The parliamentary elections in Jammu and Kashmir are following a familiar, tried and tested script. There is no change in the scenario whatsoever. A select few who call themselves leaders of the masses have participated as candidates, as they have in all earlier elections. The only difference is their advancing years, which has not inhibited their thirst for power. They jump from one position to another without any reservation or remorse. Some leave a State Assembly seat to fight for Parliament, others do the opposite. There is no consideration whatsoever to the damage that the constant shifting does to the governance and the huge cost that is incurred to conduct multiple elections.
The thirst for power of these so-called leaders in Jammu and Kashmir is so great that they have made no attempt to create a young leadership pool in their parties; they wish to hold on to power to their last breath. Over the years they have created what they perceive to be a win-win formula so far as self-preservation is concerned and are not ready to change the same. They stall any forward movement and then put the blame on the central leadership. It is “I”, “Me” and “Myself” all the way. This terrible situation has been going on for decades now.
The security forces in the state have, on many occasions and after tremendous sacrifice in blood and sweat, created conditions suitable for the initiation of a political process. The people have also exhibited an intense desire to leave the shadow of the gun behind and move on to a normal and progressive life. They have made many sacrifices while assisting the security forces in elimination of the curse of terrorism in their land.
It is very sad to note that the political leadership has completely failed on each and every occasion, to live up to the expectations of the people and the nation. They have remained rigid and myopic, unwilling to remove the blinkers to set in a wider view. They have not done anything themselves and have not allowed others to take any new initiative to break the deadlock.
Some blame for this miserable state of affairs has to be taken by the people too. Take the recent instance of the conduction of Parliamentary elections. The security forces have put in a tremendous effort to provide a free and safe environment for the conduct of the same. The centre has also given all security reinforcements demanded by the state for smooth conduct of elections. This has happened despite there being a big shortage of manpower in view of the national commitment in the elections. Yet, the people of Kashmir have not come out to vote in the required numbers.
Under these circumstances, the political leaders feel that one or the other among them would be elected in any case, and they will get to enjoy all the perks of power, privilege and economic gains even if it is in turns.
The leadership of Kashmir is standing in the way of its people enjoying the fruits of democracy and freedom that the constitution of the country ensures to them. Look at the election speeches and statements that they make, all are based on negativity, divisiveness and disruption designed to raise passions. The distrust and insecurity in the minds of people leading to doubts with regard to the constitutional structure has been created by the same leadership. The end result is that the people are not getting to lead the kind of life that they should as a part of the largest and most vibrant democracy of the world. They have been reduced to being pawns in the hands of a select few. The situation cannot become more unfortunate than this.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir are educated, hardworking and dynamic, they are endowed with nature’s bounty and everything that is required to progress. If their governance is good they can make a contribution to the development and power of the nation rather than looking over their shoulder for support all the time. The centre and the rest of India would be only too glad to chip in if the single minded pursuit is towards peace and prosperity.
The endless debates on Article 370, Article 35A, AFSPA, et al are not something that will help the region and its people evolve. These are redundant subjects that are of interest to only a few who leverage them for political gains. What is going to help is a strong government that can root out the endemic corruption that is eating into the very fabric of the state; a government that can propel the state to its rightful place in the development index with modern forward looking economic policies; a government that can boast more about is own achievements than indulge in a blame game with the centre.
It is time for the people of Kashmir to stand up and be counted. They need to use their democratic rights and power to force the political leadership to deliver on their aspirations. They need to send out a clear message that they will not condone inefficiency and double speak from their leadership any more.
The harm done by not voting in the parliamentary elections cannot be undone. Now it is time to look forward towards the state assembly elections. The people can rest assured that the security forces will, once again, create a safe and conducive environment for the elections and that the election commission will guarantee free and fair polls. It is up to them to ensure that they select each candidate on merit and give their precious vote to those who can change the narrative from the existing pessimism to a state of high morale and optimism.