Home Minister Amit Shah’s pointed remarks at rallies in Jammu and Kashmir this week that he saw no utility in talks with Pakistan and would rather pursue a dialogue with the people of Kashmir is more a political message to the Valley than a foreign policy statement as it seeks a negation of separatist politics.
In his speeches at Rajouri and Baramulla, in areas with a Muslim majority population, were well attended and presented Shah with an opportunity to make a sharp point that politics of “Gupkar” parties like Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and National Conference headed by the Abdullahs, which have leveraged separatist sentiments, might now be headed for a sunset.
Shah’s remarks were an attack on a strand of politics in J&K which has often played on the Pakistan factor or sought to “internationalise” issues by invoking the United Nations. The currency of outfits like the Pakistan-supported Hurriyat Conference, he seemed to suggest, was over. Valley based parties have often drawn on “soft” or “hard” separatism depending on the circumstances.
In his validation of the abrogation of Article 370 with regard to J&K Shah argued that any discussion over the status of the territory is settled. While he couched his remarks by referencing a desire to talk to Kashmiris instead of Pakistan, his target audience was more internal as the upshot was that there would be no “third parties” in J&K. This marks a dramatic break from the political template that successive governments at the Centre have had to acknowledge.
A source in J&K said the size of crowds at Shah’s rallies was significant as was the willingness to respond to nationalist slogans. “If someone says the crowds were bussed in, the answer is that even if this were the case, they were all locals. They didn’t come from Haryana…they were enthusiastic and vocal in their response,” the source said.
The home minister iterated the Centre’s promise that assembly polls will be held after publication of electoral rolls. The UT administration, it is felt, has worked to try and address common and every day grievances by making the officialdom more receptive and open in its functioning. Officials feel that the effort has been well received even as political arguments and contestations will be debated in polls.
The Centre’s stand in the Supreme Court that de-limitation which has marked 43 seats for Jammu and 47 for Kashmir is final is the setting for the polls. The revised voter lists will include eligible voters from other parts of the country who are residing in the UT and refugees from erstwhile west Pakistan.
Sensing it might have gained traction it did not previously enjoy with voters in J&K, BJP is pushing an ideological approach that is diametrically opposed to politics that has seen PDP and NC take up identity and religion in varying degree while hardline outfits like Jamaat-e-Islami have made no secret of their pro-Pakistan leanings.