Wg Cdr Mahesh Chander Sudan
We, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, have recently witnessed an unexpected but long due meeting with local political leaders called by Prime Minister of India to share his concerns, future plans and to seek the involvement of local leadership in restoring grass root democracy in newly formed union territory. The decision to hold all party meeting at Prime Minister official residence came as a surprise to the participants but in line with the style of functioning adopted by incumbent PM who is known to have thrown many surprises in the past. It ignited speculative politics giving birth to numerous political options with regard to Jammu and Kashmir. There were 14 invitees selected from eight active political parties of the union territory. This high profile composition of the group of former CMs, Dy CMs and heads of eight political parties indicated some positivity to the general masses that have been suffering the pain of guinea pigs in political laboratory for last couple of years. Political pundits, analysts and observers shared many theories with regard to the future of UT. Most of these leaders especially from valley were arrested and put under preventive detention to facilitate implementation of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019. Invitation to these leaders who were considered potent obstacles two years ago raised level of mystery and allowed speculative politics to flourish till 24 Jun 2021.
It progressively emerged that the meeting held with all party leaders aimed to break the existing deadlock and convey that the Union Government was in a conciliatory mood. Another purpose of the said outreach apparently was to know the mind of the local public representatives and to share views of the Central Government on road ahead. This meeting pragmatically conveyed that the union dispensation was ready to restore statehood as committed earlier, preparing for holding assembly elections post delimitation of constituencies and the Union Territory of Ladakh would continue to remain UT even after restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. The message conveyed by Union Government to all stake holders is to render healthy participation for early completion of delimitation exercise that would usher strengthening grassroots of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir.
The issue remains that the democracy functions for the welfare of the people and the whole gamut of exercise carried out by Union government in holding all party meeting is singularly serving political end. It may send positive massage to international community, encourage local political leaders to start dialogue at various platforms, attract new breed of leaders ideologically towards BJP, help a specific political party to acquire mandate in their favor but it may not help unemployed youth to get job, rejuvenate industry to accelerate productivity, poor farmers to enhance their income and above all condone overage eligibility condition of educated unemployed who have not been provided avenue during last three years of minimum governance provided under alternate arrangement. It hardly has any take away for migrant Kashmiri pundits who are suffering exile for last three decades and were not even considered for representation in the meeting. Does this have anything for POJK migrants who are almost begging for approved final settlement claims? No doubt, politics acts as a spinning wheel for functioning of democracy but the politics ought not to override the spirit of democracy that allows equal opportunity to each and every citizen. It may not be out of place to mention that local populace of erstwhile state of J&K are yet not prepared to accept hurriedly implemented division of princely state, abrogation of article 370 and 35A, absence of empathetic dealing by central government and avoidable forced lockdowns even before the onset of pandemic. It is amply clear that the sudden change of mind of central leadership towards these leaders emerged out of political compulsion for realigning their electoral strategy not only in J&K but also for forthcoming legislative elections in states like UP during 2022.
All party meeting swiftly planned and conducted without any agenda speaks voluminously about international pressure, sliding ideological impact noticed during panchayat elections, cadre inactivation due to multiple hierarchical control points, absence of long term sustainable people friendly policy for J&K to avoid surprises. The crucial uncertainty about the right time for restoration of statehood has once again been repeated in the All Party Meeting that sends disturbing signals for local people especially from the valley. This narrative allows negativity at grass root level as no timeline has been fixed and it thus becomes exploitable by vested interests. The point has already been raised at different platforms by senior politicians. Except for highlighting prominent milestones on the road ahead like delimitation, legislative elections and restoration of statehood, nothing decisive and concrete has been conveyed for furthering state welfare through this high profile meet.
In the given scenario, it is expected and reiterated in earnest that Union dispensation must prioritize their act to reinstall suspended democracy in JKUT, restore statehood and allow people to exercise their right to franchise for acquiring participative governance for larger welfare of the state, honour regional sentiments to prove unity in diversity and ensure equality before law as enshrined in the supreme law of land. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat.
Wg Cdr Mahesh Chander Sudan