Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji after remaining in public life for decades left for his final journey on August 16. He was 93.
It is not easy for any politician to remain untainted after serving his party and government for so long. Vajpayee not only managed to do that, but also ensured he created a niche for himself in a party that is known for being not so inclusive in nature.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee (centre) during a rally in Srinagar (Source: PTI)
Vajpayee ji commanded high popularity and reverence cutting across party lines.
In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it is very difficult for a politician from the right wing to gain acceptance and following across all three regions — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
Vajpayee ji, perhaps, was the only one who struck a chord with the general masses in Kashmir. He was a person who believed in humanity above all.
He thought out of the box to ensure people divided by the borders could meet again. The Delhi-Lahore cross-border bus service was an honest step in this direction. He was a realist who tried to make things work based on his convictions. He was not an ordinary rhetorical orator, but believed in what he spoke and then went ahead to make it work on the ground as well.
This is the reason why he extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan despite the Kargil war, which started right after Vajpayee's Lahore visit.
The former Prime Minister was widely hailed for the speech he delivered in 2003 in Srinagar in which he hailed dialogue and friendship with Pakistan as the only solution to long-term peace in Kashmir.
In 2000, he became the first Prime Minister to announce ceasefire in the month of Ramzan so that Muslims could observe the pious month without violence.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the launch of the Delhi-Lahore bus service (Source: PTI)
This decision made him a messiah in the eyes of Kashmiris. Vajpayee supported talks with separatists and declared, "Sky is the limit", as far as the contours of talks are concerned.
He should not be blamed for the failure of the 2001 Agra Summit because his intent to resolve the crisis was genuine.
He talked of Insaniyat (humanity), Jamhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (identity of the people of Kashmir) within the framework of which the Kashmir issue needed to be discussed and resolved.
Vajpayee has since then been quoted and misquoted on various occasions for electoral gains by people.
After he withdrew from active politics, his idea for peace in Kashmir has reverberated several times from Red Fort and Rashtrapati Bhavan, but no progress has been made.
In fact, Vajpayee was the last leader to have made any significant headway towards resolving the Kashmir problem. Nobody else rose above politics.
It is for this reason that Kashmir is mourning Vajpayee's death with a heavy heart.
Rest in Peace, our leader!