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Thursday, October 13, 2016

In Lucknow Modi threatens ‘harbourers and helpers’, in J&K his Govt. accords them VVIP status

Mismatch between BJP’s theories and practicals in Jammu and Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 12: In his first public speech after the September 29 surgical strikes across LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the Dusshera celebration in Aishbagh of Lucknow on Tuesday that his BJP Government would strike at the roots of terrorism. Plush with the euphoria the strategic operation has generated ahead of the Assembly elections in U.P, Modi didn’t stop there. “Those harbouring and helping terrorists will not be pardoned either”, Modi grumbled to cheers and slogans from his animated audience.

Among all the mainstream opposition parties who is ‘harbouring and helping’ terrorists with specific context to Jammu and Kashmir? There’s no denying the fact that at the national political domain, a number of the politicians in Congress party, CPI, CPI(M) and JDU etcetera have been remarkably soft to different hues of insurgencies from Naxalites to the Kashmiri militants. Apart from a host of other factors, this "accommodation to dissent" has prompted many of the mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, with glaring exception of BJP, to take a line close to that of the separatist Hurriyat Conference. While as the "last nationalist" Farooq Abdullah has been quietened, some of the state’s political parties, Peoples Democratic Party in particular, have for years competed with Hurriyat on secessionism. For over a decade, not only these mainstream politicians but also their separatist competitors have been recognised by Delhi as "our own people".

In ambience of the enthusiasm generated by the surgical strikes, Prime Minister Modi views a Hurriyat leader as "helper and promoter of terrorism". When the same separatist's father and a more prominent separatist leader was gunned down in 2002, Prime Minister Vajpayee (who was in Srinagar) didn't visit his residence but he was the first to extend his condolences and hailed the slain politician as a great leader. Time has changed but not as much as Modi is telling his voters in U.P.

It is unambiguously clear that Modi or his NDA cannot take action against any pro-separatist, pro-militant mainstream political party given the fact that most prominent of them all, namely PDP, is BJP’s coalition partner and holding the hot seat in Jammu and Kashmir. It was mainly to protect the prospects of BJP’s government formation with PDP that Modi and his BJP were compelled to make sacrifices and compromise the party’s stated position vis-à-vis separatism. Having the state flag on their vehicles and offices was the constitutional compulsion of the BJP Ministers but they remained mute to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti ordering release of nearly 200 stone-pelters on the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s demand on July 4, 2016.

Modi’s government at the Centre is also known to have prevented Delhi Police from getting after some 20 Kashmiri students who, during an investigation, had been found to have raised anti-India, pro-Azadi, pro-Geelani and pro-Burhan slogans at JNU in February 2016. The BJP leaders feared that the Kashmiri students’ and non-students’ arrest could the make the ground harder for Ms Mufti in forging an alliance with their party. The centre put a tab on Delhi Police.

Massarat Aalam’s release and his holding an exuberant pro-Pakistan show for Geelani’s reception in April 2015 was also one of the umpteen comprises of BJP, though the Centre eventually forced then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to re-arrest the icon of the 2010 turbulence and put him in jail for infinity. In recent times, many of PDP’s own leaders, including MLA of Tral and one MP, have publicly glorified militants and stone-pelters and called J&K a “disputed territory”. Independent MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid has outsmarted all of his competitors in demonising and discrediting India and called for ‘Plebiscite’ under the UN resolutions.

Now that it is clear that many of the mainstream politicians in J&K are holding New Delhi’s “license” to keep the separatists and militants in good humour and to continue the peoples’ emotional exploitation for making themselves secure and winning vote in the elections, would Modi touch any of the separatists proudly owning, representing, harbouring and helping the militants and espousing Pakistan’s Kashmir cause without an iota of hesitation since 1990?

