for different developmental projects of the State.
Qalander said, similarly, the Rs 24,000 crore package announced by another former prime minister, Manmohan Singh had Rs 18,000 crore only meant for NHPC.
“The fate of all such packages is already known to the people of Kashmir,” he said. “The flood-affected people of Kashmir will go in the history books as those who got a mediocre relief amount of Rs 3800 for their partially-damaged houses.”
The PM had on his last visit to Kashmir said he felt the pain of the people of Kashmir and wanted to share their grief, and termed their dreams his own.
However, even after more than a year of the devastating September 2014 floods, Modi government has failed to release a flood package.
Head of the Kashmir University’s UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute of Kashmir Studies, Prof. Gull Wani said but for the flood package, people did not have much expectation from Modi.
“If Modi announces a financial package in Jammu Kashmir, how Government of India packages this package is important,” he said. “It will depend on how much of the package will be meant for infrastructure development and how much of it will reach the flood-affected people.”
Wani said, politically, the assertion for Kashmir resolution is back in the State and what line Modi toes on November 7 would be significant.
Modi is scheduled to visit Srinagar for a day-long trip after inaugurating the 450 MW Baglihar hydroelectric project in Chenab valley.
Human rights defender and Convener of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), Khurram Parvez said people did not have any expectations from the PM as his conduct had already exposed him.
Parvez said Modi had already displayed that the interests of the Army and military were supreme for him not the interest of the people of Kashmir.
“The PM has openly invested in the Hindutva discourse as against the Congress that used to disguise in secularism,” he said. “Modi is unmasking India before Kashmiris and people of Kashmir are thankful to him for that.”
This would be the second time Modi would visit Kashmir around Diwali.
Last time too he had spent Diwali in Srinagar and commiserated with the people over the loss of lives more than 300 people in the September 2014 devastating floods.
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) President, Mushtaq Wani said whenever the PM visited Kashmir after the September 2014 floods, the traders and the business community pinned high hopes of him announcing a flood package.
“Every time he leaves us disappointed,” he said. “We hope he announces something for the business community and the traders and rehabilitates the flood-affected people.”
Wani said Government of India (GoI) should announce a proper rehabilitation package of at least Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh for the business community, a tax waiver for at least 10 years and cash compensation so that businessmen are able to recover their losses.
Modi is likely to announce a package that would be focused on resurrecting the infrastructure lost in the 2014 floods with focus on roads, bridges, power, and tourism projects.
Former KCCI President, Mubeen Shah said there were expectations for a financial package particularly for the flood-affected people and traders.
“Personally, I do not have hopes about any flood package coming,” he said. “If GoI had to give any flood package, they would have already given it by now as more than a year has passed after floods.”
Buoyed by the results of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council polls, which was swept by BJP, Modi’s package is likely to have a special emphasis on the development Leh region.
Chairman of one of the factions of Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), Yasin Khan, said people do not have any expectations from the PM’s visit as Modi had last year promised to return with a massive package after a month but his promise had proved to be a hallow one.
Khan said the reports that the package would lay emphasis on Leh was meant to divert the attention of the people of Ladakh from BJP’s earlier promise of granting a Union Territory status to the cold desert region.
Earlier, Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had met Modi at New Delhi on October 15 and held detailed deliberations with him regarding the political and economic situation in Kashmir.
Chairman of another faction of KEA, Showkat Chaudhary said the PM was a liar.
“Last Diwali he promised us he would come with a flood package within a month and a year has passed since,” he said. “We don’t trust him and have no expectations from him.”
Chaudhary said Modi was working for the RSS and following their Hindutva agenda.
The CM had earlier, during a meeting of his party leaders, tried to cool down their tempers after they had expressed their discomfort over the recent developments including the killing of Zahid Rasool Bhat by the Hindu fanatics and manhandling of a Kashmiri legislator Engineer Rashid in the Legislative Assembly by the rightwing Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) legislators.
After meeting Modi, he had exhibited confidence that the PM was committed to fulfill all his commitments toward Kashmir.
The CM had told the party leaders that Modi understands the importance of Kashmir for fulfilling his own dream of making India a superpower.
He told his party workers that Modi has a vision for Kashmir and he would announce a flood relief package on his visit to the State on November 7.
Mufti had also told his party leaders to gear up for welcoming Modi on November 7 and promised them that Modi, like Vajpayee, would try to create history in Kashmir by going a further mile.
The CM had hinted that Modi would try to initiate some type of dialogue process with the separatists as well as Pakistan when he visits Kashmir.
Whether Modi, who is scheduled to hold a public rally at Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir stadium on November 7, announces any big package or extends a hand of friendship to Pakistan and separatists like his predecessor in the BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, only time will tell.