Some of the leaders from Jammu and Kashmir who attended the June 24 meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have already realised that his design, wrapped in the cliché of ‘Naya Kashmir’, was primarily aimed at serving the interest of the international players and also to entrap the Kashmiri leaders.
The deliberations at the meeting made it abundantly clear that Modi took utmost pains to conceal his real intentions and has nothing new to offer to the people of the region.
As usual, he resorted to obsolete jumlas to win over the confidence of the leaders. He did not do significant service to the people of Kashmir by saying that he was always available for the Kashmiris. A PM is always under obligation to be available to his people. Since he reiterated it, it obviously implied that he was trying to bestow an obligation on the people of the state.
At the time of abrogation of Article 370, Modi had promised to transform the region into a ‘Naya Kashmir’. But over the last two years, he did not do anything substantial to keep this promise. It was at the meeting that he suddenly dug out the promise again.
A significant aspect of the meeting was the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who had indulged in brutal vilification of the state and humiliation of its people. In this context, the soothing and polite words used by Modi and Shah at the meeting would have alerted many of the Kashmiri leaders. It would be surprising if some of them took their stance as a change of heart and a humanitarian approach to their cause.
A significant aspect of the meeting was Modi’s assurance to the Kashmiri leaders that “Hum Dilli ki doori bhi mitana chahte hain aur dil ki doori bhi (We want to reduce the distance with Delhi and also the distance between hearts)”. But the fact of the matter is that he was indulging in rhetoric through which he wanted the send a message across to the international community that he really meant business, which is however certainly not the case.
The nature of the meeting made it clear that Modi did not come with any specific agenda. He was simply concerned with getting the approval of the Kashmiri leaders to the plan to conduct elections in the region. Modi has been desperately trying to convince the international bodies and groups that no violation of human rights was taking place in J&K and it had a vibrant democratic functioning. Modi has faced considerable international flak because J&K has had no elected government for the last three years.
Not surprisingly, both Modi and Shah were conspicuously silent when the issue of restoration of Article 370 came up. It would be a blunder to construe that Modi has any intention of doing so. That would amount to a reversal of the political agenda and programme of the RSS. He thus made it clear that he was more interested in holding elections, for which, he said, it was imperative to complete the process of redrawing of Assembly constituencies by the J&K Delimitation Commission.
Notwithstanding the posturing, Modi did not make any material change to the stand taken by the BJP towards J&K in 2019. He was simply adopting the façade of being a democratic leader.
Otherwise too, autocratic rulers use the holding of elections as sign of a thriving and vibrant democracy, which is all the more important to counter international allegations that democracy has ceased to exist in India. Even BJP leaders confess that Modi’s primary priority was to secure the support and participation of all political parties to hold elections in J&K to demonstrate to the world how committed he was towards democratic processes.
Another aim of the meeting was to placate the Taliban, which will almost certainly come to rule the roost in Afghanistan once the US military withdraws from it this year. It is a well known fact that the Taliban did not take kindly to the manner in which the Modi government abrogated Article 370 and put thousands of Kashmiris in jail for years.
Convening the meeting with the five-party alliance fighting for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, including Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party and Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference, was also aimed at diffusing the tension at the border between India and Pakistan.
After India and Pakistan entered into a sort of ceasefire, the Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and PM Imran Khan have been regularly telling India to take some human relation building exercise in Kashmir. Their main thrust has been that India should restore the statehood of J&K.
The meeting also served an important goal of the RSS and BJP. Being the first parley with J&K leaders after abrogation of Article 370, it would be projected as their endorsement of the August 5, 2019 move by the Modi government.
Like Modi’s slogan of creating a ‘New India’, his thrust on building a ‘Naya Kashmir’ is shrouded in mystery. Neither he nor his lieutenant Amit Shah have clarified what actually ‘Naya Kashmir’ meant. In fact, it would be naive to believe that Modi and Shah would provide any kind of space to the Kashmiri leaders. How could anyone forget the vilification campaign launched against the leaders of five parties that make up the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. Shah had vilified them them as ‘Gupkar gang’ and termed them as dynasts, corrupt and anti-national.
The meeting was primarily meant to give an opportunity to the J&K leaders to vent their frustration and move on.