Walk the Talk

A muscular approach to solving Kashmir’s problem will only result in adverse long-term consequences

Fayaz Bukhari

Prime Minister Narender Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s focus seems to be on development, fighting corruption and militancy in Kashmir before the Assembly elections are held in the state that has been under Central rule for past one year.

J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik with home minister Amit Shah

Although Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised the bogey of scraping Article 35A and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir, and delimitation to increase the number of Assembly seats in Jammu province, the focus for the time being seems to be on development and tackling militancy. In fact, Prime Minister Modi recently said that the Centre’s goal in the state is ‘good governance, development, responsibility and accountability’.

But the locals believe that before the Assembly elections, the BJP may try for delimitation as that will increase the Assembly segments in Jammu region. This is clearly aimed at paving the way for the BJP to form the government in the state without involvement of two main regional parties - National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The NC has time and again accused the BJP of promoting smaller parties in Kashmir so as to divide the votes in the Valley and consolidate them in Jammu region. However, minister of state for home G. Kishan Reddy told Parliament that Jammu and Kashmir was not included within the purview of the Delimitation Act, 2002, as Article 170 of the Constitution of India that deals with delimitation of constituencies of state assemblies had not been extended to the state. The delimitation in the state is, however, carried out under Section 47 and 141 of the Constitution of the State.

In 2002, the then Farooq Abdullah government froze delimitation until 2026 by amending the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. There are 37,33,111 voters in the Jammu division, 40,10,971 in the Kashmir division and 1,79,147 in the Ladakh division while Jammu has 37 Assembly segments, Kashmir 46 and Ladakh 4.

The Centre’s plans for delimitation process for Jammu and Kashmir Assembly constituencies has triggered a sharp response from regional parties like NC and PDP.  So, for the time being delimitation seems to be a distant dream for the BJP, at least for the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Another emotive issue in Kashmir is Article 35A and Article 370 that gives special status to the state and the BJP wants to do away with it. The BJP has always stood for its scrapping and in the last one decade, the demand has only become more vociferous. In Modi’s first term, since the BJP had an alliance with PDP, it didn’t press for it so aggressively. However, recently Union home minister Amit Shah raised the issue in the Parliament saying that Article 370 was temporary, not a permanent part of Indian Constitution. “There is no change in our approach,” he told the Parliament.

At the same time Shah said that along with a strong approach towards ‘terrorists’, the Centre will protect the rights of the people and take them along. This shows that they may not press for this emotive issue for the time being as it may have dangerous consequences and will annoy regional parities like NC and PDP. More importantly, the party doesn’t want to alienate all those smaller groups on whom it is banking to form the government in the state whenever elections take place.

Shah emphasised the government’s zero tolerance towards ‘Pakistan sponsored’ terrorism and said it will succeed in crushing it with the support of locals. The security forces have gone all out against militants in Kashmir and this year itself they have killed 117 militants. At the same time, security forces too have suffered 108 casualties including the killing of 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men in a car blast in Pulwama in February this year.

During his maiden visit to Kashmir as Union home minister, Amit Shah told the top security brass to fix a deadline to wipe out the remaining militants from Kashmir so that there is peace and development becomes a permanent feature in the state.

“There should be zero tolerance towards terrorism and terrorists. There should be continued strict action against terror funding. The Rule of Law should be enforced,” Shah told security forces during his visit to Kashmir.

In a detailed security review meeting, Shah was told that in last three years top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Ansaar Gazwatul Hind were among 722 militants killed by security forces.  Shah also asked the security agencies to go to the roots of terror funding and find the missing links so that money used to foment trouble is plugged fully.

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