Modi visit would change destiny of Kashmiris: Mufti

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By Arka Mondal

Despite the escalating media hype around the slated Kashmir rally of PM Modi, traders and civil society activists in the valley have not pinned many hopes on the visit. Modi government’s failure to release the flood package (for the devastating September 2014 floods) even after over a year has irked many in the state.

Though PDP has failed to justify its decision of joining hands with the BJP, it sounded positive regarding the visit. Claiming the visit to be akin to ‘Vajpayesque approach’, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said that Modi’s visit would change the destiny of the people of Kashmir.

Though PDP and the BJP are, ideologically, poles apart, the PDP leaders are working to set the tone for the Modi rally. They testified that they wanted to rationalize their move of forging a partnership with the political major of India.

The party went to the extent of claiming that Modi might speak about a probable dialogue with arch rivals Pakistan from the podium of Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium. This comes at a time when Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani has proposed to hold a rally on the TRC Ground on the same day to thwart the BJP juggernaut in the Kashmir valley.

However, there are hints that Modi might hold dialogues with separatist outfits as BJP cognizes the importance of Kashmir in making India a dominant force in the region.

The pro-PDP faction, however, expects a lot from the visit. In a bid to pacify them, Modi is expected to reach out to all stakeholders; declare a proper rehabilitation package of at least Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh for each person of the business community; a tax waiver for at least 10 years; and cash compensation so that businessmen are able to recover their losses due to the floods.

Government sources revealed that Modi would announce a development package worth Rs 1 lakh crore which would include Rs 72,000 crore for new projects and for relief and rehabilitation works in the flood-ravaged state.

The Kashmiris, in general, are not much enthused when Indian premiers visit their state. And there are obvious reasons for that. Developmental projects have always been ignored in the region. When former PM Rajiv Gandhi declared a Rs 1000 crore package aid, Rs 992 crore were meant for National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and a further Rs 6 crore were spent by the then chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, on converting the city forest into a golf course, leaving just Rs 2 crore for different developmental projects. Similarly, out of the Rs 24,000 crore package announced by Manmohan Singh, Rs 18,000 crore was just meant for NHPC.

Kashmiris are familiar with the fate of such aids. The mediocre aid of Rs 3800 for those whose houses were damaged by the flood speaks volumes of how the people have been ignored but have been utilised to satiate political agendas.

The people of the valley have come out of the hangover of the PM’s last visit last year where he claimed that he ‘felt the pain’ of the people of Kashmir and claimed their dreams as well.

Though Modi is likely to announce a package that focuses on resurrecting the infrastructure lost in the 2014 floods with focus on roads, bridges, power, and tourism projects, it will depend on how much of the package would be meant for infrastructure development and how much of it would reach the flood-affected people.

Only time will tell whether Modi in his address from Sher-e-Kashmir stadium on November 7 declares big package and calls upon the separatists and Pakistan like Atal Bihari Vajpayee did during his iconic visit to Kashmir, or it becomes just another visit by another PM.