BJP's outreach

Kashmir Times. Dated: 1/21/2020 12:57:08 AM

Visit of 36 ministers is more fluff to create optics than about reaching out to public

The grand outreach program begun by the BJP government with visits this week by 36 ministers to Jammu and Kashmir, may seem good optics if the usual business of news management is perfected. On the ground, they may have little or no impact. The visit is over-delayed and comes more than five months after the state was abrogated, lost its statehood and was divided into two union territories, a period that has had a deleterious impact on the region's economy, health-care, education, tourism and any other sector. The purpose of the visit is not known though the prime minister's briefing to the ministers focused on creating awareness about the benefits of downgrading of the state and loss of its special status. While it is not known how this can be achieved with inauguration of few petty development projects and some announcements from the podiums of officially organised functions, something that could have been done from Delhi itself, the visit has not only come after the two flop guided tours of foreign diplomats that the government facilitated in its bid to salvage its dented image post the abrogation and the consequent lockdown, it has also come at a time when no other functionary of any other political party in the country is allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir. It also comes at a time when the entire political activity in the state has been brought to a freeze with three former chief ministers and several other politicians in jails and others disallowed from moving freely. Few weeks ago, three Congress politicians from Jammu were detained at Ramban and disallowed from proceeding towards the Valley. Other than that, business has suffered losses to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees, health-care is in shambles and educational institutions in the Valley remain virtually shut. The communication channels are yet to fully be restored and internet services exist partially in some parts of the region. In this backdrop of absence of normalcy, how does the Centre expect to talk about peace and development? The pre-requisite of any promises and assurances, howsoever false, was resumption of normal activity and removal of existing restrictions. The government's claims of normalcy fall flat in the wake of widespread restrictions in the union territory and a ban on political activity. The harsh crackdown on civil liberties, blanket ban on communications, stifling restrictions on the movement of people and detention of mainstream political leaders has earned the Indian government criticism globally.
The need for the present ongoing 'outreach program' is aimed at correcting that image and also to dispel the rising anger in Jammu region, otherwise BJP's strong constituency, where disappointment and disenchantment post-abrogation is increasing. But this is being done by omitting to meet the very people who are disgruntled. The disproportionate division of 51 visits for Jammu region as compared to 8 for Kashmir division is self-explanatory. However, mere jugglery of figures, hollow promises and half-truths or lies cannot make up for an outreach. For instance, Union Minister for Railways, Commerce and Industries, Piyush Goyal including in his list of assurances already existing schemes and boasting of a report card on several centrally sponsored schemes that lists achievements that existed prior to the creation of the union territory is a simple case of misleading the public and amplifying the propaganda machinery. In the last over five months, Jammu and Kashmir has virtually been in a freeze and all works in suspended animation. There is not even a word about that. Instead, the ministers have begun detailing some achievements, the exact truth of which needs a verification, since the governor's rule started in 2018. That was more than a year before the abrogation of Article 370. It is difficult to expect any democratic and meaningful outcome of a slew of visits that are aimed at justifying actions that were taken in the most undemocratic manner.



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