Top Indian politician urges government to win trust of people in Kashmir

On eve of 2nd anniversary of annexation of Kashmir, Yashwant Sinha, former minister says situation has gone from bad to worse

NEW DELHI (AA) – A senior Indian politician, who has held portfolios of foreign and finance ministries in the past has urged the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win the “confidence and trust” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

In an exclusive interview with the Anadolu Agency, Yashwant Sinha, 84, who was a member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and country’s foreign minister from 2002-2004, said the people in Kashmir are feeling more alienated.

Earlier, he was also the finance minister of India twice from 1990-1991 and then from 1998-2002.

Recently he visited Kashmir leading a team of civil society representatives under the banner of the Concerned Citizens’ Group (CCG) to probe the situation in the region, two years after India revoked the special constitutional status and divided the region into two centrally administered territories.

On Aug. 5, 2019, 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.

“Solution is to win the confidence of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially in Kashmir. The solution is to do things in consultation with them,” he said on eve of the second anniversary of the annexation of the region.

“Even the former Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee got Mr. Advani (Lal Krishna Advani then home minister) to talk to Hurriyat (Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of pro-freedom parties) … but the most important is to win the trust of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

He said the CCG had first visited Kashmir in 2016 when the situation was much worse on the streets of Srinagar.

“But, you could see with your eyes. Today’s you couldn’t see it but you feel it when you talk to them,” he said.

Situation on the ground

The CCG team that visited Kashmir included Kapil Kak, the former deputy chief of the Indian Air Force; Wajahat Habibullah, a former top bureaucrat, Bharat Bhushan, a senior journalist, and Sushobha Barve, the executive director of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.

Sinha, who is now vice president of All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), a regional party, said that the assessment of the ground situation shows that things have gone from bad to worse after Aug 5, 2019.

“We don’t feel it so much on streets in Kashmir, because there is no major demonstration and all because Kashmiri have decided that they don’t want to get killed and they know, any action on their part will lead to any police or security action,” he said.

Acknowledging that people are feeling more alienated, Sinha said that there is a feeling that the government of India doesn’t care for their sentiments and feelings.

“They are patient, they don’t like the present situation, which they feel is very unfair to them. They feel more alienated than they were before,” he added.

The senior Indian politician said that decisions taken two years ago have not worked.

“Governor’s rule for two years doesn’t change anything on the ground. The administration continues to be very unfriendly with the people at large,” he said.

Meeting in Delhi ‘mere optics’

Sinha, who has also been a former elite Indian administration service official, said the only difference is that since Kashmir is now a centrally administered territory, so officers from other such territories are posted, who do not know the local situation, thereby further distancing people from the administration.

On a question, even if Prime Minister Modi had succeeded to break the ice with the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir as he met them recently in New Delhi, Sinha said nothing much happened in the meeting.

“They talked only about delimitation (redrawing boundaries of assembly constituencies). For the government of India, it was mere optics,” he said.

The CCG also released a report detailing their visit and situation in Kashmir. He said such reports aimed to make people in the rest of India aware of the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The group has so far released nine such reports.

“We release the report to the media. It may or may not change the situation. There is no way in which they are going to be influenced by what we are saying. that we have realized,” he said.

He, however, added that “with the passage of time and so many other issues, people are losing interest in Kashmir”.

Governments made mistakes

Sinha predicted that things will continue in the same manner and there will be more alienation among the people.

“We don’t expect this government to do anything to change the situation on the ground, or to satisfy the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

He said that Jammu and Kashmir is a decades-old problem and various Indian governments have made mistakes, including the present ruling BJP.

He said that not engaging with political parties in Jammu and Kashmir means denying more opportunities.

“That means more and more opportunities to express the views are being denied to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. There are political parties and they play a role in any democratic system but there are stakeholders who are equally important and therefore the policy of the government should be talking to all stakeholders,” he added.

​​​- Disputed territory

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.

In the Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire took effect in 2003.

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.


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