Pelting a thousand lies!
Reply to Sagarika Ghosh’s article, “Reaching out in Kashmir: What Narendra Modi can learn from Manmohan Singh” in TOI dtd., 18 Feb 2019.
One of the five basic tenets of journalism is fairness and impartiality. However, Sagarika Ghoshe’s blog, “Reaching out in Kashmir: What Narendra Modi can learn from Manmohan Singh” appears to be written to please a specific political party. The author, who is supposed to have thirty years of experience is either has poor knowledge of our history and facts or deliberately ignoring them. It is neither fair nor impartial and it is clear murder of journalism. The article would have been apt, had she compared Mr. Narendra Modi to Mr. Atalk Bihari Vajpayee (ABV), rather than to Mr. Manmohan Singh.
Earlier during the 1990s, three successive governments lead by P. V Narasimha Rao, Devegowda and I.K Gujral had ceased to engage with Pakistan as long as Cross-border terrorism persisted. Despite being from Jan Sangh background, ABV was the first prime minister of the country to initiate efforts to foster friendly relations with Pakistan. After many years following the eruption of terrorism in the state of Kashmir, he was the first prime minister of the country to initiate the peace process. Even our adversary Pakistan was taken by surprise with this unexpected move of ABV. The then Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri exclaimed, “hopeful that there will be no ‘clarification’ from India or even from Atal Bihari Vajpayee on this statement. (1)”
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the brain behind the Delhi-Lahore bus in 1999 and he even traveled to the untrustworthy neighborhood in the inaugural run of Delhi-Lahore bus. On his arrival in Lahore ABV said, “I bring the goodwill and hope of my fellow Indians who seek abiding peace and harmony with Pakistan… I am conscious that this is a defining moment in South Asian history, and I hope we will be able to rise to the challenge (2).” However, it was Pakistan which failed to reciprocate positively and returned the favor with Kargil intrusion later that year. And, the temple of our democracy, the Indian Parliament was attacked by Pakistan based JIM in which fourteen people including 5 militants died and 18 people were seriously injured.
Nevertheless, again it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who extended ‘Hand of friendship’ to Pakistan and ‘chance for dialogue’ to Kashmiri separatists, thus completely reversing the earlier government stands. He offered a triple mantra of “Insaniyat,’ ‘Jamhooriyat’ and ‘Kashmiriyat’ in an attempt to resolve the frustrating issue of the strife-torn valley. During his historical Srinagar speech of April 2003 in Loksabha, he said, “Issues can be resolved if we move forward guided by the three principles of Insaniyat (Humanity), Jamhooriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri values).” In that speech, he also said, “We are again extending the hand of friendship, but hand should be extended by both sides.” As he extended the olive branch to the separatists, he clearly said, “Dialogue was the only way to resolve issues (3).”
Authentic and sincere efforts by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had won him the faith of Kashmiris, who had suffered the violence for decades. Mr. Naeem Akhtar, a senior PDP leader had described that ABV had become a ‘reference point in Kashmir and about Kashmir (4).’ As a significant confidence-building measure, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had laid the groundwork for the opening of trade and people-to-people contact across LoC. Abdul Rehman Khan, a retired government employee, had told NDTV that, “While every Prime Minister in India has always worried about the next election and used Kashmir as an issue to win the polls, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was different as he made sincere efforts to initiate a process that could lead to a resolution (5).”
According to Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, CPI(M) leader “Atal Bihari Vajpayee had tried to reach to the people of Kashmir by initiating important initiatives which helped in creating hope,” He further clarified that “the opening of dialogue with stakeholders including Pakistan and other dissenting voices were meaningful steps. Despite severe limitations of the BJP’s policies, he will be remembered for not following the beaten tracks (6).”
Naeem Akhtar had told to PTI, “His electoral loss in 2004 (Lok Sabha polls) is considered a loss for Kashmir and South Asia. He was one PM who bonded with the sentiments of Kashmiris and scripted a new peace agenda for south Asia, establishing in the process the centrality of the sentiment of the people of Kashmir and that Kashmir can be resolved without the use of force and without redrawing borders (7).”
Mr. Manmohan Singh had two full terms or ten years to resolve the Kashmir issue permanently. All that he had to do was to take forward the ground laid by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. According to Mr. Radha Kumar, a foreign secretary during the UPA regime, Mr. Manmohan Singh even approached ABV to continue the peace mission in Kashmir which he had started (8). However, unfortunately, ABV declined as he had a feeling of letdown after the debacle in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
It cannot be denied that Mr. Manmohan Singh did have a good intention to resolve the issue and he even consulted several Kashmiri experts. Some of India’s top-rated honest officials worked hard to ease the tensions. However, the response from Pakistan, separatists and the terror groups were always lukewarm. Mr. Manmohan Singh revived the bus diplomacy with a bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarnagar. However, terrors groups tried to disrupt the inaugural programme by setting fire to Srinagar’s Tourist Reception Centre. Mr. Singh did try to increase the trade-links between two countries by opening more border points. However, Pakistan did not reciprocate favorably. Later, Pakistan did open a route between Muzaffarabad-Jammu, only when a devastating earthquake hit the Pakistan and India offered to send the relief aid. However, Pakistan accepted the Indian aid only after removing India label from the packages (9,10). Later, Mr. Singh took the separatists to Muzaffarabad for peace talks and made the biggest blunder of not providing them with an Indian passport to enter into Pakistan (11).
