Don't let down the people of Jammu and Kashmir

“Ye kya uthaaye kadam aur aa gayi manzil, Mazaa to tab hai ke paeron mein kuch thakaan rahey.”

Rahat Indori may have poetically justified the pain of a long-drawn process, but when it comes to Jammu and Kashmir, the single most depressing news is the inability of the political parties to come up with a solution to the stalemate in government formation. Politics has gone into a state of deep-freeze this winter, despite a fabulous election and robust campaigning by all four major political parties: PDP, BJP, NC and Congress.

Voters wait in queue at a polling station during the fourth phase of the J&K Assembly election in the Anantnag district on December 14, 2014. Politics in J&K has gone into a state of deep-freeze this winter, despite a fabulous election and robust campaigning by all four major political parties: PDP, BJP, NC and Congress. File pic
Voters wait in queue at a polling station during the fourth phase of the J&K Assembly election in the Anantnag district on December 14, 2014. Politics in J&K has gone into a state of deep-freeze this winter, despite a fabulous election and robust campaigning by all four major political parties: PDP, BJP, NC and Congress. File pic

The PDP is the frontrunner to form government, but it has run into roadblocks while shopping for an ally. The BJP wants its pound of flesh and wants to strike a Faustian bargain. How will this marriage work? Will the PDP shed its soft-separatist agenda masked as a ‘Kashmiri nationalist’ party and make peace with a ‘unionist party’, the BJP? A relationship which is so difficult to forge that it does not hold promise of providing a stable future, especially in a state where stability is crucial. J&K has been a war theatre, and has seen a separatist movement that has claimed thousands of lives and decades of conflict.

Kashmiri elections are always a matter of intense debate, especially among journalists. Not many of us can resist discussing emerging scenarios at any and every occasion, at the cost of boring people around us to death. Clearly, some of us would give anything to cast a vote, so intense are our opinions of what should or shouldn’t be done in Jammu and Kashmir. The same holds true for Pakistan. Though, off late, most Pakistanis, other than the die-hard jehadis and establishment (read Army, intelligence), could hardly be concerned about what happens in the Valley or in Ladakh or Jammu. No, not even the ‘Return of the Pandits’ *drumroll* bothers ordinary Pakistanis. Their children are being killed in schools in mass murders. For heaven’s sake, there are more pressing priorities.

See, it is not really possible to talk about Jammu and Kashmir without dragging in a mention of Pakistan, try as much as we do. There is that part called Pakistan- Occupied Kashmir or as the Pakistanis call, Azad Kashmir, whose people watched with great interest the elections in the Indian part. Pakistan-occupied Kashmiris have a mess out there.

Sadly, we have a mess, too, though ours is not a constitutional mess like the one in Pakistan. Ours is a political one. How should the PDP and BJP come to terms with the fact that on Article 370, there is no meeting ground? On AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Prevention Act), New Delhi could make concessions by getting the Army on board and cajoling the hardliners in the BJP to play ball. But will they do it just before the Delhi elections? Will they risk being accused of being a U-turn party just before a prestigious assembly election?

While it’s still debatable whether AFSPA will be an issue in Delhi, or if AAP will make it an issue, or if the BJP be able to wriggle out of it, most people in Delhi have realised that all that was on BJP’s 2014 manifesto is not deliverable. Not now, and not in the near future. Even Baba Ramdev has stopped talking of black money. And on some land deals that were a poll issue, we are getting a “law will take its own course” answers. Okay, then. It is not for no reason that they say, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”

If the BJP can make compromises with its strong views on AFSPA, then the PDP could put on hold its demands regarding Article 370, though neither will openly admit to it. Then there is the National Conference playing the dancing Menaka to the Vishwamitra of BJP. Cavorting in the snowy chill of Srinagar or in the balmier sunshine- soaked Lutyens’ Delhi. Journalists and power brokers are taking messages back and forth, not trusting cell phones and CCTV networked corridors of the capital.

The suspense over government formation is still not over in Jammu and Kashmir. The ‘winners’ are not in the driving seat and are wondering about who will actually occupy the treasury benches. Strangely there seems to be no pressure from the people of Jammu and Kashmir. When people vote in a democracy, they vote for democracy. They are the ones who stand to lose the most if the state slips into Governor’s rule. A democratically elected government will be the best start for Jammu and Kashmir in the new year.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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