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A thought experiment: Srinagar as the ’Summer Capital’ of India – If I were Modi

(Editor’s Note: Role of the BJP led government at the center, in government formation and governance in the state of Jammu & Kashmir has often led to intense debates on social media. We believe it would be an interesting thought experiment to put yourself in the shoes of the Prime Minister and come up with some ideas that you think could solve the Kashmir issue from a nationalist perspective. We are not endorsing any suggestions, but just facilitating a discussion. You can put your articles on and take this debate forward. For now, hear this one out.)

The origin of the word ‘Kashmir’ as per Hindu Puranas have been linked to ‘Kasmira’ which is derived based on the name of Hindu mythical sage Kashyapa. From medieval times Kashmir had been one of the epicenters for the development of Buddhism and Hinduism so much so that a sect of Hinduism is known as Kashmir Shaivism. In the 19th Century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh rescued local Kashmiris from the barbarism of Afghans and Mughals and thus brought significant portion of Kashmir under the Sikh dynasty. During the independence, Kashmir got acceded to India as Raja Hari Singh sided with India and pleaded Lord Mountbatten to assist state of Jammu and Kashmir from the onslaught of Pakistan guerilla warfare and state sponsored terrorism. Indian Army led to the rescue of Maharaja Hari Singh and drove out the Pakistani state sponsored terrorists. This however led to the never ending conflict between India and Pakistan and since then Pakistan fought and lost three wars with India in 1965, 71 and 99. Between these wars, Pakistan continued with its sponsoring of terrorism in J&K.

In the late eighties and early nineties, Pakistan even won a passive war against India as Kashmir witnessed a Holocaust of Hindu Kashmiri Pandits, which had not been witnessed ever since the rule of Afghans and Mughals ended. There were chants through the loudspeakers, which vociferously thundered ‘Agar Kashmir mein rehna hai toh Allahu Akbar kehna hai’, ‘Zalimon O Kafiro, Kashmir Hamara chhodo’. After this, many such atrocities against the Hindus continued in Kashmir and Media and successive Governments continued to ignore the plight of Kashmiri Pandits who till date live as refugees and cannot go back to their homeland. It is now since the current Government has come into power, all these noises have gained attention, be it JNU where anti India slogans are raised and such people are labelled as saviors of freedom of speech or NIT Srinagar where students who chanted pro India slogans and hoisted the Tricolour were lathicharged.

It often amazes me on how these Kashmiris have been brainwashed since generations that they send their children for education (if at all), medical treatment, business, employment to Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and other cities and still spew venom against us. Their State Government salaries are paid by us, we have reignited the tourism industry in the valley, our Indian Army which is stationed there maintains the law and order and rescues them from floods and other natural calamities. Yet there is no credit given to them, in fact during my recent visit to Srinagar, I asked various people on what they will gain if at all Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan (although it is never going to happen), they were clueless on what to answer. Maybe they can graduate from being professional stone pelters to being recruited for various banned organizations (no need to name them).

But somewhere I feel we are also to be blamed for ignorance of Kashmiris as they do not have a sense of belongingness to India. Few questions come to my mind while I think about state of affairs in Kashmir –

Who is ruling J&K – It’s the BJP-PDP Government.

Who is ruling the Centre – It’s the BJP Government.

Forget about previous Congress Governments at the Center and State as least is expected from them but what is BJP’s USP – A nationalist political party with core principles of non-appeasement and finally who heads BJP Government – Shri Narendra Modi, a nationalist, a leader known for his aggression with a no nonsense attitude who himself hoisted the tricolor at Srinagar in 90s. Then why is Shri Narendra Modi silent on this issue? Why is the situation of Kashmir not changing? Or is it that this is a deliberate attempt by Central Government to bring our state of affairs in front of everyone which media continued to ignore until two years back.

I often ask myself what could I have done if I were Modi under these circumstances. What often comes to my mind is that in 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India. As the summer capital, Shimla hosted many important political meetings including the Simla Accord of 1914 and the Simla Conference of 1945. The British empire took the trouble of moving the administration twice a year between Calcutta and this separate center over 1,000 miles away, despite the fact that it was difficult to reach. During the “Hot Weather”, Shimla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, India, the head of the British Indian Army and many Departments of the Government.

When the British empire can have their Summer Capital as Simla in those times, why can’t we have Srinagar as the Summer capital of India, even if it is for a period of at least 3 months in a year. In this era of technology, internet etc. where people can ‘Work from home’, do Skype calls and do video conference for conduct of business, why can’t Government office work be conducted by leveraging this technology? and why not? Which leader values and uses technology like our tech savvy Prime Minister. I can’t think of many.

Or is security the reason for not doing it? No, I don’t think so as majority of our Army is already stationed in the Valley and the only security personnel that may have to be moved would be personal commandos & NSG, which I think is a non-issue. Now the important point is, what we as Indians will achieve by doing this – Won’t India achieve in making Kashmir an integral part of India in the ‘True sense’? The positives of such a move could benefit the state and the country as follows:

  • Srinagar being the Capital of India will enhance its prominence and visibility globally as it would be called the ‘Summer Capital’ of India, implying its very much an integral part of the country and valued;
  • With Central Government machinery in Srinagar there would be development of Infrastructure;
  • Development of Infrastructure would definitely attract investments / FDI’s and also help in achieving the ‘Make in India’ mission;
  • Aren’t the Diplomatic area, Shanti path, 7 RCRs and the Rashtrapati bhavan etc. the cleanest part of our National capital? So will Srinagar be and that will be a big step towards achieving the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission;
  • Tourism will get a further boost. Tourists both national & international will feel more safe and secure if they know that the PM himself operates from the Valley;
  • All of the above, it will generate jobs in the Valley. Majority of youth of Kashmir who are getting wasted and are becoming ‘Professional stone pelters’ would be employed in respectable jobs. This will create a sense of belongingness and loyalty towards India, which is largely missing at present;
  • And this will also position BJP as a party with a ‘Difference’ having a clear strategy for the Valley, which many including BJP supporters doubt at times.

But for all this, a debate followed by revocation of Article 370 will be required. Can this Government show its might? well only time will tell!

And last but not the least, the obvious benefits of the above will be the real strong message India would send to the world and especially to Pakistan when the Prime Minister of India delivers the Independence day speech on the 15th of August from Lal Chowk, the Summer Capital of India, Srinagar and the President of India delivers the Republic day speech on the 26th January from Lal Qila, New Delhi the National Capital of India followed by the Republic Day parade.

This will ensure that our Tricolour, our beloved Tiranga, our national flag would be unfurled from Lal Qila to Lal Chowk.

Jai Hind!!

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Himanshu and Karthik are both finance professionals working for international consulting firms based out of Doha having similar ideologies on National affairs and co author all the articles.

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