A Delhi based national daily had speculated that PM Modi may give a surprise during his Kashmir visit. He did give a surprise! Complete silence about Kashmir’s basic political problem. However, contrary to many such media speculations, he stuck to the agenda he had been advancing during his election campaign. On his first visit to the state he revealed his mind-set through his three gestures. The first was the affirmation of his religion, the Hinduism, through a visit to the holy shrine of Shri Mata Vaishnovdevi Ji where he flagged off the first train from Katra to Delhi. According to him, this step has thrown open the Shrine to 123 crore Indians? Thereby, he too has confirmed the obsession of many Indian leaders to look for a Hindu connection of Kashmir to Hindu India! All of them seem to be uncomfortable in accepting the Muslim majority character of the state even though the locals do not practise the extremist variety of Islam, the religion of peace. Some had even speculated that to strike a balance he would visit a Sufi Shrine also. However, one would be naïve to expect this from a person who refused to wear a Muslim skull cap during his election campaign!
The second gesture during his visit was to inaugurate the Uri-II power project. His power minister declared that this project would supply power to north India! NHPC (National Hydro-electric Power Corporation of India) which is managing the power house has been nicknamed in Kashmir as the East India Company as it has been robbing Kashmir of its most precious resource, the hydro-electric power potential. The corporation has grown to a colossal set up with thousands of crores of profit from the power houses set up by it in Kashmir. He affirmed that there would be more “Exploitation” of the resource. The so called mainstream political leaders especially belonging to Abdullah dynasty have been a party in allowing NHPC to rob Kashmiris of their precious resource. It is a tragedy that in spite of the massive potential Kashmiris face a perennial power famine thanks to its corrupt mainstream leaders! Instead of sympathising with Kashmiris for this injustice and promising to correct it, he affirmed his faith in the doings of the East India Company and their future programmes!
Finally, he bestowed his full blessings on the Army whom he addressed in the Badami Bagh Cantonment, a relic of the erstwhile Dogra rule. He not only paid homage to the martyrs but promised the soldiers the newest and the most modern weapons knowing fully well the gulf between the common Kashmiris and the Army because of the happenings of last two decades. There has been a continuous demand from all quarters to lessen the presence of Army and other Security Forces in civilian areas and also to revoke the notorious legislation of AFSPA giving unbridled powers and total immunity to soldiers in their actions against the civilian population. Not a word about it!
The Prime Minister declared that he wants to win the hearts and minds of the people through development. Can someone win broken hearts and disturbed minds through development? Broken hearts and disturbed minds can only be won by putting a soothing balm of love and understanding on these. Roads, buildings, power houses, railway lines do not repair broken hearts nor do these soothe the tense and stressed minds. No doubt corruption free good governance has been missing from Kashmir for a pretty long time yet the immediate need is to soothe Kashmir by dealing with the basic political problem which has given a perennial uncertainty to the whole situation. He declared that it was his responsibility to improve the quality of life of the people and meet their aspirations. Well, the whole world knows what Kashmiris have been aspiring for. A life of honour and dignity! Economic development alone cannot give respect and dignity to the people. He also affirmed to carry forward the mission of Vajpayee. PM Narendra Modi is known to be meticulous, shrewd, and moves forward after going into the minutest detail. He must have noted the protest and the total shutdown in Kashmir during his visit. The diplomatic coup at his swearing in ceremony is an indication of the working of his mind. Let us hope he really gives a surprise in regard to Kashmir at the appropriate time after weighing all pros and cons?