Opinion: Amit Shah's Kashmir Visit Had Two Messages—One for Kashmiris, the Other for Pakistan

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Opinion: Amit Shah’s Kashmir Visit Had Two Messages—One for Kashmiris, the Other for Pakistan
© Provided by News18 Opinion: Amit Shah’s Kashmir Visit Had Two Messages—One for Kashmiris, the Other for Pakistan

Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs (MHA), made his maiden visit to Kashmir valley after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India. It was the home minister who had made the announcement on the floor of Lok Sabha on August 5, 2019.

Amit Shah’s visit comes in the wake of unprecedented period of calm that prevailed in Kashmir valley for the last two years contrary to expectations of many political analysts, who thought that the region will see the same kind of unrest or far worse than what happened after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016, when the valley was engulfed in extreme violence for months on end. But nothing of that sort happened after the abrogation of Article 370, which was a cataclysmic event for Jammu and Kashmir. People of Kashmir valley showed immense calm and patience and did not let it slip into chaos.

Orchestrating relatively smooth abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India and managing to avoid any kind of bloodshed in Kashmir valley has been one of the most notable performances of Amit Shah as the home minister of India. Not only this, under Amit Shah, the District Development Council (DDC) elections were also successfully conducted, held a year after the abrogation of Article 370, in which people of Kashmir valley including those in restive South Kashmir participated in large numbers.

So how did Amit Shah’s first visit to Jammu and Kashmir as home minister after the abrogation of Article 370 go?

Before assessing that, it is interesting to mention Kashmir valley’s own connection with the MHA, which is traditionally the second most powerful office after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in the union cabinet. What most people don’t know is that the office of the home minister of India has been previously occupied by two Kashmiris as well.

The first Kashmiri to occupy the office of the home minister was Kailash Nath Katju (1951-55), who belonged to a Kashmiri Pandit family that had settled in the former princely state of Jaora in present day Madhya Pradesh. Katju, a Congressman, served under Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. He also served as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and governor of the states of West Bengal and Orissa (now Odisha). Markandey Katju, the noted columnist, who retired as judge of the Supreme Court of India, is grandson of Kailash Nath Katju.

The other Kashmiri who served as India’s home minister was none other than Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (1989-90), who remains India’s first and only Muslim home minister to occupy the second most powerful position in the union cabinet. He served as member of the Janata Dal under then Prime Minister V.P. Singh. The Janata Dal was an agglomeration of disgruntled members of former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet, like V.P. Singh, Arif Mohammad Khan, I.K. Gujral etc., as well as factions of former socialist parties that operated under “Janata Party” tag.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was part of the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet, and left the Congress along with V.P. Singh and other Congressmen to join a newly formed Janata Dal. He won from Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh on Janata Dal ticket and joined V.P. Singh’s cabinet as home minister. Incidentally, it was during the tenure of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as home minister that militancy first erupted in Kashmir valley in 1989.

Amit Shah’s visit to Kashmir comes in the wake of sudden eruption of terrorist activities in last two weeks, targeting non-local labour force working in Kashmir valley as well as members of non-Muslim communities. This is a clear indication that Pakistan is feeling frustrated at the refusal of Kashmiris to stand against the Union of India after the abrogation of Article 370. Pakistan-based ISI and its Army was expecting chaos and instability in Kashmir valley at a scale exceeding what was witnessed after Burhan Wani was killed. People of Kashmir valley did not act according to the expectations of Pakistan and instead showed tremendous restraint. What is worse for Pakistan, Kashmiris even participated in the peaceful DDC elections, which further irked ISI and the Pakistan Army.

However, open diplomatic support of China and installation of Taliban regime in Afghanistan seem to have pushed Punjabi Muslim-dominated Pakistan Army, ISI and civilian government into the mistaken belief that they can restart militancy in Kashmir valley. The recent killings of civilians should be seen in this context.

Amit Shah’s maiden visit to Kashmir valley after the abrogation of Article 370 had two important messages. One was for the people of Kashmir, to whom he addressed directly by asking his security apparatus to remove the protective glass shield during one of his speeches. He reiterated his stand that there is no need to talk to Pakistan as it is a non-entity in J&K. He insisted that he would deal directly with the people of Kashmir. He also reached out to the people of Kashmir and told them that they are proud citizens of this country. He thanked people of Kashmir valley for once again imposing faith in democratic institutions of India and participating in large numbers in the DDC elections. He addressed gatherings of elected panchayat representatives and announced that once the process of delimitation is over, the restoration of statehood will also happen.

His other message was for Pakistan, that Pakistan should refrain from nurturing any devious ambitions of creating mischief, trouble and violence in Kashmir by trying to revive an otherwise-dead militancy. It was a firm message that people of Kashmir who have always stood with India at the time of crisis will once again do the same in case of any mischief from Pakistan. India and people of Kashmir stand together as ONE.

Javed Beigh is general secretary of People’s Democratic Front. He fought DDC elections from Beerwah constituency of Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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