Kashmir awaits Modi, but not in the way he expected

By Raqib Hameed Naik, Twocircles.net

Srinagar : It is rumored that a set of professionals travel a few weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is supposed to visit a certain city, or region, and mobilise support for the Prime Minister’s rallies. Yes, this happens mostly when he visits abroad, but it would be fair to assume that no such effort is needed in Kashmir because of what the state machinery has already started in the region, and because of how the Valley plans to welcome him. By marching.

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On the face of it, Modi’s visit is aimed to heal wounds of millions of Kashmiris who have been at the receiving end of an unending conflict.

Like the past, the preparations for a PM visit to Kashmir are in full swing: hundreds of separatists have been thrown into jail, the so-called trouble monger youths have, and are being, detained; there is a chance that internet will be gagged for the day, at least till Modi winds up his Kashmir Visit. The Jammu-Srinagar highway, which connects Kashmir to the rest of India, will remain closed on Nov 7.

But this is unlikely to silence people who intend on marching. The capital city is gearing up for the Srinagar Million March, on the call of senior separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The octogenarian and the protestors aim to show what they claim the forceful Indian occupation of Kashmir.

pm modi geelani

File Photo

The latest move of Geelani is being seen by some mainstream leaders as a nightmare that has turned into a grim reality for Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Syed who like his predecessors would term it as a litmus test for continuing stability in state.

The rally, called the ‘Srinagar Million March’ is scheduled to take place in the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) ground in Srinagar. But it seems unlikely that the state government will allow this, citing high risks of law and order deterioration in the valley despite assurances from the Hurriyat organisers that it will take all responsibility of smooth traffic flow and law and order of Srinagar for the day.

Among the general populace, the verdict is clear: Kashmir is more a political issue than an economic issue.

‘’We are not greedy for the Indian Government’s assistance. Whatever they are paying us is not from their pockets but from billions of rupees which they earn from power projects and tourism in our state. Modi’s assistance can’t take over our mind because Kashmir is a political issue and not an economic issue,” Ghulam Hassan Pandith, 55, a resident of Kakpora, South Kashmir told TwoCircles.net.

Regarding Geelani’s maarch, Ghulam said that that an ocean of people from across the valley will join the rally to show their resentment against the “Indian Occupation of Kashmir”.

The people of valley, most of whom dub BJP’s J&K policies as anti Kashmiris, united in 2014 assembly elections to stop BJP from making inroads in the valley. They were successful too, as the BJP couldn’t manage to win even a single seat in Kashmir.

Later, BJP formed a coalition government with the PDP which had won 25 out of 28 seats in Kashmir. This was seen by a majority of Kashmiris as an act of treason by their own elected ‘Hukumrans’ (leaders).

The alliance has had a tough time to say the least: first the protests from all sides against composite townships for Kashimri Pandits, then the continuing ‘Jumla Bazi’ over abrogation of Article 370, followed by beef ban politics and subsequent murder of Zahid Rasool Bhat by a Hindu fanatic group in Udhampur. For a government formed on a dubious alliance to two ideologically opposite parties, these issues have eroded the little faith put by Kashmiris in the so-called ‘Kashmir development Model’ among the Kashmiris.

To make matters worse, the RSS marches in parts of Jammu division brandishing guns and swords has further shaken the Valley’s faith and trust. The so-called march of strength has created a sense of fear among Muslims living in Jammu.

“The killing of Zahid and marches by RSS in Jammu is creating a fear of sense of security among Muslims of state because BJP is more concerned about its Hindutva agenda than the development agenda, for which the people of Jammu had given them the historic mandate,” Usman Farooq Mir, a college student told Twocircles.net.

The state administration has gone in overdrive trying to ensure that the Modi rally gets all the positive media it can. To ensure this, only accredited journalists will be allowed to cover Modi’s rally.

“Almost on every shop people are talking about the Modi’s visit to valley and Geelani’s rally. I think thousands of people will march with Geelani from our town if a curfew is not placed, because we have been fighting for this cause for the past 68 years,” Mehraj Ahmed Lone, 26, a resident of Laribal south Kashmir told Twocircles.net.

The students and some faculty of Kashmir University on Thursday caught everyone by surprise when hundreds of them marched towards various departments of the university and met students urging them to participate in the scheduled march to which they have given their own name “#OccupyTRC” resembling to the “#OccupyUGC”, the continuing stir in Delhi by University students over revocation of non-NET fellowships.

Photo Courtesy  KUSU Facebook

Courtesy : KUSU/Facebook

Evidently, the Tourist Reception Center (TRC) ground in Srinagar has been an important space for separatists to mobilise, as the United Nations Military Observers Group office (UNMOG) is located nearby where separatist leader submit their memorandums on different occasion.

On August 18 2008, half a million Kashmiris assembled in Srinagar’s streets, chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, marched to TRC ground, which was then called by separatists coordination committee. Geelani had then asked Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of United Nations, to pay a visit to the valley and ascertain the facts, besides getting a first-hand account on the uprising in Kashmir.

Three days after TRC march, another Eidgah march was organised in which more than a million people took part to offer prayers for freedom of Kashmir. Later the separatist plans for a Lal Chowk March was hijacked by then state government after laying a siege in 10 districts of valley for continuous two weeks.

The Eidgah march in 2008 was the last march allowed by the state and since then no major gathering has been allowed to take place by the respective governments.

Initially, the J&K government had thought that allowing people to take part in marches will give them a chance to vent out their anger against the establishment and numbers of people taking part will decline but to their surprise the numbers kept increasing manifold. Afterwards all the calls for marches are met with strict curfew in places.

Srinagar, the venue of diametrically opposite ideological rallies by Modi and Geelani, has been turned into a fortress, as expected, and the police have detained hundreds of separatist in midnight raids which makes it unlikely that the state government will allow the ‘Million March’.

Frisking amid rains in srinager3

“Full-scale frisking is going on in every part of valley mostly in Srinagar which causes a lot of inconvenience for us but we are used to it. I am sure that strict curfew will be put in place in the valley for the March,” Feroz Jamaal Hafiz from Srinagar told TCN.

“Modi’s rally will be a flop show like the previous one which took place last year. This time the PDP supporters will also attend the rally but the number will be low,” he added

The Indian government, on the other hand, can’t take risk of allowing the March as it will lead to its embarrassment at national and international level when the scenes of million people shouting pro-freedom and anti-India Slogans will be showed on TV screens across the world, which is a referendum in itself.

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