Editorial

People’s parties: On resumption of political activity in J&K

Six mainstream parties of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday vowed to work together for the restoration of its special status under the Indian Constitution. On August 5, 2019, the Centre hollowed out Article 370 and dismembered J&K into two Union Territories through a dubious legislative route. Saturday’s joint declaration is a reiteration of their Gupkar Declaration a day before the Centre’s move last year. Still, this signals a slow return of political activity in J&K which had been stalled for over a year. With leaders in jail and curbs on communication and gatherings, mainstream politics has been under lockdown even as militancy showed an uptick. Several leaders have since been released, but many still remain in detention, including former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Besides the PDP’s Ms. Mufti, the declaration was signed by NC president Farooq Abdullah, People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone, J&K Congress president G.A. Mir, M.Y. Tarigami of the CPI(M) and Muzaffar Shah of the Awami National Conference. They have said their “political activities will be subservient to the sacred goal of reverting to the status of J&K as it existed on 4th August 2019”. Regional parties, the J&KPM and the PDF, also supported the declaration.

The Centre’s Kashmir strategy apparently assumed that mainstream parties had no popular support and would wilt once the heavy restrictions on their leaders stayed long enough. It also tried, rather naively, that a new cadre of politicians could be raised and a dramatic change in political culture achieved through external stimulants. Defectors from the PDP and panchayat leaders who won in an election boycotted by most parties completely failed to build any alternative politics. The Kashmir policy has been a mix of reckless audacity and ignorance, laced with the BJP’s brand of unitary nationalism. Asymmetric power sharing with several regions and the Centre has been critical to the formation and stability of the Indian Union. The current government itself, which is ostensibly opposed to special arrangements, negotiated on one with Naga rebels. The Centre has also reiterated there would be no alteration in any of the existing arrangements in the Northeastern region. In the case of J&K, the mainstream parties with deep social roots have always welded the region close to India. The BJP and the Centre sought to delegitimise them all as ‘soft separatists.’ They were immobilised and rendered vulnerable before their own people. These moves undermined all elementary principles of democracy and federalism, but also impaired what the Centre claimed it was doing — closer integration of J&K with India. There is a need for immediate course correction. J&K’s statehood must be restored and political activities should be freely allowed, for a start.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 12:15:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/peoples-parties-on-resumption-of-political-activity-in-jk/article32432541.ece

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