Newspaper editorials say Prime Minister’s visit and announcements are not enough
New Delhi: On Sunday, April 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first trip to Jammu and Kashmir after the reading of Article 370 in August 2019 and the division of the former state into two union territories. While in Jammu for the day, he inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for multiple development initiatives worth Rs 20,000 crore for Jammu and Kashmir.
Like Thread reported, politicians and observers in Jammu and Kashmir had expressed skepticism over Modi’s visit, which had been widely publicized and touted by the administration.
On Monday morning, several English-language national dailies also commented on the Prime Minister’s trip, while saying that more than just a one-day visit was needed if the Union government was serious about its outreach in the region. .
“J&K’s return to statehood will be a great start”: The Hindu
While the announced development and infrastructure projects in Jammu and Kashmir are welcome and will help sustain the economy after it has been hit by multiple lockdowns, The HinduThe editorial argued that it would not be enough to assume that the simmering discontent – exacerbated by the Union government’s August 5, 2019 decision and subsequent crackdown – would be assuaged.
The District Development Council polls, which the Gupkar Alliance decisively won on the board of returning Jammu and Kashmir to its pre-August 2019 status, are an indicator of this, the newspaper argued. And there are others :
“Despite the recent upturn in economic activity after the prolonged unrest after August 2019, there is no indication that the resulting discontent has diminished; security risks remain paramount as shown by the resurgence of terrorist violence, including the murder of two “fidayeen” activists just 14 km from the village of Palli, where the Prime Minister delivered his speech on National Panchayati Raj Day. Undoubtedly, New Delhi needs to engage in substantial outreach in the form of gestures that reverse hostility towards political representatives in the valley. Returning J&K to statehood will be a good start.
It is time to “accelerate the effort towards electoral democracy”: Hindustan time
the Hindustan time pointed out that Modi’s visit came shortly after reports that the Boundaries Commission recommended “an increase in the number of seats to 90 from 83, with six of the new seats in the Jammu area” – a proposal that the Union government will probably accept in the next few months, despite the negative reactions from the Kashmir valley.
The newspaper welcomed the plans of the Union governments in Jammu and Kashmir, saying: “Beyond the strategic imperatives and the usual hype, there seems to be a real effort to better connect J&K to the rest of the country. “
The fact that the Center has revoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from several regions also brings cautious hope to Kashmir, although no such action has yet been taken there, the Hindustan time said, just like regime change in Pakistan. But that’s only part of the story, the paper argues, and that’s why the Union government must do more:
“On the other hand, it comes even as terrorist attacks in the valley continue, with targeted attacks on civilians, including those in other parts of the country, remaining a concern. And it comes at a time where the regional political parties are growing impatient and would like an election to be held as soon as possible. All of this sets the stage for what should be the next big step for government in J&K – an even more concerted effort to push development; a focus on securing the region, including for migrant workers who are, unfortunately, easy targets; and an accelerated effort towards electoral democracy in the region. Now is the time.”
“A big challenge for GoI is to win hearts and minds”: India time
The new investments and emphasis on panchayats that Modi spoke about in his Jammu speech, according to the India time“, “are also political signals – that Section 370 was holding back the development of J&K and that only now can the region enjoy the fruits of prosperity”.
The editorial said that since there has never been a shortage of central financial aid to Jammu and Kashmir, the “real economic test in the post-370 cancellation will be whether new investment and ‘new’ policies can create new opportunities, assuming the terrorism encouraged by Pak can be kept at bay”.
And this terror, the India time argues, shows that the Union government has yet to win the trust of the people in Jammu and Kashmir. This is something the government must now focus on, according to the newspaper:
“Terror of the Valley also shows that a big challenge for the GoI is to win hearts and minds. Only this can provide a popular shield against the terrorist proxies of Pakistan. It will also create conditions conducive to real private investment on the ground. To that end, J&K assembly elections and the eventual restoration of statehood are key to ensuring residents have a say in their own development. This in turn requires that the delineation exercise – which is at the public opinion/consultation stage – be accelerated.
“A real political process” is needed: Indian Express
By giving so much importance to panchayati institutions, the Indian Express said in his op-ed, it appeared the prime minister was covering up the fact that “the Modi government, since May 2019, has done its best to marginalize established political parties in Kashmir.”
“The panchayats are a small cog in the administration, and their members, elected in a process marred by violence and living under the threat of militants, know it. It is widely accepted that only an election to the Assembly can truly empower the people through their chosen legislators, just as it is in the rest of the country,” the editorial explained.
While the delay in holding assembly elections was justified by citing the delimitation process, the Indian Express argued that “reporting it further can only confirm the government’s continued disregard for the will of the people and the democratic process at J&K”.
“In his outreach to young people in the Valley, the Prime Minister said, ‘You will never suffer like your parents, your grandparents did in the past. This welcome message of hope can only materialize on the ground if young people become actors in state building. The surge in investment, the development of infrastructure and the influx of tourists in the valley need, for their realization, a real political process, an essential aspect of a democracy”, concludes the newspaper.