New Union Home Minister Mr Amit Shah and Hope in Kashmir
Mr Amit Shah, President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a core confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and co-architect of the success of the Party is now the Union Home Minister. Given his status in the Party and the critical portfolio allocated to him, there is the hope of resolution of the Kashmir issue even as levels of terrorism have dropped considerably with security forces continuing with successful counter-terrorist operations in the Valley.
On 31 May, four terrorists and an active supporter were killed in two encounters indicating the dominance that has been achieved by the security forces in the Valley. The presence of terrorists is restricted to South Kashmir and some perennial hotspots such as Sopore.
The separatists have also been marginalised and under stringent scrutiny for involvement in cases of money laundering and financing terrorists and lawbreakers as stone pelters.
Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in his Friday sermon called for, “permanent and dignified solution is found to the vexed issue [of Kashmir].”This strong mandate should be used as a “big opportunity” to resolve the Kashmir issue forever,” Mirwaiz said addressing a large gathering at Jamia Masjid Srinagar on Jumat-ul-Vida (last Friday of Ramadhan) as per Greater Kashmir. Mirwaiz said: “I believe that Kashmir issue cannot be resolved militarily or through confrontation but by dialogue and deliberations. Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s repeated offer of dialogue on all issues between India and Pakistan including Kashmir should be seriously considered by the new dispensation in New Delhi like the way forward.” Mirwaiz said.
“During our engagement with former PM’s Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh and after visiting Pakistan, Hurriyat had put forward certain substantial measures to both India and Pakistan as precursor to serious negotiations,” Mirwaiz said. “Both countries at that time had agreed to implementing these steps to prepare ground for serious negotiations, it included revocation of the AFSPA and other black laws, gradual demilitarisation, prisoner release and initiation of a process to narrow differences between the parties to the dispute, ” said the Mirwaiz who has been a moderate amongst the separatists. The opportunity could be ripe for a dialogue with the key separatists.
Mr Amit Shah as the Home Minister is an opportunity to resolve the Kashmir issue given that he has the ear of the Prime Minister as well as the Party ideologues who may be willing to listen to the man who is credited to have organised the grand success of the second coming of the Modi government to power.
The militancy in terms of violence by terrorists is at a low ebb post-Pulwama with over 100 terrorists reportedly killed this year alone.
Support of the people at large may be another matter which has no doubt deteriorated. Never the less some separatists as Mirwaiz Omar has indicated that there is scope for talks with the Government on issues that could be debated, but the opening remains.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the mechanism of Shri Dineshwar Sharma, former Director of Intelligence Bureau, as the Representative of Government of India to initiate and carry forward a dialogue with the elected representatives can be rejuvenated. In tandem with the engagement with Pakistan, these could be taken forward to bring peace and stability to the Valley after decades of bloodshed.
However the BJP Election Manifesto has called for the removal of Article 370 and Article 35 A, in case Mr Shah who is also a strong proponent of the same decides to focus on these issues, there could be widespread resentment as well as protests in Kashmir and conflict resolution opportunity would remain elusive. The Government is also not willing to hold talks with Pakistan and most certainly not on issues other than terrorism, whereas Islamabad is unlikely to talk unless Kashmir is also bundled in the package. Thus the situation though ripe for resolution remains complex.