Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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Kashmir Policy - A journey to nowhere

B L Saraf

When Narendra Modi led NDA government took charge in Delhi , in May 2014 , Srinagar had an elected government in place . The December, 2014 state Assembly election voted that out and ushered in a new coalition government headed by late Mufti Sayeed - of which the BJP was an important constituent . Central NDA government is completing the term and J & K doesn’t have an elected government . Governor rules the state . Though not exactly so on the facts , yet impression wise we are back to the period of 1990 when , for years together , we didn’t have an elected government in the State . The situation is so developing that when Narendra Modi will go to the polls in May 2019 for a fresh mandate , in all probability , we won’t be having a people’s government in J &K . That is the scenario which Modi - or any head of the executive administration in Delhi - shouldn’t cherish .

Kashmir continues to be is in flux . Varied kinds of complexities - some inherent , some acquired and some thrust upon do not permit it to settle down . Successive governments in Delhi had to contend with the fluid situation . All of them tried to get over the problem . But work is still on . To be fair , therefore , PM Modi alone can’t be singled out for not finishing the task.

Governor’s administration is gearing up for Panchayat and ULB polls that were previously held in 2011 and 2005, respectively, after a gap of four decades . N C and PDP have decided to boycott them . Well , this is not a good omen . Nor does it sound convincing when the Union Home Ministry officials say that Panchayat polls are not Party based . This is probably said to ignore the terrorist’s threat to the election .The over simplistic part of the explanation is “ the boycott by the political parties was unlikely to have any bearing on the polls .” This could be said of any other place and not for J & K . The state is trying hard to come to terms with the hard geo-political realities , emotional predilections and some borrowed assumptions . Here , every political player is to be involved in the election process- no matter it is for a municipal body .

The electoral politics seems to have nosedived since 2015 . It had gradually picked up since 1996 when it got resumed after a long pause . In 2008 and 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections voting percentage did reach a healthy proportion. While as for Panchayat and ULB polling surpassed even normal time data . But it touched abysmally low in 2017 Srinagar by –poll .

NC and PDP may have buckled under HM’s “ acid pouring ” threat . This could be a ploy to turn the awkward position into a virtue by calling upon Central and State governments to come out in favor of Articles 35 A and 370 . These days we hear lot of noise raised for the deletion of these constitutional provisions . May be it is done as a distraction. But one has to understand that this noise acts as a trigger that ignites the volatile situation in the Valley which , apart from causing serious law and order problem , provides an escape route and alibi to the NC and PDP to gain some political mileage . After all , they are essentially Kashmir specific political parties , with Valley forming their core constituency . Therefore , it is a measure of political correctness on their part to make the participation in the upcoming local bodies elections dependent on Central government’s reaffirmation of support to these constitutional provisions .

However , sincerity in the claim is suspect , because these parties had no such reservations when they took part in summer election held to constitute the Kargil Hill Development Council . Some , however , would grant them an argument . Anantnag Lok Sabha by-poll is still in limbo , with no sign that it will be held before 2019 general elections . For a perspective observer that sums up the security scenario in Kashmir and gives a clear indication that situation has shown no improvement to justify holding of local body polls in the Valley .

Here ,one must tell NC and PDP leaders that by shirking out of the poll process they are doing no good to their credentials required to govern a state like J &K . This attitude will disappoint many peace loving people in the state , besides portraying them as spineless political entities .

In the emerging situation ,Central government is not shown in a good light . People will ask questions how come the conditions have so deteriorated that even political forces don’t find it physically safe to contest the elections, when till 2014 they would voluntarily plunge in the fray .

True , election process is integral to the democratic form of governance . So it has to be gone through at regular intervals . But it is a travesty of sorts that Policy planners in New Delhi have sought to show case it as a sole sign of stability in the state . Nonetheless , the explosion of ever volatile situation in Kashmir has demonstrated that elections have failed to satisfy the ‘ normalcy logic .’
We must keep it in mind that nation’s cause won’t be served it mainstream political formations in the Valley get squeezed out . More than Pakistan, it is some important elements in Delhi who , by calling the State Constitution an aberration , work to marginalize the pro India political forces in Kashmir . These elements need to be reined in if ever Kashmir is to be mainstreamed .

For Governor Malk it is time to acquaint himself with the hard ground realties : start interaction with the stake holders and try to get as many of them on board as will be helpful to repair the state’s damaged social and political fabric .

This alarming situation calls for a serious introspection at all levels . A realty check is required about the efficacy of so called ‘ masculine policy ‘ adopted since 2015 to deal with the situation .It doesn’t seem to have paid the desired dividend . We don’t know whether opposite of the ‘ masculine policy’ was ever employed in J &K . It is better to come out of the gender suffixed policies which have carried us nowhere . Instead , a comprehensive policy must be devised which may lead us out of the dark tunnel .

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected] )

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