While introducing the resolution on implementation of President’s Rule for six months in J&K and responding to objections of the Opposition to this in the Lok Sabha, Home Minister Amit Shah spoke extensively about the government’s policy for the state. He made clear that the hard line that has been adopted in dealing with the situation there would continue. The BJP obviously believes that the overwhelming mandate it received in the recent elections is also for its Kashmir policy. To what extent this approach will be taken into the political sphere beyond merely the security response remains to be seen. However, the assertive manner adopted by Shah and other members of the Treasury Benches indicates that anything can be expected, either incrementally as at present, or in sudden ‘demonetisation’ style.
Shah made clear that the constitutional provisions for J&K’s ‘autonomy’ are temporary in nature and there was nothing sacrosanct about them as a section of political opinion would like people to believe. Indeed, considering the difficulties being faced by Pakistan at the present, it may be the appropriate time to close this unpleasant chapter in India’s history. There is a lot happening around the world of concern to the major powers and they would be happy not to take on India unnecessarily should the step be taken. There will be an attempt to further stoke terrorism and political unrest in the state by Pakistan and other foreign elements but the security forces are well prepared to face the challenge. It may be noted that, whatever the situation, the separatists are not going to let up on their efforts and might as well have their bluff called.
There is also the issue of resettling the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, the plan for which has been consistently scuttled by the governments in Srinagar. They have opposed the creation of safe zones where the Pandits may settle and have demanded they return to their original towns and villages, thereby exposing them to the kind of pogrom that took place earlier. The government should quickly identify where the Pandits can settle and get those who so desire to begin moving back. Also, after introducing necessary legal safeguards so that the local people’s rights are not violated, certain categories of people such as ex-servicemen can be settled along the Line of Control and International Border. This would help discourage the movement of terrorists into Kashmir. If Shah’s attitude is anything to go by, these and other steps may well be in the offing.