Srinagar, Aug 16 (IANS) Call it a quirk of fate that a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort that Vajpayee’s doctrine of ‘insaniyat, jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat’ was the only way forward in Kashmir, Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away.
While Kashmiris traditionally have had strong reservations about the right-wing Jana Sangh and its present avatar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), they still have respect for Atal-ji.
Kashmiris remember that when Vajpayee was the foreign minister, India and Pakistan had good relations after decades.
“He was a statesman…the tragedy is that such statesmen are rarely born,” said Prof Muzaffar Ahmad, a retired college principal.
Others say even when he led a right-wing political party, Vajpayee never lost sight of the fact that his leadership qualities would be judged by his ability to win over Muslims and underprivileged minorities.
“He believed in his words. He continued to be admired and respected by Kashmiris though his mantra of ‘insaniyat, jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat’ is yet to be put to practice in Kashmir,” an activist of a separatist party told IANS.
There are many locals who recall Vajpayee’s visit to the Valley when he was in the opposition before the outbreak of militant violence in Kashmir.
“I remember seeing a gentleman wearing ‘pheran’ and a woollen cap in our Ahdoos restaurant in Srinagar in the early 1980s,” recalls Gulam Nabi, an elderly waiter still working at the restaurant.
“He sat by a table along with a companion and ordered food. I pressed my memory to recall where I had seen this gentleman before,” says Nabi. “Then I realized that he was Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” said Nabi.
“There was something magical about his speech. You always liked to trust what he said because there was an air of genuineness in what he said,” says Maqbool Rather, a villager in north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
“In Kashmiri language there is a saying that the scent of the musk deer spreads only after his death,” said Rather.
G.A. Mir, President of J&K Congress, said: “Party politics apart, Atalji’s approach to issues was that of a statesman. He always believed in dialogue and engagement. It is sad that those claiming to represent his ideology do nothing to carry forward his peace agenda.”