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Amit Shah's J&K Visit Seems Appropriate but Can He Reassure the People?

Home Minister Amit Shah is on a three-day visit to J&K – a long time for the HM to spare for any state or UT.

Published
Opinion
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Home Minister Amit Shah is on a three day visit to J&amp;K – that is a long time for the HM to spare for any state or Union Territory (UT) considering the range of challenging issues which fall in his lap almost every day.</p></div>
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Home Minister (HM) Amit Shah is on a three-day visit to J&K – a long time for the HM to spare for any state or union territory (UT) considering the range of challenging issues that fall in his lap almost every day.

Yet, it is appropriate and correct that he has spared enough time to comprehensively take a message from the ground and deliver one too. What one gets to know in New Delhi may not always be the stark message. At ground zero, lots of people whisper in the ear and then there are direct briefings by those responsible for conducting the affairs and keeping the UT stable.

So why does the HM need to go to J&K at all?

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Five Reasons for Amit Shah's J&K Visit

First, since the amendment of the Constitution, on 5 August 2019, there has been creeping stability in the region, although the ambitious plans for the UT may have had some setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is important for the HM to do a reality check and take feedback while also assuaging feelings of some whose aspirations have not been met.

Second, the geopolitical developments in South Asia are attempting to target J&K because of the progress and stability that has been achieved.

The flames of political Islam triggered by the events in Afghanistan are being exploited by India’s adversaries to spread disaffection. Starting from J&K, they hope to embroil the nation in the throes of communal hatred; the events in Bangladesh appear to point to a method behind the madness.

Reversing J&K’s stability has been the starting point of this campaign and the methodology chosen is not new. Aiming at the softest targets is the easiest and these happen to be the minorities in Kashmir – the Hindus and the Sikhs.

To obfuscate, even Muslim migrants from rest of India working in Kashmir have been targeted, leading to their panicked exit leaving labour in orchards and construction sites in short supply.

Third, quite obviously the security forces led by the army are now on a hyper-drive to dominate and prevent recurrence of such killings, which were a routine in the late 1990s and early 2000s. With 700-900 persons under detention, there is every possibility of losing much of the traction achieved by outreach and absence of street turbulence.

Fourth, it’s the youth who need to be calmed through a renewed outreach of a different kind with reassurance, and neutralise some of the hostility that appears on social media.

Fifth, with negative events in Kashmir, the potential of Jammu erupting is always alive. There is passionate disapproval of events in Kashmir and rightly so as this pattern is reminiscent of the past when Pakistan has sponsored changes in strategy and masterminded them.

The HM appears to be touching all the right chords with his slated programme, a part of which has already been undergone on Saturday. In fact, it is almost like each of the bullet points is being addressed.

A four-hour Unified Command meeting ensured that he was given a brief from the intelligence and operational point of view. I am hopeful that the operations of the army south of the Pir Panjal would also have come up for discussions and the army would have given its perception.

It appears that the efforts from Pakistan are to make attempts at infiltration at multiple points in the hope of being able to fill up the valley and some of the areas immediately south with terrorists lest there be no optimum presence in the coming winter. The group of terrorists being sought has been there for the last two months or so but the area of operations is a treacherous one.

Amit Shah’s speech to the youth of Kashmir was mature, placatory and firm. His choice of words and the content of the speech, which harped on opportunities before the youth, should be well-taken. He quoted his own example and how he rose through politics without anyone from his family being connected with the profession. Peppered with mention of Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, National Institute of Fashion Technology, medical colleges and the absence of development due to corruption, his focus of outreach was correct.

He also decried the presence of radicalisation in society, which remains a major challenge for society.

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Can Amit Shah's Words Find Assurance Amid Tensions in the Valley?

Hopefully in Jammu too, the HM will apply balm to a restive populace which perceives it has been wronged. There will be demands for alternatives for Jammu’s political and administrative future.

However, it is unlikely that these issues may find acceptance with the HM under the current circumstances where it is more important to stabilise and neutralise Pakistan’s efforts at communalisation and infusing sub-regional aspirations to upset the apple cart.

The meeting with families of some of the victims of the targeted killings is an important event. The message of support that the establishment has to convey to the minorities and non-Kashmiris is best symbolised by the HM’s assurances.

Somewhere it needs to be also conveyed through gentle persuasion and not any abrasive demand, that Kashmir’s majority community (the Muslims) have to display courage in taking ownership of the security of minorities and non-Kashmiris.

There have been brave voices, which have come out and spoken but it’s not yet enough. There has to be a deluge of such voices messaging support and condemning targeted killings. A word from the HM may be just appropriate. He is meeting civil society representatives in conversation with whom it would be appropriate to speak on these issues.

Lastly, this is undoubtedly one of the most important political moments in J&K ever since 5 August 2019 and the world at large is probably watching and listening to India’s HM to draw many conclusions. In the recent past he has warned of appropriate response against sponsors of violence and destabilisation of J&K.

Pakistan will attempt to paint all the negative events in Kashmir as state-sponsored and project the same to the world. The battle of narratives is significant in this game of information management. To that extent, the HM’s various events and statements in J&K through the three days will contribute to a positive narrative building.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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