Area of concern
With the J-K administration announcing schedule for Panchayat by-polls, some political activity has at last started in the state, though not at the scale that would indicate a big headway in the badly stalemated political situation. While a chunk of leaders in the National Conference say they will take part in these elections which are, this time, being held along the party-lines, there are certain others in the same party who feel that they should wait until the top leaders of the party including its president, vice-president and general secretary are freed of preventive detention. Congress party has also said that it will participate in the elections if the detained political leaders are set free and allowed to participate in electioneering.
Loud political rhetoric surrounding the abrogation of state’s special status aside, fact of the matter is that the development has stoked an overly turbulent situation in the state, particularly in the Kashmir Valley. Ordinary people here have so many fears as to what all is going to happen in the days ahead. Indeed what has added to the popular fears here is that the entire political leadership has been virtually taken out of circulation for more than six months now. This has created a dangerous political vacuum here, which is and should be an area of concern for all. And the government certainly cannot remain insulated to it.
So the biggest challenge facing the government is how to allay popular fears and instill sense of confidence and security among the people of Kashmir. For this to happen, there has to be some kind of headway on the political front. The by-elections to the Panchayats will take place, irrespective of whether main political parties participate or not, but for now government will have to take a call on the fate of the existing political mainstream. It goes without saying that the leaders who are detained cannot be held in detention forever. Sooner or later they will have to be freed. And once they are out in the public domain, their conduct will certainly have a bearing on the future politics of this place. Prolonging the detention of political leadership is actually contributing to prolonging the political impasse here, which is in nobody’s favour.
Creating an alternative political leadership is a cumbersome and time-consuming process – easier said than done. This is such a common sense reality that even those vying for such an alternative cannot be expected to be unaware of. Same common sense also informs that this place cannot wait for an infinite period of time for any alternative to emerge, and then be able to enthuse people to support it so that some worthwhile and meaningful political process would begin here. This is an area that needs some serious thinking and one could only hope that it will be getting the kind of attention and focus it deserves.