While sporadic incidents of violence continue, restoration of normalcy by and large is best illustrated by revival of tourism: 1.62 crore tourists have visited the UT since January this year, the highest annual footfall since Independence.
Shah was the first Union minister in 35 years to address a public rally — also his first in J&K since Article 370 was neutered in August 2019 — in Baramulla town, once a terror hub. His other rally at Rajouri in Jammu region was also successful as it reached out to hitherto-marginalised communities like Paharis, who were assured of ST status.
Encouraged by the response, BJP, contrary to perception, refused to have truck with Congress ex-leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s just-launched outfit, Democratic Azad Party.
According to BJP sources, the Baramulla rally venue with a capacity of 35000 was jam-packed with the crowd echoing Shah’s chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, a reflection of the changed perception among the Valley residents, three years after the abrogation of Article 370.
“The most satisfying feeling was to see the warmth shown by women present in the rally. Our assessment is that the women of the valley are pleased with the LPG cylinders which have been distributed across the state under ‘Ujjwala’ scheme,” a senior BJP leader said and added, “The state government has done a good job by providing double cylinders in the hilly areas where refilling is also an arduous exercise.”
The BJP functionary said the “Ujjawala’ scheme stands out as the most popular as the households living in hilly areas used to face immense difficulties in managing firewood, particularly after snowfall.
Polls in J&K are expected only after revision of electoral rolls is complete. The final J&K roll is scheduled to be published on November 25. It is expected to include groups marginalised during the previous regimes, such as people who migrated from West Pakistan, those displaced from PoK in 1947 and during subsequent Indo-Pakistan wars and other displaced communities like Kashmiri Pandits. Also, new voters who have been residents in J&K for six months and more, can have their names added to the rolls as long as they are excluded from rolls of other states/UTs.
The party leader said the valley’s response to the “Tiranga Yatra” was also an indication that people have responded positively and want return of peace in the valley, leading to a major blow to separatist forces.
“Over 70 families that lost their loved ones to terrorism, took part in the Tiranga Yatra, which is a testimony to people distancing themselves from militancy and the separatists’ demands,” the BJP leader said.
The response appears all the more significant as BJP, unlike Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and National Conference of Abdullahs, has opposed resumption of talks with Pakistan. It has also said that it would have no truck with any party that advocates dialogue with the neighbouring country or has any links with the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has been banned, or the Hurriyat Conference, a separatist outfit.
In Baramulla, Shah had said: “Those people who ruled here for 70 years advised me to talk to Pakistan. I have a clear intention that I don’t want to talk to Pakistan, but I want to talk to my Gujjar, Pahari and Bakerwal brothers of Baramulla.”
Elaborating on the party’s stand, a BJP leader said: “Why should we speak to Pakistan which sponsors terrorism in our land, for bringing peace in a part of our country? In fact, the suggestion that India should speak to Islamabad for ending terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir is an acknowledgment that Pakistan is behind it.”