Not a single person in the Valley seems to believe that the firebrand Indian Prime Minister would lay his hands on any of the separatist "VVIPs". They invariably dismiss Modi’s Lucknow warning as rhetorical and hollow. “When, of late, media raised questions over India’s policy of according VVIP status to the separatists and purportedly spending hundreds of crores of Rupees on their luxuries and security, Modi and his BJP chose to remain mute spectators. They neither uttered a word in reaction nor asked any of the protected separatists to tone down their virulent anti-India and pro-Pakistan speeches and statements”, observes a political analyst, wishing anonymity.

In the last 97 days of the street turbulence, triggered by Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter, a couple of the protected and privileged separatists have held a low-key profile but many of them have left no stone unturned to enforce complete the shutdown, to completely paralyse the government and to build up an unprecedented Pakistan euphoria. Within 24 hours of Modi’s Lucknow speech, the separatists on Wednesday issued a fresh calendar, asking the people to continue shutdown and hold demonstrations everywhere on streets. They have not granted any daytime relaxation in the shutdown. 90 civilian protesters have already died and thousands have been left injured. Going by their speeches and statements, all the protected separatists are in tandem with Pakistan in raising the Kashmir issue at UN General Assembly and other international stages.

The protected separatists have particularly played a key role in shutting down educational institutions, banks and government offices. On their persuasion, shutdown vigilantes have roughed up and left injured hundreds of people defying the call and over a thousand of the vehicles have been damaged. At least five persons have died due to stone pelting and hundreds of public properties, including the residential houses of a number of pro-India political activists, have been destroyed in fire. It began with burning of the entrepreneur Khurram Shafi Mir’s high-density apple orchard. A situation of anarchy has ceased to relent for over three months. Kashmir's trade and tourist season has been flattened, horticulture is passing through months of uncertainty and Kashmir's economy is said to have already suffered loss worth Rs 10,000 crore.

While the Pakistan Independence Day was, for the first time in 70 years, observed at more than 100 places with tremendous enthusiasm, Pakistani anthem and student parades on August 14, the separatist leaders have ensured waving of the Pakistani national flags at all the innumerable demonstrations from one end of Kashmir to another in the last three months.

The maximum brunt of current turbulence has been faced by J&K Police that has been completely demoralised, defunct and incapacitated to move beyond its camps and riot spots. Over a hundred of their rifles have been either looted by militants or destroyed in fire by their supporters. This is inspite of the fact that nearly 150 Police personnel have been deployed for security of the separatist leaders, their families, relatives and properties. Some of them have been provided same bullet-proof cars and escort vehicles that only the Cabinet Ministers and other VIPs in that category are entitled to.

Interestingly, most of the separatists have been provided VIP status and Police protection by Atal Behari Vajpayee’s NDA-I government. Until 1996, only one of them had been provided with these privileges. In 1996, Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda’s government provided VIP status and security to three prominent separatist leaders. One of them, namely SAS Geelani, later returned it to the Government.

In Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s UPA Government, VIP status and Police protection of the separatist leaders was remarkably upgraded. Those who got VIP status and security in Dr Singh’s government include former militants who were top commanders in their organisations. One of them was also allotted a Government house. They all, in a competition, have subscribed to current Pakistan euphoria in the Valley.

Almost all of these protected separatists enjoy free access to Srinagar airport and are respectfully treated in VIP lounge. Even their relatives in different government services have been granted special promotions and prize postings. Their residences and offices look like the official bungalows of Ministers and DGPs. Most of the Kashmiris view it as India's recognition to the State's "disputed status" and legitimacy of a political cause. "Which other country on earth takes so much care of the sworn enemy agents? This is all under international pressure", insists a fellow journalist.

If Modi translates his threat into action and touches the separatist politicians, who, by his belief, are “harbourers and helpers of terrorism”, it will be the beginning of a new political era in J&K. As of now nobody here believes Modi or anyone else in his regime has a will or spine to affect such radical changes in the Indian policy framework, particularly so as long as BJP is in coalition with PDP and the latter is indebted to a section of the “harbourers and helpers of terrorism” for winning some seats and getting power.  That explains why the Valley’s protected and privileged separatists are unfazed over Modi’s rhetoric and electoral jingoism.


 [Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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