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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.

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)