Kashmir: Modi’s remarks on status of Kashmir stir up debate

IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks in Srinagar that early elections were expected in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and that the Delhi-administered province would get statehood soon, sent opposition parties scrambling on Friday to figure out his real intention.

Dr Karan Singh, former Sadre Reayasat of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir and former union minister, said the key thing is the restoration of statehood, and that should be done ahead of the state election.

“Else, the elected government will only be a glorified municipality,” he told NDTV.

Preparations are on at the Election Commission for the assembly polls, for which the Supreme Court has given a September 30 deadline. Though no date has been announced yet, Mr Modi, on his first visit to held Jammu and Kashmir after the election, said on Thursday that they were “not far off”.

“I think the government wants to do it after the election,” Mr Singh said. But he had some advice. “Having an election for a Union Territory is not the same as having an election for a full-fledged state. If you are giving an election to the people, give them a proper state election,” he said.

On the other hand, Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), considered close to Mr Modi, and Apni Party welcomed the announcement. The main regional forces — the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) — reacted cautiously.

The Congress termed the announcement vague. “We welcome PM Modi Ji’s statement on conducting elections and restoring statehood in Jammu and Kashmir,” the DPAP’s chief spokesperson Salman Nizami said in a statement.

Senior vice president and chief spokesperson for Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC), Ravinder Sharma, said the prime minister was “vague as usual” regarding the timeline of the restoration of statehood and holding assembly polls.

The disputed state’s bifurcation took place in 2019, part of a two-pronged plan of the Modi government that also included scrapping Jammu and Kashmir’s special status granted under the Article 370 of the Constitution.

Five years, Mr Singh indicated, is a long time in politics, pointing to the Ayodhya Ram temple, which the BJP hoped would bring them massive support in Uttar Pradesh. But the calculation went awry. Not only did the party slide from 62 seats of 2019 to 33, it also lost Faizabad, under which Ayodhya is located.

“After building the temple, the new railway station and the airport…,” Mr Singh said.

About the bifurcation of the state where he used to be regent, the 93-year-old said, “There is no use being over-sentimental… We have to accept reality and work with whatever we have”.

Addressing a gathering in Srinagar, Mr Modi expressed excitement about his visit to occupied Jammu & Kashmir and mentioned two specific reasons for it. “Firstly, today’s event is related to the inauguration and foundation stone laying of developmental projects in Jammu & Kashmir and secondly, this is the first meeting with the people of Jammu & Kashmir after the Lok Sabha elections.”

Recalling his recent visit to Italy for the G7 Summit, Mr Modi said he highlighted the impact of continuity of the government for three terms as it has changed the outlook of the world towards India. He also said that all time high aspirations of Indians are the nation’s biggest strength.

He saw the role of the people of Jammu & Kashmir in this strengthening of democracy. “We are witnessing Atal Ji’s vision of Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat aur Kashmiriyat, turning into a reality today,” he said.

He said he was delighted that people of Jammu and Kashmir were now living under the Constitution of India. “Through the Constitution, we are finding new ways to change the face of Kashmir for good.”

“I am committed with full dedication and honesty to ensure that a way out of the past generation’s miseries may be found. We are making all possible effort to remove all distances whether of the heart or of Delhi (Dil ya Dilli).

“What can be better than the people of Jammu & Kashmir selecting their representative and tackling their problems through them. That is why preparations for the assembly elections have started. The day is not far when you will select the new government of Jammu & Kashmir with your own vote. The day will come soon when Jammu & Kashmir will shape its future as a state once again,” Mr Modi said.__Dawn.com