In an exclusive interview with Sputnik, BJP’s National General Secretary has talked about India's unfinished agenda, about the integration of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and the repatriation of Hindus forced to migrate from the Kashmir Valley to other parts of the state and beyond.
Sputnik: Ram Madhav, you have been involved in Kashmir affairs since the beginning. Kashmir is discussed on every platform at the local to international level, multilateral levels. Is this focus by the entire world making the government a bit cautious about its move to restore normalcy there?
Ram Madhav: Jammu and Kashmir is a legal part of India. Recently we amended a law, which was specific to the state. Pakistan tried to internationalise the issue. We have been able to convey to the world community that it is an internal matter of India and within the sovereign power of the country. We are conscious of the negative propaganda our neighbour is trying to unleash. Whatever we have done in Kashmir is keeping the interests of ordinary Kashmiris in mind.
Sputnik: From prime minister on down the line, every political functionary in the government and also in the party, including you have said the integration of Kashmir is complete, the next is to bring back the Kashmir currently under Pakistani rule. How realistic is this claim, or is the statement just symbolic?
Ram Madhav: Right now the priority of the government is to undertake large-scale development activities in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the Kashmir Valley, where people have been the victims of a separatist narrative for many decades. They have been denied basic human rights, basic developmental rights, and basic political rights. Our government’s priority now is to extend these fundamental rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. As far as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is concerned, there is a Parliament Resolution of 1994 stating that it is an outstanding issue between the two countries. We have to get that region back. In future any decision that has to happen between India and Pakistan should be with respect to the status of the occupied Kashmir. To that extent it is a national will.
Sputnik: How do you plan to accomplish this? Is it through military means?
Ram Madhav: Pakistan-occupied Kashmir belongs to India. It is under illegal occupation by Pakistan. We have expressed our bipartisan commitment to resolving that contentious issue and get the occupied region vacated by Pakistan.
Sputnik: The next move in Kashmir, as pronounced by both Prime Minister Modi and Party Chief Amit Shah is elections at the local body level. In the given situation, when political leaders are under preventive detention, how do you make the process effective?
Ram Madhav: We had problems in the Kashmir Valley, where the national parties have very little presence. The regional parties used to have one foot in the terrorist camp and one foot in the Indian camp. This situation is not good for the country, not even good for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We earnestly feel that an alternative which is committed to the grass-root development, betterment of the people of Kashmir should emerge. We will certainly do whatever is possible to address such an alternative political process there.
Sputnik: What is your view on the excessive restrictions in Kashmir - of whether or not it would hurt the process of normalising the situation in Kashmir?
Ram Madhav: The communication blackout, the preventive detention of some leaders, all are temporary measures. They will go very soon.
Sputnik: There have been suggestions for the repatriation of the Pandits, forced to leave their homes in the Kashmir Valley in the wake of terrorist violence in the 1990s. Do you believe it would be possible, given the current situation there?
Ram Madhav: This is one group, the Kashmiri Hindus or Kashmiri Pandits as we call them, who have been denied basic human and political rights. They have been made into refugees in their own country, in their own state. It is the duty and responsibility of our government to facilitate their honourable and secure return to their homes in the Kashmir Valley. We will do everything possible to create an atmosphere where the refugee Pandits can go back, with a sense and dignity. That is a challenge before the government and we will certainly address that challenge.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.