New Delhi: More than reading down Article 370, the Narendra Modi government’s decision that has concerned the people of Kashmir is the removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood, former Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) chief and a veteran Kashmir hand in New Delhi A.S. Dulat has told The Wire.
Dulat, who also served as the Kashmir advisor at the Prime Minister’s Office during the tenure of Atal Vihari Vajpayee, said that he sees the demand for returning statehood to Jammu and Kashmir gaining currency in Kashmir soon. He also stated that what has been bothering the people of Kashmir more “is how to get back to normal life”.
While the Modi government announced in parliament on August 5, 2019 that Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status was being revoked, and also that the state would be divided into two union territories (UTs), Kashmir’s formal transition into a UT took place in October last year.
On March 14, featuring in The Wire’s show The Interview With Karan Thapar – a day after the government’s sudden decision to release former state chief minister Farooq Abdullah from detention – Dulat said the reading down of Article 370 “did come as a jolt to the Kashmiris” but added, “With the passage of time, the sense I get is Article 370 is done, dusted, and I think, Kashmir and Kashmiris are reconciled to it; they know that 370 can’t come back.”
He said, “The immediate issues (for Kashmiris) are how to get back to normal life. I think that troubles the common Kashmiris most of all. They (the people) can only get back to normal life once the political process is revived.”
The veteran intelligence official is considered to have played the role of a much-needed ‘back channel’ for the Central government to facilitate the release of Abdullah from detention after seven months. In an exclusive interview to The Wire, Dulat had admitted to meeting Abdullah on February 12 while in detention after his visit was approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
In the interview, Dulat stated, “And the other thing, apart from the demand for the release of the other leaders, which Abdullah has made yesterday (on March 13 soon after his release), the demand which is going to come up very soon is the one about statehood, the return of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir.”
He agreed that the people feel the loss of statehood more keenly, adding, “I think the government of India is committed to it because both the prime minister and the home minister have said this in parliament.” He added that he was at a literature festival last December in Chandigarh to take part in a discussion on Kashmir where BJP national secretary Ram Madhav too said as much.
On March 14, speaking to a delegation of the Apni Party, a new political entity formed in Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that that his government would work with all sections of society to return Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood at the earliest.
“The prime minister engaged with the delegation on various issues like concerns on demographic changes, delimitation exercise, and grant of state domicile. Referring to his statement in parliament, the prime minister underlined that the government will work with all sections of the population to realise the hopes of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir at an early opportunity,” a press note released by the PMO said on March 14.
Watch the full interview below.