The verdict on J&K

By K.N. Pandita

Political punditry is analyzing J&K poll verdict variously. Some tend to attach all importance to numbers and figures. They ground the theory of integration of J&K State into the Indian Union on the basis of poll figure-work.
Additionally, they substantiate this line of thinking by drawing comparison with previous poll results. We do not challenge figures. We are convinced that there were no substantial complaints about rigging of election or untracked flaw in the conduct of elections. In that sense this Assembly election enjoys more credibility.

But we note the contradiction in this line of approach. If improved numbers are indicators for determining greater pro-democracy propensity of the electorate in the State, why then is there unprecedented escalation in border clashes as well as militant attacks inside the valley particularly in South Kashmir, Shopian, Sopor and other places. How should one account for this contradiction?

The argument is that the call for boycott given by separatist leaders did not really make cognizable impact on the electorate. The number of voters who came out to cast their ballot paper in 2014 Assembly elections was higher in comparison to the numbers in previous years. It was around 65 per cent, definitely higher than all the elections in post-insurgency period.

But this is not the only interpretation one can draw from this discourse. Consider that soon after the separatist began giving boycott calls with 1996 elections, simultaneously more imaginative and pragmatic segments among the separatist in the valley initiated a different discourse, albeit privately. The refrain was that the voting was not about final decision of Kashmir dispute but about mitigating day to day

This inimitable approach to the elections made considerable impact on the people. Consequently, it reflected in higher turnout of voters that we noticed in recent Assembly elections. One may feel satisfied with 65 per cent figure but what has one to say to the expanding idea of extracting material advantages and leaving the dispute intact to fuel intermittent militancy and consequential casualties? Is it a step towards integration process or is it pervasiveness of separatist ideology to make it roadworthy at will?

What have we to say to the stark reality of Kashmir valley (and very amusingly Ladakh and Kargil as well) denying national mainstream majority party, viz. BJP even a toehold in the valley? Consider also the Congress, as national mainstream party unable to return even a single Hindu member either from the Valley or from Jammu. The Congress glorifies itself as “secularist”.

Needless to remind that all the three frontline parties, viz. NC, Congress and PDP ganged up to keep BJP out of the valley. It is for the leadership of these parties to decide whether making BJP an outcast, a party which is also at the helm of affairs in New Delhi, is a decision that will be in the inte

Secondly, domestic situation in Pakistan in past few years and the faceoff between Pak Army and TTP has not gone unnoticed among the majority population in the valley. Even the diehard pro-Pakistani in Kashmir understands that internal conflict in Pakistan is bound to weaken that country to the extent that it will not retain the strength and capacity of contributing to economic development of Kashmir. Evidently, larger turnout is reflex action for having the cake as well as keeping it.

Some will call it a landmark event in the process of integration. That is a wishful thinking. Economic development and visible change in life style are no priorities with the people in the valley. The priority is to grab whatever comes to hand through blackmail and machination. The cinereous cells can be activated at will particularly when there is threat to exclusivity. The case of Yasin Malik and his goons coming out on streets and pelting stones in protest to Central government’s loud thinking of rehabilitating West Punjab refugees in Jammu is an indicator. It is also the tactics of testing the effectiveness of Governor’s rule.

Intrinsically, the vote has not been for integration. It is for creation of space for transition. Economically better placed people can have better maneuverability for subversion of accession, leave integration alone.

Having made common cause with NC and Congress in keeping BJP out of the valley, PDP should not have much difficulty in accepting the hand of NC and Congress to form coalition government. But the problem with it is that during the election campaign it used all the trump cards it could gather together to malign BJP as a right wing Hindu party out to scrap Article 370 of the constitution. In other words, this propaganda meant that the PDP would have nothing to do with Hindu rightist party even if it had majority in the Parliament and secondly that it is a great defender of Article 370.
In the first place total falsehood is spread in regard to BJP’s stand on Article 370. PM Narendra Modi wants a fair debate on the advantages and disadvantages of continuance of this Article. In fact this debate would be in the larger interests of the people of the valley. But regional political parties with base in the valley distorted the views of BJP and propagated that the party wanted to scrap the Article. They forged the lie and now they have to face the consequences.

This has created serious difficulty for these parties. The problem prohibiting them from forming the government is that of face-saving. How will PDP or NC justify collating with a party it painted in darkest colour and almost profiled it a pariah? Does this provide space for integration? On the other hand, we shall be calling a spade by its name if we say that polarization on communal basis has set in the politics of the state viciously.

Many voices have been raised in the past suggesting geographical restructuring of the state. Protagonists marshal strong arguments in justification but all stakeholders have reservations, essentially political, in opting for restructuring. However, the strong current of history cannot be stymied by taking recourse to feigned slogan of unity and harmony. The real discourse about J&K State should now move round this proposition since integration has taken good beating at the hands of the electorate in all the three regions of the State.

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