It is true that terror-related deaths decreased in Kashmir during Mr. Manmohan Singh. Again, it can be attributed to the peace process initiated by ABV (10). In addition, a large number of Kashmir youth migrated to metropolitan cities in search of jobs (12). In fact, Mr.Singh’s Kashmir policy was dented by two major terror attacks. First, the 2008 gruesome Mumbai terror attack in which 166 innocent civilians died (13). Second, the 2010 Kashmir unrest in which more than 100 people died (14). The development of J & K took a backseat during Mr. Singh’s government, even though he had declared a bunch of sops (15). During the entire decade of Mr. Sing’s rule, India did not gain anything, rather lost everything. There was actually an upsurge in the terror incidents during the end of Mr. Singh’s period as evident in Sagarika’s article.
Mr. Narendra Modi has taken a totally different approach. During earlier governments, even though J & K had a special status and received huge grants, there was no considerable development work. If there was any, it was confined only to Kashmir and not in both Jammu and Ladakh as it was voiced by Mr. Manmohan Singh himslef. However, in the last 4.8 years, Mr. Modi has done phenomenal work for the development of J & K state. He has added a fourth dimension to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s triple mantra, i.e., Pragati. He has laid the ground with the hope of resolving the Kashmir issue forever. His focus has been to bring radical changes at the grass root level through infrastructure development and jobs growth. Due to Mr. Modi’s initiative, J & K state has a unique distinction of having both IIM and IIT in a single state and two AIIMS hospitals in a single state. He has also granted an Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) to Jammu city. Due to his initiative, the J & K state is also 100% electrified now. Most important of all PM Modi is also developing the Ladakh region which was ignored by all other parties so far. He has laid the foundation for the first-ever University of Ladakh to include degree colleges of Leh, Kargil, Nubra, Zanskar, Drass, and Khalsti. He has also laid the foundation for several highways and underpasses to make Ladakh connected throughout the year, which otherwise get disconnected from the rest of the world during the winter season (16).
It’s foolish to brand Modi’s Kashmir policy as inconsistent one. Time and again history has proved that, whenever India extended a hand of friendship, the perpetrators have shot that hand. In the wake of such a situation, it was inevitable for the country to resort to retribution. Snubbing of Sharif at an international summit, snapping official level talks with Hurriyat, and resorting to surgical strike was the need of the hour to show the enemy that India is not weak. Despite such hostilities, he has proved that he is open for the peace process with neighbors through the SAARC meet during his swearing-in, surprise birthday visits to Nawaz Sharif’s home, an invitation to Hurriyat for official level talks in Delhi, and with lauding of Kartarpur Sahib corridor.
Mr. Modi also took the historic step of aligning with PDP, with the hope of easing tensions in Kashmir and develop the state. However, BJP was forced to withdraw the support to PDP, as it did not cooperate in development works in Jammu and Ladakh and maintaining peace. CM Mehabooba Mufti did not do anything to curb the terror incidences and there was rampant radicalization in the valley. Free speech was under threat and a veteran journalist and the editor-in-chief of Rising Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari was murdered. In addition, Mehbooba Mufti embarrassed BJP by initiating a dialogue with the separatists when the center was trying to find a political solution to the ‘bloodshed’ in Kashmir by declaring Ramzan ceasefire (17).
The situation was not different during Mr. Singh’s tenure. Even though he succeeded in forming a PDP-Congress alliance, he had to withdraw due to the Amarnath land dispute. Subsequent JKNC- Congress alliance was shrouded in controversies and it is during this time there was a major protest against the government in 2010, in which 100 protesters were killed and one of them was as young as eleven years old. While BJP was very keen for pan-J & K development, there was no perceivable development work during congress government. While nearly 1,00,000 population added to the job market every year, Congress could add only 54,000 jobs between 2005 – 13 (12). Relatively low count of terrorist killings 2010-2013 (471) compared to the recent period 2015-2018 (518) speaks volumes about lack of determination to deal with the menace. Stone pelting vocation among Kashmiri youth is a gift of lack of jobs creation during Mr. Manmohan Singh era.
Contrary to the authors claim, the center did not humiliate J & K government with inadequate disbursal of flood relief. In fact, the Central government released ₹ 5,039 crores as flood relief package (18). However, as CAG found out, it is the J & K Government which was involved in irregular disbursal of flood relief. Between 2010 -11 to 2014-15, the CAG pointed out that 25 percent of the expenditure meant for disaster mitigation purposes, was diverted towards ineligible works (19). Hence, it is wrong to blame the central government for the mistakes committed by the state government.
Mr. Manmohan Singh exercised minority appeasement and vote bank politics of Congress by declaring that Muslims must have the first right to India’s welfare measures. He summarily ignored all other minorities and poor people of the country. When PM Modi declared pro-poor welfare measures, he included all poor people of India. It is more inclusive than Mr. Singh’s rhetoric. If we look at the statistics, it is again the muslims, minorities and backward classes of the country who make up the maximum percentage of the poor and thus beneficiaries of Modi’s schemes (20).
While the author conveniently ignores genocide of hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits and mass exodus from the state, she tries to highlight the elimination of a terrorist, a rare example of the lynching of a minority and a rape incidence in J & K for a flare-up of the unrest in Kashmir. A cry for scrapping Article 370 and 35A is a recent phenomenon post-Pulwama tragedy and is from all the nooks and corner of the country and not confining to Hindus alone. It is clearly evident that the author is pelting a lie after lie to drive her far left-wing ideology.
If Mr. Manmohan Singh’s super-secular stance couldn’t thaw the Kashmir ice, it is wrong to blame that Hindutva ideology. History of India is replete with several examples that, it is Hindu Rashtra which believed in ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbhan’ and honored all other religions. All Indians have to wake up to the fact that the target of our hostile neighbor is not just the acquisition of Kashmir, rather breaking this Great Republic into ‘Tukde Tukde.’ Indians should be even more careful about the current day Jayachandrans and Mir Jafars living amongst us, who are subtly facilitating disintegration of our Republic.
Dr. Prahlada N.B