Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Kashmir outreach got mixed reactions in the violence-torn Valley on Tuesday.
Experts believe after 32 days of curfew and 60 deaths, the Prime Minister spoke too little, too late, and failed to appease the Kashmiris.
As Modi invoked former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous slogan of ‘Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat’, senior journalist Sheikh Mushtaq said, “The PM’s words have found no resonance in Kashmir. The slogan has been used so many times in the past that it has become a cliché. The people of the Valley have been let down by successive governments and the words failed to touch hearts even when Modi spoke in the Valley last year.”
He added, “People feel Kashmir is remembered only when there is violence. The slogans were used before as well but every time there is a protest, it is dealt with pellets and bullets. It happened in 2008, 2010 and again in 2016.”
While BJP’s alliance partner, the Peoples Democratic Party, welcomed the Prime Minister’s speech as the first step, the National Conference hoped it “will go beyond the rhetoric”.
State education minister Naeem Akhtar said, “We welcome this and it has come at the climax of expression of concern from across the party lines. It means crystallisation of a need for focused dialogue and we hope this will mark the beginning of the process of the same dialogue and beginning of a healing touch.” Asked if a more personal touch, like a promise to do away with pellet guns in the Valley, would have been more effective, Akhtar refused to comment on what the PM should have said.
National Conference president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah reacted to the speech with a “Finally!!!!” on Twitter, while his party said Modi had to go beyond the “recycled term of Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat and Kashmiriyat”.
“The PM spoke these words before in Kashmir, but later kept quiet for 30 days when 60 youth were killed and thousands of injured were in the hospitals. Unless he follows it up with action, it will be another instance where the slogan has been recycled,” party spokesman Junaid Azim Mattoo said.
Modi’s words found no takers in the separatist camp, who said development is not a “solution for the Kashmir issue’’.
Reacting sharply to Modi’s statement that “development will solve the Kashmir issue”, Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani said, “It is ridiculous and irresponsible on part of Mr. Modi to look into the Kashmir issue through his fake rhetoric of development.’’
He said Kashmir was better off financially than most other Indian states and would be more prosperous had it not been for Indian forces.
“We are being handled rather manhandled with iron hands for the last seven decades but your lust of blood is still not satisfied and you continue to crush us with heavy boots.”
Moderate separatist and the Valley’s head cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that what Kashmiris want was clear.
“As far as what Kashmiris want. the writing on the wall is clear,even literally and can be easily read by those who want to read it. People are clearly stating what they want, India just has to stop its cacophony and listen with a view to understand and not deny,’’ he said.