Will Kashmir see political change, finally?
It was a sight that people of both Kashmir valley and Jammu region were longing to see for over two years since August 5, 2019, when in a sudden and surprise move, the BJP government in very early days of its second consecutive term announced the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution of India and bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, namely J&K and Ladakh.
The sight of political leaders of all national and regional political parties of both Jammu region and Kashmir valley standing for a group photograph with the Prime minister of India, Home Minister of India and Lt. Governor of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, was something that has given hope to the people of UT that finally its people can truly move forward towards a restored statehood and a stable political future. The Jammu and Kashmir has remained in a state of violence, instability, political chaos and economic decline for over three decades, the time, when rest of the world has moved far ahead economically and on other parameters of development. Since early 1990s, the Kashmir valley in particular has only seen instability and disruption and the people of the Kashmir valley genuinely want an end to this security and political uncertainty.
Therefore, what happened on 5th August 2019 was the maximum shakeup that could have been done to the erstwhile state of J&K. It therefore came as a big relief to the people of Kashmir valley to see that New Delhi has finally after two years, once again outreached to the political leadership of Kashmir valley with offer of talks to chart out next future course of action for the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Too much media speculation has been focused on trying to decipher the so called “change of heart” of center towards what it earlier described infamously as “anti national” shenanigans of “Gupkar Gang”, an agglomeration of mainly Kashmir centric political parties. Many analysts have said that prime reason for New Delhi’s Kashmir outreach could be due to external factors. The loss of Presidential bid by Trump administration, Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh and the planned departure of NATO forces from Afghanistan (close to Kashmir valley), could have collectively compelled New Delhi to pick up threads for completing its political initiatives on Kashmir, that began by abrogation of Article 370.
There are also speculations that even Pakistan has finally reconciled to the futility of its misadventure in Kashmir and that there are secret backdoor talks going on between India and Pakistan to ensure that electoral political process and governance by elected representatives returns back in Jammu and Kashmir. These speculations are strengthened by the fact that western front that borders Jammu and Kashmir has been relatively peaceful for past two years and there has been drastic reduction in militancy and internal violence in Kashmir valley, all pointing to the current period being the best time to restart political negotiations on political future of Jammu and Kashmir.
DDC elections conducted in Jammu and Kashmir have clearly shown that old political system continues to hold sway amongst the people of Jammu and Kashmir and especially, Kashmir centric parties like J&K National Conference and J&K PDP cannot be ignored. Therefore, it was a pleasant sight to see Mehbooba Mufti and father son duo of Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah along with Ghulam Nabi Azad being invited for talks with the Prime Minister and Home Minister of India.
From all available journalistic sources, it is clear that talks were free and fair and all participants including political leadership from Congress and Kashmir centric parties expressed their views freely and conveyed their demand for not only the restoration of the statehood for J&K, but also bringing back Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution of India. The center, it is believed was keen on completing the delimitation process and holding of elections in the UT as an administrative cum political step in parallel to negotiations on the restoration of the statehood for J&K. On a positive note, which is seen as a major concession from Kashmir centric leadership, National Conference also publicly appeared to agree that restoration of statehood need not be a precondition to the holding of elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
All these developments augur well for the political future of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been facing back-to-back problems on security and economic front, exacerbated by the economically devastating impact of Coronavirus pandemic, which has even crushed an otherwise booming economy of Jammu region. It is also the need of the hour that the process to reshape the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir undertaken two years back be finally culminated by holding of election and handing over the governance to the elected representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and restoration of the statehood. While most will not say it openly but the political spectrum of Kashmir valley and its people are now reconciled to the fact that Article 370 and Article 35A will not come back ever, not even if BJP government doesn’t come to power in 2024 again.
In a way, past two years despite its tumult have indirectly sealed the political fate of Jammu and Kashmir and if anyone, especially in Kashmir valley had any thought of changing the political map of the South Asia once again, that has been put to rest. The people of Jammu and Kashmir truly want to move forward and reclaim everything that they lost in last three decades. There is a genuine desire to move on, especially among the people of Kashmir valley, who have lost pretty much everything in last three decades in an elusive search for something that eventually broke apart their state and brought immense misery to its people. This is absolutely perfect time to finish off the administrative and political process of reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir and restore its self-respect and dignity of its people in the comity of the union of India.
The writer is State Secretary of People’s Democratic Front can be reached at @javedbeigh across Social Media Platforms. Views expressed are his personal.