Continue Political Engagement in J&K

It is altogether promising that the prime minister called a meeting of leaders who take part in democratic politics in Jammu and Kashmir and the leaders attended, without preconditions. This is the beginning of a much-needed process of political engagement and that is, in itself, its biggest achievement. No party demanded as a precondition return to the status quo before Article 370 was scrapped and the state was broken up into two Union territories.

When a lot of water has flowed and carried you along with it, trying to swim to where you were, rather than to the nearest land point, is rarely in the best interest of your own health. Elections, fresh delimitation of seats, restoration of statehood — these are on the agenda, but not restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Nor is undoing the status of Ladakh as a Union territory. Neither the government nor Kashmir’s parties should be inflexible on how to go about realising the goals on the agenda.

If the parties of Kashmir want the government to take some steps as a gesture of normalisation before the parties resume normal political activity, the demand should be acceded to.

It benefits no one for the mainstream political parties of Kashmir to be seen as being only too eager to take part in elections and assume whatever truncated office is offered, regardless of the condition of the ordinary people of the state. While there is no gainsaying the progress in terms of cessation of activities such as stone pelting against the security forces, it should not be undermined by sustained restrictions on civic liberties.

The parties of Kashmir have responded to the prime minister’s call for a meeting. The central leadership should accede to their demands for visible steps towards normalcy

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