Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s two-day maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir concluded on Thursday, 27 June, with a tough signal for the separatists as well as their supporters and sympathisers in different mainstream political parties.
Before returning to New Delhi, Shah asked the police and security forces to observe “zero tolerance towards terrorism and terrorists”, wishing “continued strict action against terror funding.”
“The Rule of Law should be enforced,” Shah asserted emphatically at a security review meeting with senior officials of police, civil administration, bureaucracy, and security forces.
Shah’s day two deliberations in Srinagar progressed parallel to Income Tax Department raids on the offices and residences of two prominent business families – affiliated, one each, to National Conference (NC) and Congress.
At least five of these premises in Jammu and Srinagar belong to the family of NC stalwart Abdul Rahim Rather, who is rated in seniority and influence equal to his relative Mohammad Shafi Uri and next only to the President Farooq Abdullah.
Both, Rather and Uri, have served as Jammu and Kashmir’s finance ministers several times since 1970’s, when they were returned from Chrar-e-Sharief and Uri Assembly segments.
Since his debut in the electoral politics in 1977, Rather has won six Assembly elections and lost only once, in 2014.
Even in the recent Lok Sabha elections, NC’s Abdullah got over 10,000 votes of his 70,000 lead from Rather’s Chrar-e-Sharief.
I-T’s String of Raids
Until his death, on 13 September 2015, Janak Raj Gupta was one of the highest profile Congress leaders in Jammu and Kashmir – who had served several times as MLA and Lok Sabha member.
Holding the status of a Cabinet Minister, Gupta functioned as Advisor to Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in 2007-08. Jammu-based business establishment Shaurya Motors, which was raided by I-T sleuths on Thursday, belongs to Gupta’s family.
In recent past, I-T department has conducted a series of raids in Jammu and Kashmir on the business establishments of several influential people, including some in Srinagar, which belong to two leaders of Peoples Conference (PC) or their close relatives.
Significantly, PC has been BJP’s electoral ally and a partner in Mehbooba Mufti’s aborted government.
An official statement from New Delhi maintained that Thursday’s raids were a routine exercise to curb terror funding and the Jammu and Kashmir Bank money allegedly swindled by certain businessmen.
Nevertheless, simultaneous raids on Rather’s and Gupta’s establishments eclipsed even Shah’s visit and meetings as many in the state kept asking as to whose house or office would be the ‘next target.’
Shah Snubs NC & PDP
Shah’s visit set at rest all speculations of the Modi 2.0 regime engaging J&K’s separatist or mainstream politicians in a dialogue over resolution of the Kashmir problem.
Cutting NC and PDP dead, Shah denied appointments even to BJP’s political friendlies and met, selectively, delegations of panches and sarpanches, besides some representatives of the tribal Gujjar community.
He also called on the family members of Inspector Arshad Khan, who was among six Police and CRPF personnel killed in the 12 June terror strike in Anantnag.
If the sources associated with the arrangements of his tour are to be believed, Shah did not want to talk to any of the politicians, even on telephone.
He, however, presided over a function organised to commemorate and honour the BJP workers killed by terrorists.
No Shutdown, No Twitter Attacks
Contrary to the convention in the last over two decades, police or intelligence agencies were not asked to seek liaison with any separatist or militant leader, even as they had not, significantly, called for a shutdown.
With exceptions, like Sushil Kumar Shinde in 2013, most of the prime ministers and home ministers have been greeted with shutdowns by separatists and militants in the state over the last 25 years.
While Shah was carrying on with his schedule in Srinagar and the I-T raids were underway in both the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu, not one of the separatist or the mainstream leaders came out with a reaction.
Prolific on Twitter, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba, Sajad Lone and Shah Faesal did not tweet anything till late on Thursday – either on Shah’s first visit as home minister to Kashmir or on the I-T raids.
Even as none of the senior leaders in NC and PDP agreed to say anything on record, one from Omar’s party complained that Shah’s nationalism and patriotism was “nothing but a facade”.
“He praises and honours the BJP workers killed by militants as heroes and martyrs. How many of them have been subscribed by BJP? He should know that more than 4,000 of the NC leaders and workers have been shot dead by militants in the last 30 years only for their loyalty to our red flag and for Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s decision to prefer India to Pakistan.”Senior NC leader said, wishing to remain anonymous
He added, “Shah remembers (Jan Sangh leader) Tika Lal Taploo but not 4,000 of our workers and leaders, from Ghulam Hassan Halwai (shot dead in 1989) to Mushtaq Wani and Nazir Wani (killed in October 2018).”
Contrary to a many speculations, Shah’s visit has made it clear that the current crackdown on separatists and militants would remain unabated for now and that Modi 2.0 would not lend any lease of life to either secessionists or their sympathisers in mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir.
In this scenario, holding of Assembly elections in near future seems to be highly unlikely.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)