Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram said he had a sinking feeling that Kashmir was nearly lost for India because the Central government used brute force to quell dissent there.
Addressing a meeting organised by Manthan, a public discourse platform, here on Friday, Mr. Chidambaram said feared the situation would worsen if the Centre did not take up course correction like what was done by the Cabinet Committee on security in 2010. The graph of violence rapidly declined after that, but it grew at an alarming rate now.
He said seven million persons of Kashmir valley felt alienated by the oppressive methods of the Indian government, which was a “terrible” mistake. The statement of Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat that anyone who interfered with defence operations would be treated as anti-national was the last straw.
Mr. Chidambaram spoke from the columns he had contributed to to an English daily in 2016, which were chronicled into a book Fearless in Opposition . The defining elements of last year, he said, were the divisive agenda that grew roots across the country, decline in growth rate, and demonetisation.
Answering questions from the gathering, the Congress leader said the Mumbai municipal corporation elections, wherein the BJP won 650 seats to stay in the lead, was not a vote on demonetisation. “No election is fought on one issue. If that is so, bizarre consequences will follow.”
He blamed the government for creating conditions for former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan to decline a second term in office because he opposed demonetisation. The reputation of the RBI diminished after it.
The effect of demonetisation was reflected in the government’s failure to project extra revenues or expenditure in the Budget. The Budget estimates and revised estimates for 30 items remained the same. The figures matched to the last digit, which was shocking, he added.
Mr. Chidambaram advocated an open economy though it was not inclusive as it would create wealth. The early winners in it are those who had access to capital and infrastructure. Crony capitalism that might develop in open economy must be regulated and punished.
He praised the Goods and Services Tax as it would subsume all indirect taxes.