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Hindus, Muslims to Share Power in Indian Kashmir


Indian Prime Minister Narinder Modi (L) and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh (C) embrace during a swearing in ceremony of the state assembly in Jammu, Mar. 1, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/Tauseef MUSTAFA)

Indian Prime Minister Narinder Modi (L) and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh (C) embrace during a swearing in ceremony of the state assembly in Jammu, Mar. 1, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/Tauseef MUSTAFA)

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, and the People’s Democratic Party, or PDP, have created a coalition government to rule Jammu and Kashmir state. It is the first time the BJP has had a part in governing India’s only Muslim majority area.

The swearing-in of the new government took place Sunday in the state’s winter capital, Jammu. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the People’s Democratic Party took the oath as Kashmir’s chief minister. Nirmal Singh from the Bharatiya Janata Party was sworn in as his deputy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the historic ceremony to watch a member of his party become, for the first time, one of the state’s top governing officials. Until now, the BJP has not had much political power in Jammu and Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have had a long dispute about which country the area belongs to. Anti-India feelings are strong in the state.

The two parties negotiated for weeks to build an alliance after mixed results in November elections. The PDP won in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. The BJP received huge support in the Hindu-majority Jammu area.

The two parties have settled some differences, but they agreed to disagree on their more-complex differences. Chief Minister Sayeed described it as the coming together of the North Pole and the South Pole.

Satish Misra is a researcher at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. She says the alliance between the two parties could help Kashmir become integrated with the rest of the country. She says the BJP will have to become more moderate in its political positions if it is to grow its influence in the Kashmir valley.

The BJP eased its opposition to a constitutional measure that would give Kashmir self-rule. The PDP eased its demand to cancel a very unpopular law that gives Indian soldiers wide powers to search and shoot people in the state.

The new government says its top goal will be the state’s development. But political observers say there is skepticism in Kashmir valley about the BJP having a part in governing the state.

Noor Ahmad Baba is a political science professor at Kashmir University. He says the skepticism is combined with hope. He says people believe the political alliance might speed up development of the mountainous area and its recovery from floods last year that caused severe damage.

Soon after taking office, the new chief minister said peace was a condition for the state’s development. He said he supports talks with Kashmiri separatists and a peace process with Pakistan.

“We want to make this alliance a turning point in trying to meet hearts and minds of people.”

Some observers say the fact that the BJP is now part of the governing coalition in Kashmir could mean there will be talks between the central government and Kashmiri separatists. Prime Minister Modi’s government has opposed such efforts.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Anjana Pasricha reported this story from New Delhi, India. Caty Weaver wrote it for VOA Learning English. Christopher Cruise was the editor.

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Words in This Story

majorityn. a number that is greater than half of a total

oathn. an official and serious promise to tell the truth or to do something

integratev. to combine (two or more things) to form or create something

skepticismn. an attitude of questioning the truth of something (such as a claim or statement)

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