Narendra Modi To Visit Jammu And Kashmir Amid Row Over Article 370

2 July 2014
Deccan Chronicle

Srinagar: According to the reports Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Jammu and Kashmir on Friday amid row over a demand of abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution that grants an autonomous status to the state. This will be his maiden visit to the state after assuming office as the prime minister. Narendra Modi being politically opposed by both the separatists and the National Conference is majorly downplayed in the media. Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Shabir Ahmad Shah, have all called for a complete shutdown across the Valley on Friday. Syed Ali Geelani had earlier called for 'peaceful protests' but later changed his appeal to a complete shutdown. He said the strike was not against Modi as a person, but against the visit of 'the prime minister of a country that has subjugated Kashmiris'. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has issued a statement he made in Ramban district of Jammu region on Tuesday stating that Kashmir problem is not one that can be resolved through economic packages. He even cautioned those trying to revive a controversy over the abrogation of Article 370 that gives special status to the state. 'I have repeatedly and vehemently highlighted that Jammu and Kashmir cannot be equated with other states of India. We cannot be browbeaten by money and muscle power. We have withstood all challenges in the past and will do it again in the future', Omar Abdullah said, criticising New Delhi's approach on the Kashmir issue. He also spoke about his grandfather, National Conference founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah's arrest in 1953, and the ouster of his father Farooq Abdullah from power in 1984 - two events in Kashmir's history the National Conference has been blaming the centre for the alienation of the people here. Omar Abdullah seems to have been rattled by two things. First, the drubbing his party took during the Lok Sabha elections in which the NC and even its ruling alliance partner the Congress failed to win even a single seat from the state. Second, the fact that the NC fears it might face the same situation during the state assembly elections due here in October-November this year. Modi's problem is not just the opposition by the separatists and the huge challenges of security and development. He has also to address the political concerns of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which aims to get at least 'five lotuses' from the Valley. This means the BJP, which has eleven seats at present in then 87-member state assembly, plans to win at atleast five seats from the Valley during the next elections while aiming to improve its political foothold in the Jammu region as well. Given the stiff opposition from the separatists and nonchalant situation with the ruling NC-Congress combine in the state, it is likely the prime minister would abstain from any political overture during his Friday visit to the state. 'He would inaugurate the 25 kilometre long stretch of the railways from Katra town to Udhampur. Review security at the borders with Pakistan and China and also in the hinterlands at a high level meeting in Srinagar, inaugurate the 240 megawatt hydro-electric power project in the border town of Uri and return to New Delhi the same day,' said a source in the state government.