When the Home Minister, Rajnath Singh had, last year, mysteriously but firmly predicted that India will see a transformed Kashmir in a year’s time, his meaning was not clear to generations of people who have observed how Kashmiri politics have played out. But now it is becoming evident, as actions speak louder than words.
The foremost development is that Indian Army has been given free hand in Kashmir. Earlier, during the Congress era, the Army’s wings were clipped and it was merely a stooge of politicians, to be used when convenient and pulled back when appeasement came into play. Recently, some army men beat up policemen near Gunderbal, after a minor altercation. Many have condemned the Army’s aggression, but this is not surprising, since we must remember that Army has – and rightly so – suspected the Kashmiri policemen, here and there, of leaking information to separatists and having secret sympathy with Kashmiri separatism. There have always been tensions between the army and the police in Kashmir, since Army officials come from non-Muslim religions and from across the country, while the police is drawn from the locals. Not much can be expected of the police. The institution of police is rotten and petty across the country. So we should think twice before passing judgment.
Nonetheless, both army and police had become slaves and stooges of regional political parties in Kashmir. Look at NCP’s Abdullah dynasty – it had become a mini-royal family in its own right, blackmailing the centre whenever it wanted. Regional parties have been shown their place now. For years, Congress had endlessly pampered the regional parties – all of which had separatist leanings. As usual, the Congress, since Nehru, wrongly presumed that the only way to gain a foothold in the Valley is to be at the mercy of regional parties, as Article 370 vested massive powers in them. As a result, the regional parties like PDP and NCP relentlessly extorted money from the Centre – with J&K even becoming one of the wealthiest states in India and full of rich people with lot of landholdings. At the same time, these parties would continue pampering the pro-Pakistan Islamist separatists. This led to a view in the Congress that separatists are integral to finding a solution in Kashmir. The resulting mess came at the cost of India’s security and integrity. The centre always tried to pamper these hostile elements in Kashmir. Separatists were funneling lots of money through legal and illegal means, travelling all over India and across Pakistan, amassing massive wealth and properties. The Congress was a spectator and facilitator of this whole farce, which kept worsening the situation.
Yet, the lack of reason and sense was so all-pervasive that everyone, from the Atal Bihari government to the Manmohan Singh government, was fully convinced that without the support of rogue Kashmiri regional parties and the separatists, they were nothing and no solution could be found.
The main problem was the uncertain and cowardly approach of the centre during the last so many years. India always approached Kashmir in a cautious and manipulative way, always hankering after international recognition and always trying to establish its legitimacy through various means, hoping to slowly gain acceptance in the Valley. This shows that India implicitly regarded Kashmir as a disputed territory. There is no use parroting that India regards Kashmir as an integral part of itself, while actions on the ground show that India approached Kashmir as an alien and disputed land for which it had to prove itself. This has been a very dangerous and senseless approach, and it is a miracle that Kashmir is still with us.
The Modi government has, in one sweep, struck a swift and brutal blow to this entire misplaced system. Unlike the previous governments, Modi does not approach Kashmir manipulatively. He knows that Kashmir is part of India and the only problem is to root out the hostile elements. This is the clear-cut picture in the mind of the BJP. Irrespective of the alliance with the PDP, Modi has shown regional parties their place. NCP and PDP and the fledgling Congress unit of Kashmir stand powerless, as they should. Separatists like Mizwaiz Farooq, Geelani and Yasin Malik, who have fattened their coffers and stature at the cost of India, are in deep trouble.
For the latter to happen, the masterstroke has been the network of hawala transactions unearthed by the NIA with damning proofs leading up to Geelani. It was obvious to everyone that illegal money was sustaining the separatist campaign in Kashmir. But instead of stopping it, Congress gave them more money, as per its universal appeasement policy. Now that the money has stopped, the NIA, by pursuing the separatists, is swiftly isolating them from the Valley, while NCP and PDP watch incredulously.
This strategy of BJP – of striking at the heart of the problem in Kashmir – is already showing visible results. Reports indicate that the public is gradually returning to normalcy and incidents of public violence against the security forces are now more easily brought under control. To give an example, when after the unearthing of their hawala transactions, the Hurriyat called for a state-wide bandh, there was no response from the public, as colleges and shops continued to run normally. After all, besides the enticement of radical Islam, the other major enticement was that of money. It was money that swelled the ranks of stone-pelters and militant’s helpers or ‘overground workers’.
This is the initial tangible result of the Modi government’s actions in Kashmir. Despite Modi’s swift and courageous approach in Kashmir, no other country has dared to utter a word in criticism. This is not Nehru’s India. As of now, all world leaders are beholden to Modi. India is buying arms and opening its defence markets and cultivating strong defence allies. They are already eating out of India’s hand, thanks to Modi’s foreign policy. After these tangible results on the ground, let us see what the government does next. But it is clear that the government is proceeding systematically and clearly on the Kashmir issue, with no rhetoric and all action.