Silence on Amit Shah’s Kashmir visit suggests all sides ready for talks

Amit Shah, Home Minister, Valley, The Federal, English news website
Home Minister Amit Shah distributes cheques to families of BJP workers killed by terrorists in the state recently, in Srinagar on Thursday. Photo: PTI

Jammu and Kashmir’s chief secretary BVR Sumbramanyam made it sound quite customary, and rather convincing, by the end of Home Minister Amit Shah’s two-day visit to Kashmir on Thursday evening.

He called it a routine review visit to map security and governance scenario in the valley. But the fact that for the first time in last 30 years, the Hurriyat Conference didn’t issue any shutdown or protest call against the visit of an Indian leader made Shah’s visit more than what the chief secretary wanted one to believe.

The visit, interestingly, came on close heels of Governor Satya Pal Malik’s recent statement, wherein, he said that Hurriyat today is ready for talks. Malik stood vindicated when prominent separatist and cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq expressed his willingness for the “meaningful” dialogue.

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“The way separatists, especially the unbending Geelani camp, didn’t issue any protest call against Shah’s Valley visit makes it clear that some type of move is in making,” says Imtiyaz Shah, a Srinagar-based commentator. “Otherwise, how is it possible that an Indian Home Minister would come and go without drawing defiance on the ground? It’s the first time in Kashmir’s 30-year-long militancy period that an Indian leader didn’t face any protest in the valley.”

‘Talks must happen now’

But, at a time when Ministry of Home Affairs lately informed the Parliament that 733 militants and 112 civilians were killed in Kashmir since 2016, many bat for what Mirwaiz called a “meaningful dialogue” to “end the bloodshed”.

“Talks must happen now,” says Saima Ali, a Political Science graduate from south Kashmir’s Pulwama. “Let them sit and talk about Kashmir and end our misery once and for all. Kashmiris don’t deserve to be killed in the name of this bloody conflict.”

How Centre handled Kashmir issue

However, whether or not Modi or his deputy would initiate talks anytime soon in Kashmir remains a matter of speculation. But, the way New Delhi has handled affairs in Kashmir post-2016 protests doesn’t seem to leave any choice for the separatists either.

New Delhi first unleashed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Valley to cut Hurriyat and its support system to size in the name of “terror funding”, following by the recent addition called the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB). After J&K Bank’s sacked chairman, it was the former state finance minister’s son who faced the ACB, which has been given a free hand to investigate rampant corruption in the state.

While the message is clear how New Delhi wants to prepare ground for any engagement in Kashmir, Shah’s visit hit home some other points, too.

On the second-day of his visit, which saw him venture into Srinagar’s Karan Nagar area to pay his solidarity visit to the family of the slain cop, Arshid Khan, Shah impressed upon security forces in Jammu and Kashmir to show zero-tolerance towards militancy and take strict action against “terror funding in the state”.

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Pertinently, over a dozen separatist leaders have been languishing in New Delhi’s Central Jail over their alleged involvement in “terror funding”.

Shah gave these directions during a security review meeting with top officials from the state government and the Centre, where he was given a detailed briefing on the security scenario in the state, the results of the last one year’s efforts in containing militancy and their future plans.

“While the improvements in the security scenario were noted and appreciated, there was a detailed discussion on what further improvements could be made for restoring peace and normalcy in the state,” AP Maheswari, special secretary, internal security, MHA, said while addressing media persons in Srinagar after Shah concluded his visit.

According to J&K chief secretary BVR Sumbramanyam, who also addressed the presser, the Home Minister praised the efforts of the Jammu and Kashmir Police in countering militancy, “and directed that the state government should commemorate the martyrdom of its policemen in their hometowns and villages in an appropriate manner each year,” he said. “Prominent public places should also be named after martyred policemen.”

Shah also reviewed the preparations for Amarnath Yatra, which will start from July 1 and stressed that there should be no laxity in the enforcement of the standard operating procedures (SOPs), and senior officials should personally supervise the arrangements for the yatra at all levels.

Is Nehru the problem?

But, beyond security and governance, many questioned Shah’s visit for not talking about the sufferings of the Kashmiris.

“Forgetting the sufferings of Kashmiris and just asking for focusing on eliminating militancy and improving governance may not help New Delhi as J&K issues of a political nature,” said Er Rasheed, Kashmir’s firebrand politician. “Not only Amit Shah but the Prime Minister and other top BJP leaders have claimed from time to time that Kashmir dispute is because of wrong policies of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.”

If BJP can wipe off Nehru’s name from the list of Indian Prime Ministers, Kashmiris will stop talking about the Kashmir issue and UN resolutions, Rasheed said. “Let Modi and Amit Shah use the heavy mandate they have received from the masses and help in addressing the real sufferings of people of the entire sub-continent and the world.