Ram Madhav, BJP national general secretary and the party’s key interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, attributes the relative calm in the Valley in the aftermath of the ‘dilution’ of Article 370 to the Centre’s engagement with the people. Madhav spoke exclusively to Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa on the developing situation in the Valley and the way forward. Excerpts:
What do you see as the key challenges now for the Modi government in Jammu and Kashmir?
The people in the state are largely in thinking mode. They are not ready to go to any extreme immediately. Even if they have reservations, my input from the Valley is that a good number of social and community leaders have come forward to tell our administration that they will manage the situation and make sure, to the extent possible, that no violence takes place. This has become possible because of our engagements in the past five years. Even if some are angry with what we have done, they are still ready to give it a chance. That certainly is a good sign and happened due to the efforts of the administration and its sincerity to deliver goods to the people in the past year or so. That is working in our favour now.
People may not be expressing their anger because of the heavy security deployment in the Valley?
I don’t agree. I see a couple of reasons behind the lack of violence and outburst of anger on the streets. Things like internet (and communication) blackouts are not new to the Valley. I know the psyche of the people of Kashmir amount of restrictions will stop them if they decide to come out. After Burhan Wani’s death, the internet was snapped and there was heavy deployment of forces. But thousands used to come out on the streets and pelt stones. In the process, there used to be some unfortunate firing in which some people would die, which would trigger further violence. An estimated 30,000 or even more people would come out even when we blocked roads. That is not to be seen now. People are not ready to take to the streets in a violent way. Now, our challenge is to quickly take the benefits [of our decisions] to the people. That is where the challenge lies.
What are the benefits of the action that you want to extend to the people?
Firstly, people should feel things are better when it comes to day-to-day needs. Secondly, I have been asking my party that we quickly start political engagement. The situation is not very conducive at the moment as a number of leaders are either under preventive detention or have been arrested because that is the need of the hour. Why are some of them creating so much halla (commotion)? I, for one, would argue that preventive detention and arrests are part of the lives of politicians.
The BJP is attempting to sideline the Valley’s mainstream leaders by discrediting them and building a new leadership?
When we talk of mainstream leaders in the Valley, one cannot name more than 3-4 people. Are they the only leaders in the Valley? In the past so many decades, there was never an effort to allow leadership to grow at various levels in the state. We allowed a new leadership to rise one good catchment being the panchayat leadership. I have interacted with the sarpanches and they are very committed and have huge aspirations.
What about the threat of provocative terror attacks?
We have an excellent security apparatus in the state that can take on any terror challenge.
The BJP was in a coalition government with the PDP for three years, which was followed by the governor’s rule. The NDA government wasn’t able to manage Kashmir well in its first term.
I disagree. In the past five years, we have taken many measures, including the Rs 80,000 crore package through which we brought about considerable development in the state. In the process, we have been able to cultivate a new leadership in the Valley. The prime minister himself met umpteen leaders. That engagement has yielded much return, as is evident from (people’s) muted reaction now. Most importantly, we should be able to freely extend the fruits of development to all people in the Valley. Our efforts will be in that direction now.
Critics say revoking Article 370 without consulting the people of Kashmir was a great betrayal.
When Article 370 was brought in, nobody’s views were taken into account only Jawaharlal Nehru gave his word to Sheikh Abdullahwhereas in the BJP’s case, we have been saying for seven decades that we are not in favour of it. When did we ever hide it? Then, we had two days of discussion in Parliament the highest body of democratic power has taken the decision. All requisite constitutional procedures were followed. Let’s not forget that Article 370 itself has been tinkered with at least 45 times in the past 60 years.
The Modi government downgraded the status of J&K from a state to a Union territory it has never happened to any other state since Independence.
Firstly, the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir has been bifurcated into Union territories. But the Union home minister is on record saying that it is a temporary measure as far as the Jammu and Kashmir (region) is concerned. That it will get its full statehood very soon. Because of certain circumstances existing in the state at the moment, it needed to be guided by the central government for some time. The state will get its statehood soon.
(The interview was originally published in India Today on August 23, 2019)