Friday, February 13, 2015


Modi has stated that he would like to continue a dialogue with the Kashmiris on a humanitarian basis, like former prime minister Vajpayee, known to have been a moderate. It would be appropriate to acknowledge that several military personnel have been court-martialed for human rights violations in Kashmir (and the court-martial verdict in the Machil fake encounter case in 2014 was hailed by the defence minister Manohar Parrikar), and a certain instance of a shootout of two innocent Kashmiri Muslim boys by army personnel was strongly condemned by the then defence minister Arun Jaitley, and the army issued an official apology for the same, something Modi proudly took credit for in a speech he delivered in Srinagar. Provincial elections took place in Kashmir in December 2014, with the BJP fielding local Muslim candidates in the valley (one of the candidates, a Kashmiri Muslim woman, sought to restore the functioning of cinema halls in Kashmir, which had shut down during the peak of militancy, owing to some Muslim rightist militants having decreed that cinema is un-Islamic) and several sections of Kashmiri Muslims supporting that party, and though the BJP could not win a single seat from the valley, it had a considerably high vote-share cutting across constituencies. Modi even went to visit flood-affected Kashmiris on the Hindu festival of Diwali, though there also other states then recently affected by floods.

While the riots in Gujarat in 2002 still remain fresh in the public memory of very many Kashmiri Muslims, leading not many of them to become die-hard fans of Modi’s, many of them do appreciate his approach to Kashmir.

In fact, his approach has disappointed Hindu rightists, even the relatively moderate ones, who often refuse to acknowledge that there are rogue elements in the Indian Army deliberately engaging in human rights violations for promotions, medals, lust or bloodlust, and all the killings of innocent Kashmiri Muslims by army men cannot be categorized as unintended errors, though some indeed are, and such people, without even trying to understand the nuances of the Kashmir issue, just label Kashmiri separatists as being “anti-national elements”, “traitors” and so on, and this is not to say that I support the separatist movement in Kashmir.

Also, as far as the Kashmiri Hindus displaced from the valley are concerned, they, in fact, have valid reasons to complain that the Modi government hasn’t offered them much beyond tokenism, offering scanty relief packages to resettle in Kashmir, and even let them down to an extent on the issue of the Kosur Nag pilgrimage. To know more about the Kashmiri Hindus and the Kosur Nag pilgrimage controversy, read this article. Thus, it cannot be said that the approach of the Modo government to the Kashmir issue smacks of Hindu rightism.

More interestingly, the BJP has recently, in March 2015, entered into a coalition with the PDP, a Kashmiri political party, to govern the province of Jammu and Kashmir, and has expressed its willingness to give up its stance on abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution conferring that province autonomy, as also to have a second look at the presence of military personnel in the valley and the considerable statutory immunity they enjoy, which has been misused to commit human rights violations.

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