Nirmal Singh, former deputy chief minister says statehood, popular government will return to Jammu and Kashmir at appropriate time
NEW DELHI (AA) – A senior politician aligned with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has claimed that the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir has improved since Aug. 5, 2019, when India revoked the special constitutional status and divided the region into two centrally administered territories.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, on the eve of the second anniversary of the annexation of Kashmir, Nirmal Singh, a former deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, claimed the government move has brought a positive atmosphere in the region.
Singh, 65, who was also the last speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly as a semi-autonomous state, said the region has witnessed many positive activities, and the stone-pelting incidents have also stopped.
Two years ago, India annulled the key provisions of Article 370 and abrogated Article 35 (A) of its constitution, which had guaranteed limited autonomy and protection to the local citizenship law in Jammu and Kashmir.
“On the ground, you can see that there are no strikes, no stone pelting, tourists are coming and several positive activities are happening. Due to COVID-19, schools are not working, but today, normal activities are happening in Kashmir,” he said.
Singh, a teacher of history at the University of Jammu, started his political career with the student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – regarded as the patron organization of Hindu nationalist outfits including the BJP.
He is also considered the main force behind the rise of the party in the Jammu region of the Muslim majority state over the years.
“Economic activities like investment will come in Kashmir or Jammu. It takes some time. you can see the two years, due to COVID-19, it has affected. It has been an impediment,” he said.
According to Singh, a common feeling is that whatever has happened is for good and will benefit people.
Admitting that annexation of the region was a big decision, he said it will take time to see changes visible on the ground.
“It was a constitutional change and, on the ground, it takes time to see visible changes on the ground. I don’t think two years is so much time. After 70 years, all negative things happened, now it may take time to make things fine,” he said.
On a question about the promise made by the BJP that annexation will bring peace to Kashmir, Singh blamed Pakistan for the continued militancy.
“They (Pakistan) have to do something and it is a challenge for them … they don’t want to normalize the situation here (Kashmir),” he claimed, adding that “they want the keep the pot boiling.”
He said the region will get back the statehood status but said there is no timeline for it. “Wherever the situation gets normal and everything normalizes, statehood will be back,” he added.
The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two centrally-ruled territories – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
Asked if the BJP has achieved the objective of bifurcating the states into two territories, Singh said that it was a strategic decision and to meet the long pending demand of people in Ladakh.
No change in demography
Singh denied that the decision was aimed to change the demography in the Muslim-dominated region.
“I don’t think it is true. There is no change in demography. Who has come from outside? I can assure you there is nothing like that. Jobs will be given to domiciles only. The investment will only come on government land and no one can buy agricultural land,” he said.
To a question that people are not happy with the bureaucratic setup in Kashmir, Singh said there is a general demand there should be a popular government.
“During the recent meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, everyone demanded it (return of popular government) and I am sure that after the delimitation exercise it will happen,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, 1971, and a limited war in 1999 – three of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989.