India Today - - INTERVIEW / RAM MADHAV -

RAM MAD­HAV, BJP na­tional gen­eral sec­re­tary and the party’s key in­ter­locu­tor for Jammu and Kash­mir, at­tributes the rel­a­tive calm in the Val­ley in the af­ter­math of the ‘di­lu­tion’ of Ar­ti­cle 370 to the Cen­tre’s en­gage­ment with the peo­ple. Mad­hav spoke ex­clu­sively to Group Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor RAJ CHENGAPPA on the de­vel­op­ing sit­u­a­tion in the Val­ley and the way for­ward. Ex­cerpts:

What do you see as the key chal­lenges now for the Modi govern­ment in Jammu and Kash­mir?

A. The peo­ple in the state are largely in think­ing mode. They are not ready to go to any ex­treme im­me­di­ately. Even if they have reser­va­tions, my in­put from the Val­ley is that a good num­ber of so­cial and com­mu­nity lead­ers have come for­ward to tell our ad­min­is­tra­tion that they will man­age the sit­u­a­tion and make sure, to the ex­tent pos­si­ble, that no vi­o­lence takes place. This has be­come pos­si­ble be­cause of our en­gage­ments in the past five years. Even if some are an­gry with what we have done, they are still ready to give it a chance. That cer­tainly is a good sign and hap­pened due to the ef­forts of the ad­min­is­tra­tion and its sin­cer­ity to de­liver goods to the peo­ple in the past year or so. That is work­ing in our favour now.

Q. Peo­ple may not be ex­press­ing their anger be­cause of the heavy se­cu­rity de­ploy­ment in the Val­ley?

A. I don’t agree. I see a cou­ple of rea­sons be­hind the lack of vi­o­lence and out­burst of anger on the streets. Things like in­ter­net (and com­mu­ni­ca­tion) black­outs are not new to the Val­ley. I know the psy­che of the peo­ple of Kash­mir—no amount of re­stric­tions will stop them if they de­cide to come out. Af­ter Burhan Wani’s death, in­ter­net was snapped and there was heavy de­ploy­ment of forces. But thou­sands used to come out on the streets and pelt stones. In the process, there used to be some un­for­tu­nate fir­ing in which some peo­ple would die, which would trig­ger fur­ther vi­o­lence. An es­ti­mated 30,000 or even more peo­ple would come out even when we blocked roads. That is not to be seen now. Peo­ple are not ready to take to the streets in a vi­o­lent way. Now, our chal­lenge is to quickly take the ben­e­fits [of our de­ci­sions] to the peo­ple. That is where the chal­lenge lies.

Q. What are the ben­e­fits of the ac­tion that you want to ex­tend to the peo­ple?

A. Firstly, peo­ple should feel things are bet­ter when it comes to day-to-day needs. Sec­ondly, I have been ask­ing my party that we quickly start po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment. The sit­u­a­tion is not very con­ducive at the mo­ment as a num­ber of lead­ers are ei­ther un­der pre­ven­tive de­ten­tion or have been ar­rested, be­cause that is the need of the hour. Why are some of them cre­at­ing so much halla (com­mo­tion)? I, for one, would ar­gue that pre­ven­tive de­ten­tion and ar­rests are part of the lives of politi­cians.

Q. The BJP is at­tempt­ing to side­line the Val­ley’s main­stream lead­ers by dis­cred­it­ing them and build­ing a new lead­er­ship?

A. When we talk of main­stream lead­ers in the Val­ley,

one can­not name more than 3-4 peo­ple. Are they the only lead­ers in the Val­ley? In the past so many decades, there was never an ef­fort to al­low lead­er­ship to grow at var­i­ous lev­els in the state. We al­lowed a new lead­er­ship to rise—one good catch­ment be­ing the pan­chayat lead­er­ship. I have interacted with the sarpanches and they are very com­mit­ted and have huge as­pi­ra­tions.

Q. What about the threat of provoca­tive ter­ror at­tacks? A. We have an ex­cel­lent se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus in the state that can take on any ter­ror chal­lenge.

Q. The BJP was in a coali­tion govern­ment with the PDP for three years, which was fol­lowed by gover­nor’s rule. The NDA govern­ment wasn’t able to man­age Kash­mir well in its first term.

A. I dis­agree. In the past five years, we have taken many mea­sures, in­clud­ing the Rs 80,000 crore pack­age through which we brought about con­sid­er­able de­vel­op­ment in the state. In the process, we have been able to cul­ti­vate a new lead­er­ship in the Val­ley. The prime min­is­ter him­self met umpteen lead­ers. That en­gage­ment has yielded much return, as is ev­i­dent from (peo­ple’s) muted re­ac­tion now. Most im­por­tantly, we should be able to freely ex­tend the fruits of de­vel­op­ment to all peo­ple in the Val­ley. Our ef­forts will be in that di­rec­tion now.

Q. Crit­ics say re­vok­ing Ar­ti­cle 370 with­out con­sult­ing the peo­ple of Kash­mir was a great be­trayal.

A. When Ar­ti­cle 370 was brought in, no­body’s views were taken into ac­count—only Jawa­har­lal Nehru gave his word to Sheikh Ab­dul­lah—whereas in the BJP’s case, we have been say­ing for seven decades that we are not in favour of it. When did we ever hide it? Then, we had two days of dis­cus­sion in Par­lia­ment—the high­est body of demo­cratic power has taken the de­ci­sion. All req­ui­site con­sti­tu­tional pro­ce­dures were fol­lowed. Let’s not for­get that Ar­ti­cle 370 it­self has been tin­kered with at least 45 times in the past 60 years.

Q. The Modi govern­ment down­graded the sta­tus of J&K from a state to a Union ter­ri­tory—it has never hap­pened to any other state since In­de­pen­dence.

A. Firstly, the en­tire state of Jammu and Kash­mir has been bi­fur­cated into Union ter­ri­to­ries. But the Union home min­is­ter is on record say­ing that it is a tem­po­rary mea­sure as far as the Jammu and Kash­mir (re­gion) is con­cerned. That it will get its full state­hood very soon. Be­cause of cer­tain cir­cum­stances ex­ist­ing in the state at the mo­ment, it needed to be guided by the cen­tral govern­ment for some time. The state will get its state­hood soon. ■

“One can­not name more than 3-4 main­stream lead­ers in the Val­ley. In the past, there was never an ef­fort to al­low lead­er­ship to grow at var­i­ous lev­els in the state”

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