Political uproar in Jammu and Kashmir
All the Kashmiri parties – National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Congress, J&K Apni Party (JKAP), People’s Conference (PC), Democratic Azad Party (DAP) and Communist Party of India Marxist (CPIM) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Kejriwal — have unleashed a no-holds-barred campaign to force the Narendra Modi government to hold Assembly elections in J&K UT at the earliest. All have been denouncing the Modi government since August 2020 for what they call “denying” the people their right to elect a government of their own choice and “downgrading J&K to the status of UT”. Besides, they have been accusing BJP of “ruling J&K UT through the backdoor, subverting democracy and floating new parties in Kashmir to divide” what they call “Muslim votes to weaken the Kashmir’s struggle for a separate status”.
J&K BJP, too, has been saying that it is prepared for Assembly elections and claiming that it will win “50+ seats in the 90-member house and form the next government in the UT on its own strength”. On December 9, 2022, it even went to the extent of asserting that “it will replicate Gujarat in J&K as and when elections take place”. BJP watchers opine that it’s difficult to appreciate the BJP’s claim citing the nature of J&K UT’s demographics.
The only party which is opposing elections in J&K UT is Ikkjutt Jammu Party (IJP). It has been consistently suggested that elections should be held only after the separation of Jammu from Kashmir. Its demand is a full-fledged separate Jammu State. The upshot of its whole argument is that if the people of Jammu province are to obtain their due share in the administration and governance, lead a life of dignity, protect and promote their distinct identity and achieve the political status they legitimately deserve in the Indian polity, they have to be segregated from Kashmir. Their view just can’t be dismissed as silly and preposterous given the nature, ideology, and programme of the Kashmiri leadership and its stand on India, the Indian Constitution, J&K, and Jammu province.
As for the view of the Union Home Ministry, it has been saying again and again that the Election Commission of India alone can hold elections in J&K UT and it’s for it to take a final call taking into consideration the security environment. The point is that it has not given any timeline for reasons not really difficult to fathom.
It needs to be noted that J&K has been under the Central rule since June 19, 2018. On that eventful day, the roundly criticized BJP brought down the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government on the ground that it was militant-friendly and anti-Jammu and anti-Ladakh. PM Modi had dismissed the PDP-BJP alliance as a “Mahamilawati gathvandhan” and said the Mufti-led government had harmed the nation in J&K. He only hit the nail on the head and to retrieve the situation, his government sprung a big surprise by abrogating Articles 35A and 370 and dividing J&K State into J&K UT and Ladakh UT on August 5-6, 2019. None in the world had ever thought that any government at the Centre would ever dare to do what the Modi government did in no time and that, too, with the full backing of the Parliament, including the Rajya Sabha which it didn’t have the required numbers.
Is the local administration in J&K in favour of early Assembly elections? If not, why? A report from New Delhi clearly suggests that the local administration doesn’t favour early Assembly elections. In fact, the local administration in Kashmir’s terrorist-infested “Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian, Awantipora, and Budgam is of the view that if the terrorist network is to be completely smashed, elections have to be held only after a year”.
What arguments does the local administration advance to make their point? One, they question the pre-2019 politico-administrative system in J&K and say, “it only weakened the campaign against terrorists and separatists” and that “it was a system full of flaws”. Two, according to one “Pulwama’s senior police officer”, who pinpointed the “differences between the pre-2019 and post-2019 system”, disclosed that “as and when the security forces would apprehend over ground workers (OGWs) of terror outfits before 2019, the local politicians, social associations religious groups would start ringing up the police officials on their behalf”.
The report from New Delhi further said: “Before August 2019, terrorists were glamorized” and “the administration would not take any action against them. “It was only after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 that things changed. Now, nobody rings up the police officials when the OGWs are apprehended or arrested. The administration has been given a free hand and the result has been that it has been able to break the terrorist network”. The report quoting an “Anantnag-based senior officer” also said: “The freehand given to the administration and security forces have not only helped them rein in terrorists and check terror-related activities but also helped them win over the confidence of the people through developmental processes and welfare schemes…”
In short, the refrain of the local administration is that early elections in J&K would not only hamper the ongoing anti-terrorist operations but also negate all the good work that the administration and security forces did after August 2019. And, they do make a point.
Elections in J&K UT would automatically mean retransfer of the state power to those in Kashmir who never missed any opportunity to widen the gulf between Kashmir and the rest of the country, create hatred against things Indian, subvert and misuse administration and political, financial, and social institutions to advance their devious and unsettling agenda. Indeed, early elections in J&K would only help the same elements to do what they did between 1947 and 2018 in a most brazen manner and with utmost ease, with certain elements in the South and North Blocks always at their beck and call.
A reference to just three most recent statements made by Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, and Omar Abdullah, all former J&K CMs, would be only in order to prove that things would worsen in Kashmir if elections held before completely eliminating the menace of terrorism and separatism, based on religious fanaticism. On August 8, 2022, Farooq Abdullah, among other things, said: “The restoration of Article 370 and 35A will not come from the sky…We all have to struggle for that together. The day will come and Article 370 will be restored again with dignity and honour”. On December 6, he openly threatened agitation and talked of “sacrifices” he and his followers would make. Leave aside his pro-Pakistan and pro-China and anti-Indian Army statements. On November 28, pro-Pakistan and pro-self-rule Mehbooba Mufti, inter-alia, said: “Whatever was snatched by PM Narendra Modi government on August 5, 2019, would be brought back with interest”. And on December 13, Omar Abdullah, among other things, said: “NC will repeal Public Safety Act if it forms government…Abrogation of Article 370 will be an issue in the Assembly elections…It is obvious that this election will not be contested merely on bijli, sadak, pani (electricity, roads, and water. Whatever has happened since August 5, 2019, will be an election issue…”
It is hoped the powers-that-be in New Delhi would go with what the local administration suggests and abandon the idea of elections. It is also hoped that the Narendra Modi government would limit the area of strife to only Kashmir by separating Jammu province.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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