Jammu & Kashmir gearing up for upcoming polls

Representative image. Voters stand in a queue to cast their votes in the assembly elections in J&K in 2016 (Photo: PTI/File)

Holding assembly elections in the UT of J&K is voiced by many political parties. The ruling BJP has said that elections would be held after the delimitation process was completed. Initially, there was a difference in the viewpoints of the government and the local mainstream political parties like NC, Congress and even newly formed parties like AP.

First, the timing of the election became a controversial issue between the government and some of the mainstream political parties like NC. Dr Farooq Abdullah the NC leader and MP demanded that elections should be held before the delimitation process was completed. However, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs thought it would be feasible to complete the delimitation task first. Anyway, the Home Minister’s view prevailed.

Now that delimitation has been done and despite opposition from many stakeholders, the government has upheld the decision of the Delimitation Commission and applied the same in practice. The government announced that elections would be held in March 2023.

But there are political groups skeptical about this announcement of the government. They argue that the government is only trying to delay the election for political reasons. In an article under the title ‘No Elections in J&K’, Harsh Dev Singh, a former minister and now the Chairman of Aam Admi Party Coordination Committee has written a strongly convincing article in the Daily Excelsior in which he has put forth his view on the entire election process very forcefully.

Tracing the chequered history of J&K politics in which he thinks democracy has been abused, he concludes as this: “Having been deprived of democratic govt and their right to have an elected govt of their own, the common masses are the worst sufferers. They have hardly any access to the ‘babus’ ruling the roost. And the ‘babus’ have hardly any connection with the general masses. The result is all-around dis-enchantment. But then there is none to speak and to question the govt for who will bell the cat is the pertinent issue”.

Democracy has been considered as an ideal political arrangement for multi-religious and multi-linguistic states like J&K. The point is how democracy has been abused and misused in Kashmir by the local political leadership and their respective political parties for the last three-quarters of a century of their rule (in the name of democracy) has raised many eyebrows among the observers about the feasibility of democracy in J&K.

If the seven–decades–long rule under a “democratic” process has resulted in the abrupt and forceful rise of communalism, Wahhabism or imported/indigenous terrorism and disruption of fundamentals of social jurisprudence, then that pattern of democracy must come under the scanner. The rulers may claim that they have been swearing by true democracy but remember the taste of the pudding is in eating. True democracy should have been reflected on the ground. It has not been the case.

The abuse of democracy cannot be generalized. It is unrealistic and unjust to say that democracy has been abused in other parts of the country and J&K is not an exception. We do not agree with it. Terrorism, fundamentalism, jihadism, etc., have not been externally sponsored in the country except in J&K.

The occurrence of turmoil and disorder in some other parts of the country is not ignored and that is part of our national political dynamics. J&K is the only state where the governments allowed anti-national elements to flourish and indulge in terrorist and criminal activities without impunity. This is true of all major political parties NC, Congress or PDP.

Do not forget that all these parties stoutly claim to be democratic. Their elected candidates thought that election gave them the right to indulge in any subversive, disruptive and divisive activities and they would not be called upon to explain their actions.

Talking about delimitation, we know that there was strong opposition from the leadership in Kashmir. The Gupkar gang said that delimitation was a ploy of the BJP government to carve new constituencies of their choosing. Others also brought many frivolous accusations to paint BJP as a communal and divisive force. The government did not dither and went ahead with its ameliorative agenda.

In retrospect, one may ask what right had the successive governments in Srinagar to deny various communities of the hill-state of Jammu and Kashmir their rightful and constitutionally approved status of OBC, SC, Borderline inhabitants, refugees from the illegally occupied parts of the State by Pakistan, etc. Who is responsible for the deprivation and loss deliberately inflicted on these deprived population segments? Was it not the responsibility of the government to reverse this big social aberration? The measures that the Delimitation Commission has suggested and which the Government of the UT has accepted and is in the process of implementation show  that the advertent error had to be rectified through a legal and administratively sound exercise, that took its time and those who had raised a hue and cry opposing the Delimitation Commission would have understood that by opposing the Commission they were supporting the denial of constitutional rights to the large segment of the population of various nomenclatures in the State.

Another question raised by the critics of the government’s Kashmir policy is that it is not following the directive of the Apex Court which has recommended that the right of the people to have an elected government cannot be overlooked. Of course, there are instructions of the court and the states including the UT of J&K are respecting the relevant verdicts. However, it has to be noted that regarding J&K the Home Minister and the Prime Minister both have announced in no ambiguous terms that elections to the Assembly will be held and the process for the same has been initiated.

The SC verdict does not give a time frame for elections, particularly in the case of J&K. The UT is officially a disturbed area and the state is fighting the armed insurgency bent upon derailing the government’s initiatives of restoring peace and tranquility in the region. No doubt insurgency has come down considerably owing to accelerated action of the security forces and intelligence sleuths but their remnants are still roaming about changing their hideouts. They strike whenever they find an opportunity to kill a defenseless isolated Pandit or hurl a bomb at the police post or a military quarter. Infiltration has come down but the dropping of arms, ammunition, narcotics and even Indian currency through the drones procured by Pakistan from Turkey continue their flights, especially over the borders of Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts. Drone operations are made frequent and this new form of terrorism has to be met by the state.

Unfortunately, our courts sometimes lose sight of the peculiarity of the Kashmir insurgency. What is much more deplorable is the highly biased attitude of some sections of local and national media and political agencies who enjoy the sadism of distorting facts and denigrating democratic institutions. This deals a blow to the democratic structure of India. Sometimes even the courts fail to fathom the peril lying deep in peoples’ negative attitude towards nationhood. After all the courts are run by human beings which means that while we respect their verdicts, we do not preclude their human frailties.

In the final analysis, an environment of trust and goodwill must be created between the people and the government. People have to give up the habit of finding fault with everything that the elected government does or wants to do. The people and their leadership in Kashmir both have to understand the phenomenon with which they are beset not only from the regional and national paradigms but from international paradigms as well.

The rising crescendo of departure of our traditional societies like Saudi Arabia from entrenched conservatism, and transshipment to the digital age, has to be taken as an eye-opener. If the government is delaying elections, it has the purpose of reaching the masses of people and not shunning away from them. We need to understand that haste makes waste. Several things have to be taken into consideration after the removal of Articles 370 and 35- A, both of which, unfortunately,  were added to the Constitution either against the free will of the majority of lawmakers or through a non-transparent mechanism. When cancer is removed, its side effects have to be taken care of.

The bruised and mauled conscience of the people of Kashmir needs time for recuperation. What is the sense in handing them over again to the demagogues? The new Kashmir leadership must tear apart the cobwebs of confusion and uncertainty. Development, trade, transport, connectivity and a vision of the future are the key to the transformation of Kashmirian society.

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