A Grand spectacle it must have been, the Dal Lake and the yonder hills providing an idyllic backdrop as the State Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stood out there happy with the vast motley that had turned up for her Iftar Party hosted by her at the lakeside SKICC complex, all too obviously overjoyed, introducing her pet herd of VIPs, Ministers etc, representing the capital city's elite to the benign looking Home Minister, Raj Nath Singh.. Singh for his part had a friendly look on, pumping proffered hands and a pat on the back as the queue inched forward.
The road leading to the venue, the magnificent Boulevard skirting the lake, was predictably declared off limits to the laity, you and me, from mid-day on for security reasons Indeed, overjoyed she must have been as she introduced the worthier of her guests ,mostly bureaucrats and a few of the city's affluent, who had responded to her call. It was indeed an impressive sight, I am told. So much so the Home Minister might well have been tempted to accept the official view of 70 percent normalcy achieved by the shaken valley as a consequence of the "cease-fire" declared by the Security Forces in their conflict with the militants and their collaborators. Partly true, partly not so. A contributing factor could well have been the people's preoccupation with Jumat ul Wida, the last Friday of the Ramazan, an occasion of great piety and pray. The pomp and glitter of Mehbooba Mufti's Iftar party, cease-fire in the holy month, and the suggestion of talks with separatist Hurriyet has indeed raised hopes of a marginal forward movement, a hope nurtured probably by Mufti's party. Sadly, though, Rajnath Singh is hardly a free agent. He must like everyone else in the government take the cue from the Prime Minister who in turn, as former senior pracharak of the RSS, can barely act independently in Kashmir. Just think of the promises Mr Modi has constantly made on his various visits to the State…. From real Jannat on earth, to goli nahi boli, to vikas, jobs we have been given doses of the potion unfailingly. Sadly once it comes to the valley everyone in the Modi Government seems to develop cold feet to extend such meaningful projects to the Valley. The vociferous BJP bunch in the Cabinet always finds a way to somehow dog in the manger on most such occasions.
The Pradhan Manri Fasal Bima Yojana for instance is inapplicable to the valley. Obviously someone in the Governments in Delhi and Jammu consider the Muslim valley unworthy of this laudable project. The valley farmer will receive just assistance in case of disasters, not a very hopeful thought considering the tardiness that did accompany the distribution of flood relief during Modi Government's first year in office. Curiously orchards have been left out of the purview of the scheme, a thoughtless move to say the least. I have on many occasions in the past spoken of acts of gross discrimination against the valley in allocation of development projects always to be countered by allegations by BJP leaders and their henchmen in Srinagar and even Delhi that the boot is on the other leg. As a regular visitor to Kashmir I am amazed by the tardiness – several years old now – that has marked the construction of the teeny weeny flyovers next door to the old Tourist Reception Centre. Someone with a wicked sense of humour made me stand at the spot and in next to no time his artistic imagination forced me to imagine as if a replica of Mattan's famed Martand temple was sought to be reproduced there. Not fly over. No more than a dozen were at work considering the work on such projects must remain confined to the short summer months. The artist friend from Delhi mockingly suggested it would be a better idea to be content with the Martand replica at the spot, "Look, it's just outside the tourist centre. It would be your Taj Mahal.! Back to Rajnath Singh. It would be a mistake if the decision on peace-making is taken against the backdrop of the short "cease-fire" period. Any solution sought out to end the existing quagmire would require across-the-board negotiations with all the stake holders in the State. Mr. Rajnath Singh probably is a well-meaning sort but one has to remember he is no free agent. He is deeply steeped in the fire of Hindu nationalism wherein it may be difficult, if not impossible, for him to reach out meaningfully to the Hurriyets. I would go to the extent of saying that the Home Minister should first make a beginning with the so-called mainstream parties and other interest groups like the tourism industry, the various student and intellectual bodies. That's if he is searching for a lasting solution. Steeped in as he must be in Hindu nationalism and Hindutva I still do hope that given the record of his once short-lived communally torn Uttar Pradesh he might try to find a modus vivendi between Hindu nationalism and the very legitimate aspirations of the second biggest majority of the country's population, the 20 crore plus Muslim population. He or his party won't be doing any favors to anyone.