BJP GENERAL SECRETARY Ram Madhav was instrumental in forging the saffron party’s ill-fated alliance with the People’s Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir. As the volatile situation following abrogation of special status continues to persist in the valley, Madhav talks to THE WEEK about the BJP’s plans for Kashmir. Edited excerpts:
What is the feedback from the valley about the abrogation of Article 370? There is an argument that Kashmiris were not consulted.
There is a thoughtful silence in the valley today. They are not getting provoked, which shows that even in the valley, there are a good number of people who are probably looking at this decision with an open mind.
When this law was actually inserted into the Constitution in 1950, who were consulted? Nobody from Jammu or Ladakh. The project was presented as a fait accompli because Jawaharlal Nehru had given his word to Sheikh Abdullah. Even the Congress working committee was fully opposed to this. We have been saying that we do not approve of the continuance of Article 370. Thorough consultation has happened in Parliament, which is a forum of the people.
Was the massive clampdown in the state the only solution to execute this decision? Politicians have been jailed, communication lines shut.
Certain sections of the valley have been fed on a separatist narrative. So, for that reason, certain preventive measures were taken. Internet blackouts, curfews and the presence of a good number of security forces are nothing new to the valley. Preventative detention is a part of our law and order activity. Every politician has to be prepared for preventative detention. The Congress had put Sheikh Abdullah under detention in the 1950s. It is a legitimate activity to ensure peace and normalcy in the valley. And, once normalcy happens, all these restrictions will go.
There is a narrative that Article 370 was Kashmir’s link to the country, and the abrogation brought an emotional disconnect. What is the healing touch now?
There are sections of the Kashmiri population who probably have strong views about Article 370, not necessarily the entire Kashmiri population.
Certain sections have been fed on a separatist narrative; it has helped only a few political families. Today we are offering other options which will benefit millions of Kashmiris. It may take away the bread and butter of certain families in the valley. But the bread and butter of the ordinary Kashmiri is going to be ensured. Once they start experiencing the fruits of development, they will realise what Modiji has done for them.
What triggered this hurried change?
Even if we had done this three years ago, you would have asked, ‘Why now?’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s developmental programmes have hugely impacted the lives of ordinary Kashmiris. They are happy with the way the government has taken care of them. Similarly, when we were in power [in the state], they had an opportunity to watch us from close quarters. They realised that what the valley leaders propagated about the BJP was false.
Questions have been raised over the manner in which the special status was removed and the state was bifurcated.
Regardless of what [the opposition] parties say, they should read the history of Article 370. It was tinkered with at least 45 times in the past; every time the same route was used. Sometimes state assembly was present, some other times there was no assembly. Even in those times, it was always through the presidential order route. The first amendment to it was brought in 1952 by Nehru. Whatever we have done has been [carried out] through legitimate constitutional process, [only].
How soon will Jammu and Kashmir be restored with statehood?
Home Minister Amit Shah said that as soon as the situation normalises, it will happen.
Does delimitation means that Jammu and Kashmir will now witness a new politics—a BJP government and a Hindu chief minister?
I do not want to make the mistake that President Trump is making. I do not want to see it through the prism of Hindus and Muslims.
Now, when to hold elections is in the prerogative of the Election Commission of India. Delimitation process has been announced by the home minister. That also, they will decide.
US President Donald Trump’s tweets brought religion into the discussion.
It was never about Hindus and Muslims. Jammu and Kashmir has all religions. Even among Muslims, there are Shias, Paharis, Gujjars and Sunnis. There were laws which were separating the state from the rest of the country.
Pakistan has threatened that the region will become more volatile.
When we look at Kashmir, we should look at it from India’s prism only. It is our sovereign right how to run it. Our security establishment is capable of taking on any challenge of terror anytime.
What will be the BJP’s strategy for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir?
In 1994, the Parliament had passed a unanimous resolution stating that the only outstanding issue between India and Pakistan is the status of PoK, and it needs to come back to India. It was a resolution passed by the entire Parliament, meaning the entire country.
In hindsight, do you think the BJP-PDP alliance in the state was a mistake?
When we take major decisions, we will never make mistakes. Those decisions are taken after thorough thinking. Our government reached out to the people of the Kashmir valley in a big way. It helped in reducing the tension in the valley. If anyone should regret, it should be the PDP leadership. They had an excellent opportunity in that alliance, had they tried to make their party a real mainstream party. But they remained a soft separatist party.
The BJP lacked local leaders in the valley all these years.
In the last five years, we have been able to create good grassroots leadership for our party. In the local body elections, we could win 110 seats. For sarpanch elections, we could win 250 sarpanches. More are willing to join the BJP [now].
What should people of Jammu and Kashmir expect from the Centre?
This decision of ours was motivated by three important factors. First was to take development to the doorsteps of the people. Second is giving them political empowerment. Now, 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution will be fully implemented. Now every village will be administratively and financially empowered.
Third is dignity to all sections of the Jammu and Kashmir population.
The BJP has always listed abrogation of Article 370, bringing uniform civil code and building Ayodhya Ram temple as civilisational issues.
These are all our political commitments to the people. But we are not a party of only three issues. Prime Minister Modi has been running this country for the last five years, and he will run it for many more years to come. So we have a very focused agenda for the development of the country. For Ram mandir, we are expecting a good verdict from the court.
(The interview was originally published in The Week on August 24, 2019)