Can PM Modi be Kashmir’s Santa Claus?

By Bushra Alvi,

The Kashmir valley is receiving Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, November 7, his first visit after his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s pro-India Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aligned after the 2014 local assembly polls.

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Heavy security is in place and movement has been disrupted over large parts of the valley. The Sher-i-Kashmir Cricket Stadium, the venue of Prime Minister’s rally in Srinagar, has been turned into a virtual fortress under the watchful eye of Special Protection Group (SPG). Besides, a large contingent of police and para military force has been put in place to ensure that no untoward incident takes place. Train service has been shut for two days and mobile and internet services too will be unavailable on Saturday.


At the same time the Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani has called for a “Million March” rally at TRC ground to counter PM’s rally at SK cricket stadium. But several of the top separatist leaders have been taken into preventive detention while some leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq have been placed under house arrest. Chairman, Ummate-Islami and Mirwaiz South Kashmir, Qazi Yasir who had been evading arrest since he supported the “Million March” too was arrested on Friday when he managed to reach Srinagar to participate in the counter rally and has been lodged at Humhama Police Station.

The arrest of these leaders has sparked outrage across the valley. Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed had promised that he would listen to the people but by ‘caging’ dissenting leaders in this manner he has violated their trust. Earlier, Chairman Ummat-e-Islami said that “true voices cannot be muzzled with restrictions and bars”. By arresting the separatist leaders the Mufti-led government is giving out very wrong signals. By holding the Modi rally while putting separatist leaders behind bars, one wonders what kind of democracy the PDP-BJP government is trying to put on display.

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Meanwhile there have been reports of hordes of people being forced to attend the rally. Daily wage workers from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district were resentful of the fact that they have received circulars from their respective department heads to assemble at the Pulwama Town Hall on Friday evening from where they will be taken to Srinagar. Apart from this there are paid agents, anganwadi workers and helpers of Social Welfare Department and police in civil dress among others. All police training recruit will fill space as audience. It is expected to be a big crowd if the weather holds good.

But the general feeling is that whoever will go to Modi’s rally in Srinagar will compromise Kashmir’s dignity. While some people seem resigned at the BJP-PDP Alliance and hope that some good may eventually evolve from it, there are others who feel strongly that Mufti Sayeed has let Kashmir down, and it’s nothing short of a monumental betrayal.


What then is there to look forward to in the Prime Minister’s visit? Is he coming with a bag full of goodies? Will he give the much needed succor the people of this state need? The expectations from the PM’s visit are many. He is expected to bring a lot of aid for development in the Valley plus a large amount of relief for the flood victims. Modi’s economic package may be much needed in a state that is severely short of funds and has reeled under a severe flood,but is this all that the people of Kashmir want?

The time is just right, ahead of Modi’s visit, to judge the mood of the people. Mohammed Ashraf, the owner of a general store in Maharajah Bazar was a victim of the 2014 floods. His shop was totally destroyed. He was assured by the government that those who didn’t have insurance would be given up to rupees ten lakhs. Till now he hasn’t received even a single paisa.

Abdul Nadaf, a customer care executive with Toyota whose house in Gogji Bhag was totally damaged, has not received the full amount of compensation promised him. He was promised a sum of rupees 9 lakhs, 75 thousand but has received only rupees 75 thousands in the first installment with which he commenced repair of his building. Will Modi’s package bring anything for these two people, who, like thousands of others, are still waiting to get back to a normal life?


Haziq Qadri, a young Delhi-based Kashmiri journalist feels that Modi’s visit is nothing but a political stunt aimed to show the people of India and the rest of the world that Indian leaders are welcomed in Kashmir. It is also an attempt to reinforce India’s claim that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of it’, which holds no ground in reality.

“This visit, which is being carried under the disguise of economic package announcement, is also a part of Hindutva agenda that tries to prove its influence in Kashmir valley. Since Modi is an important member of RSS, he will try to build a base of his Hindutva agendas in valley.”

Asked whether he thought Modi will give a substantial economic package or was too much being made out of his visit, Haziq said that he believed the announcement of economic package would interest very few people in the Valley because they had seen in the past that even though such packages were announced, they were never used the way they were meant to be.

“The way his visit is debated and discussed in the mainstream media, I think that is just an exaggeration on the part of Indian media because they have always been trying to portray their own version of the Kashmir narrative on such occasions.”

For most Kashmiris, Modi’s visit means little except another day under curfew and strict restrictions imposed by government. It also means days of frisking and public inconvenience ahead of his visit.

Asked whether he thought people of the valley were being fooled again, Haziq says, “I think no. People of Kashmir are now well aware and conscious of political gimmicks of the people of India. On ground, people don’t expect much from this visit. They were deceived post-floods when the flood relief package was not announced. And it is not that people of Kashmir are being promised something new and more than economic packages that will befool them. For them, this visit is just any other political rally, except that it hosts Modi, who often flies abroad.”

What then do the youth of Kashmir want most – economic development or the freedom of expression and dissent?

“The youth of Kashmir want neither the economic development as of now nor the freedom of expression and dissent. What they want is something bigger that includes all the freedoms and developments. They want their right to self-determination. They want freedom from the Indian occupation and justice,” asserts Haziq.

He further reiterates, “Unless India makes sure that people of Kashmir are given their right to determine whether they want to be with India or not, all the economic packages and promises of development will go astray. The youth of Kashmir want freedom and dignity – nothing less than that.”

And, as Qadri says, his words are not just his individual thoughts. He speaks the sentiments of all of Kashmir.

(Bushra Alvi is a Delhi-based writer.)