Kashmiris have always found it difficult to get heard in New Delhi. Whether it is expressions of political aspiration, clamour for restoring civil liberties or the lifting of draconian security legislation, the Valley feels that it does not have a receptive audience in the Capital, which allegedly pays attention to security matters and little else.
Perceptions of apathy have had a particularly sharp, despairing twinge for Kashmiris in recent months as they continue to wait for central assistance to rebuild their homes and lives after floods devastated the Valley last September.
Few who witnessed the deluge in the news can doubt the extent of the devastation. Homes, roads, bridges, courts, libraries, museums, schools, and other vital elements of public infrastructure were severely run down. A total of 261,361 structures were affected, of which 21,485 were completely damaged. The Centre’s assistance has been measly but there have been recurring speculations that help is on the way with the NDA government reportedly considering a huge financial package to the tune of at least Rs 70,000 crore.
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Nirmal Singh, deputy chief minister of J-K, reiterated last week that a big package was underway. The anticipation has, however, gone on for so long that the promise is barely believable now. Meanwhile, the Kashmiris seethe about the Rs 75,000 that they have been offered for a fully damaged house and Rs 3,800 for a partially damaged one, which, according to one Srinagar resident, is not even enough to procure a door.
Assistance to Kashmir has usually been justified in terms of addressing the alienation between the Valley and New Delhi; it is seen as a preventative instrument to contain the slide towards militancy among the youth that are already aggrieved by different aspects of State policy.
The Centre may be mindful of these but policy must be driven by humanitarian considerations and by the belief that assistance to J-K is a necessary complement to the State’s firm conviction about Kashmir’s belonging. In other words, J-K must get no less than other states if it is reckoned an equal part of the Indian Union, a point Kashmiris may press in the light of the lavish package announced for Bihar recently.
The Centre’s current policy aggravates Kashmir, puts the PDP-BJP relationship under great strain and widens the wedge between Jammu and the Valley. It is better for the Centre to reveal its hand rather than let the current impasse stoke more anger.
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