Spy agencies are dictating India’s Kashmir policy and the Centre isn’t sensitive enough to the aspirations of the state’s people, Union minister Jairam Ramesh has said.
At the end of a two-day trip to the Valley, the first by a central minister from outside the state following Afzal Guru’s hanging in February, Ramesh said Kashmir had come a long way from its troubled past and the time was now ripe for good politics and growth “What Kashmir needs is the right political engagement, not a strategy influenced by spy and security agencies. It’s the political vacuum that allowed the growth of militant, secessionist groups.”
“Kashmir is transforming but has India changed its mindset towards it? We are not showing enough sensitivity to Kashmiris, who suffer suspicion and humiliation in our cities. India should respect their culture and embrace them whole-heartedly,” he said.
During the two days (Friday and Saturday) he was there, Ramesh pitched two ambitious projects for the state — ‘Umeed’, which encourages rural women to become entrepreneurs, and ‘Himayat’, through which the youth can acquire skills and be a part of the country’s progress. He also fit in a visit to Guru’s hometown of Sopore.
Ramesh told reporters accompanying him that the central government must be visible in Kashmir through its development activities. He said successive governments had adopted policies to maintain status quo in the region and cautioned against what he called 'BJP mark politics' that could further alienate Kashmiris.
"The BJP brand of hyper-nationalism would hurt Kashmir's mainstreaming with India. The chest-thumping 'I-am-Indian' kind of patriotism would not work here."
Citing successful local elections with high voter turnout and booming tourism with over six lakh visitors annually, the minister said the situation in Kashmir was conducive to a major development push.
This was Ramesh's seventh visit to the Valley since he took over as rural development minister in July 2011.