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Narendra Modi’s knowledge of Jammu and Kashmir to be an advantage for Kashmir plan

Modi has travelled extensively across the valley at the peak of militancy, meeting and talking with the common man and experiencing their problems.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 03, 2014, 08.23 PM IST
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Modi has travelled extensively across the valley at the peak of militancy – as a commoner and meeting and talking with the common man – personally experiencing some of the problems faced by the locals.
Modi has travelled extensively across the valley at the peak of militancy – as a commoner and meeting and talking with the common man – personally experiencing some of the problems faced by the locals.
SRINAGAR: When Narendra Modi starts working on his Kashmir plan, he would have an advantage that most of his predecessors at the Prime Minister’s office didn’t have. Modi has travelled extensively across the valley at the peak of militancy – as a commoner and meeting and talking with the common man – personally experiencing some of the problems faced by the locals.

"Then he was just a worker and not many people knew him," said Mohammad Asharf Hajam alias Azad, one of the early BJP workers in Kashmir. He would go to the militancy-affected places, with no security and by bus, and often stay at party workers’ homes. "Narendra Bhai Modi was then a Pran Parcharak and had a very modest life style."

Hajam befriended Modi in Jammu after he left his home at Hakarmulla village in Budgam in 1990. After Hajam joined the BJP, Modi accompanied him to Srinagar in 1993, and stayed at his village home for three nights during a 12-day Kashmir sojourn. "Then, he had black beard and I was clean shaven," Hajam said. "Now both of us have grayed a lot."

During the 1993 stay, the two would leave Hakarmulla early, take the first bus to their destination and spend the day talking to people. "We would go to our contacts, get a dozen odd common men and talk about the issues confronting them, off the public gaze, inside homes," said Hajam, whose house was set afire twice by unknown people.

Modi, Hajam remembers, would talk less and listen more. He would note down everything people would tell him. But he would ask why should there be bloodshed when there is a possibility for talking about the differences. Hajam said Modi visited almost all the major towns of Kashmir during his stay, travelling by bus, staying with Muslim workers and eating complete vegetarian food – mostly dal and roti." In our party, Parcharaks have a modest life style, they carry a few sets of clothes, a cake of soap, toothpaste, and a note book, and all in a bag," said Hajam, now a national member of the BJP.

Modi’s 1993 visit came after the highly controversial 1992 Eakta Yatra in which he accompanied Murli Manohar Joshi and LK Advani. With Kashmir under round-the-clock curfew, Joshi’s 67-member team was flown to Srinagar in an IAF AN-32 and housed in a BSF garrison near the airport in Srinagar. Next day, on January 26, they were driven in a huge cavalcade to Lal Chowk, where they hurled the national flag.

Hajam said Modi never lost his touch with Kashmir since 1992. He handled the party in Jammu and Kashmir when he was the BJP’s national secretary between 1995 and 1998. In J&K, his politics usually revolved around the Jammu population, where the party had a base since the Jana Sangh days, and Kashmiri Pandits who migrated mostly to Jammu in the early 1990s. Modi had accompanied the then-Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani to Chattisinghpora where 36 Sikhs were massacred on the eve of US President Bill Clinton’s visit in 2000.

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