Separatist groups led by Hurriyat refused to give a shutdown call for the first time in the past three decades.


New Delhi: When Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs, visited Jammu & Kashmir last week, something unprecedented happened. The state’s separatist groups led by the Hurriyat Conference refused to give a shutdown call for the first time in the past three decades. Usually, these groups go into overdrive in invoking boycott calls whenever a senior minister visits Kashmir. Interestingly, separatists led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had called for a bandh when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the state this February.

The change of heart, explains a senior Home Ministry functionary, is primarily because the government has in recent years hit these separatists where it hurt them the most. “The Modi government has tightened the knob on the flow of funds from abroad, especially Pakistan. NIA, ED and other government agencies have been tracking these separatists and their families closely. While 24 of them are already behind the bars, many others are facing the ire of central agencies and their investigators,” he says, adding that with Shah at the helm of affairs the Kashmir policy is even more “assertive” and “muscular”.

“In his Rajya Sabha speech on Monday, Shah didn’t mince a word in saying that Article 370 was a temporary provision. He talked openly about how separatists support burning of schools in the Valley and at the same time send their kith and kin abroad for education and work. He talked about tackling terror with terror, but at the same time reminded that the government was pursing the development agenda in the state,” he added.

According to Shah, at least 130 children of the separatists are either studying or working abroad. “I have the entire list with me, but I won’t take names,” he said. Though the Home Minister only mentioned the name of Asiya Andrabi, head of the radical Dukhtran-e-Millat, currently lodged in Tihar Jail, it was anyone’s guess when he said that one of the sons of a top separatist leaders earns Rs 30 lakh per month in Saudi Arabia. A senior NIA official exposes Pakistani links in all this. “ISI, in coordination with the High Commission of Pakistan, plays a big role in getting them settled abroad, especially in Dubai and Riyadh,” he says.

“Geelani, who kept silent when schools were being burnt in the Valley and even opposed the Kashmiris studying in Army schools, has sent his children abroad. They live in affluence. One of his children is a medical practitioner in Rawalpandi, Pakistan. Another was working till very recently in a private airline. And his daughter is based in Jeddah and her husband is an engineer. This aptly showcases the hypocrisy of the separatists, especially the Hurriyat leadership, in the Valley,” the NIA functionary states.

The Modi government’s muscular policy seems to be paying dividends in both Kashmir as well as Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. More than 100 terrorists have been killed in the Valley this year alone. And post-Balakot, if intelligence reports are to be believed, Pakistan has shut down terror camps on its soil, fearing retaliation from India and under pressure from the international community. “The camps that have been temporarily shut now belong to Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen,” say the reports.

The Modi government’s Kashmir policy isn’t just muscular. It’s equally about development. “No doubt, the Centre has taken a tough stand on the Hurriyat-led separatists. But the government believes a muscular policy can give dividends only when it is complemented with development,” says the Home Ministry functionary as he reminds how Jammu & Kashmir is among the top three states, population-wise, to get the Centre’s assistance on central schemes like Ayushman Bharat, Jan Dhan, Housing scheme, Swachh Bharat, etc. “As Shah informed in the Rajya Sabha, the Centre has put in place a new start-up policy in J&K. As many as 43 new start-ups have already started working in the Valley,” he adds.

Strategic expert Sushant Sareen believes the government finally has a Pakistan and Kashmir policy. “The government’s vacillating attitude stopped after the Uri attack. Since then we haven’t seen any flip flops. After the elections there was speculation that they might roll the dice again but PM Modi’s stand at SCO and Shah’s statements on Kashmir have been reassuring.”

He, however, has a piece of advice for the government. “The government’s policy must not change with season. If nothing comes out in three months, we should not be stupid enough to go back to the table. We should have the stamina to say that if it would take 30 years, we would wait for that.”

It goes to Shah’s credit that despite cracking whip on Kashmiri separatists led by the Hurriyat Conference, they are not complaining. The government, it seems, has hit where it hurt them the most—on their flow of fund from abroad and the resultant affluent lifestyle of their kith and kin. Those who know the new Home Minister well believe it won’t be a one-off phenomenon.

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