It was on 5th August 2019 that Union Home Minister Amit Shah tabled in the Parliament a bill seeking revocation of the temporary special status granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. The House voted in favour, leaving political outfits like Congress, National Conference and People’s Democratic Party besides dozens of national parties in a frenzy with some knocking at the doors of court while others trying to spill over roads, convincing their supporters and even threatening the Union Government in whatever manner they could.
Unable to imagine that Article 370, which by these political outfits was portrayed as a monster who if touched will swallow one and all, will be grounded so easily, political outfits like NC, PDP and Congress were left red-faced rather embarrassed before their own people. These political parties, in the garb of Article 370, had tried to act like a shield between the corrupt and the Union Government, militancy and the security forces, separatism and the system, Pakistan and the Indian State and most importantly, common people and development, that was nowhere to be seen since ages.
Having tried and failed to convince the common people that Article 370 was for their welfare and not a stumbling block in development, leaders of these outfits did whatever they could by even remaining in jails and issuing vague statements during these two years. These were the persons who had always been resorting to blackmailing tactics by boycotting elections or threatening of Pakistan’s imaginary misadventure on Indian soil if Article 370 was ever abrogated. But in reality, they were not even able to convince the people of how and why several central laws were not extended to Jammu and Kashmir.
These very leaders had even gone to the extent of stating that no one will unfurl tricolour in Kashmir and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even if he comes to power ten times, cannot abrogate Article 370. However, when on 5th August 2019, the bill abrogating Article 370 sailed smoothly in the Parliament and President of India Ram Nath Kovind issued an order under the power of Article 370, overriding the prevailing 1954 Presidential Order and nullifying all the provisions of autonomy granted to the state, the world watched it awestruck.
Not even a single life was lost, those into stone pelting realised the power of law, corrupt were weeded out, moles nailed, system of governance streamlined, central funds best utilised, infrastructure development started at par with international standards, new vistas opened up for young and educated abut those crying over spilled milk are to this day continuing their rhetoric hoping against hope. The end result, however, was what the world saw and people experienced in these two years.
Having sensed that there are no takers of their misconceptions, rhetorics, frivolous campaigns, fabricated facts and false notions, two years after abrogation of Article 370, former Chief Minister and member of G23 group of Indian National Congress (INC) Ghulam Nabi Azad finally said in a public rally at Kokernag, Anantnag on Sunday, “There’s no point raising Article 370 issue and we must demand restoration of Statehood and holding of polls”. This is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has time and again told people, but if someone wants to play to the gallery or try to gain some foothold in the political arena, they are all free to do so.
Second in line was another former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who also realised rather admitted his fault of scuttling a democratic process. He regretted not having participated in Panchayat polls. Though he stayed mum over other elections that NC boycotted in the past, yet he assured that the party will not boycott assembly elections in the UT whenever they are announced. By saying so, he too admitted that elections in Union Territory, a reality, will be contested like any other mainstream political party.
Now that these two stalwarts of two principal opposition parties, in their individual statements, have admitted that boycotting elections is not a solution or Article 370 is a passé, one could very well understand how National Conference and Congress are both sinking into reality of a new set up in the erstwhile state and how things are taking shape in the form of development which was always missing here. The creation of two UTs has not only set a process of cleansing the system of muck but also given people a new hope.
This is a ‘writing on the wall’ that Article 370 is never going to be restored but if anyone intends to keep his or her supporters in the dark, they are free to do so at their sweet will. The facts that were known theoretically, tentatively or at a distance have started to become a reality to the consciousness of these leaders. The truth actually has started sinking in with these political leaders which means that a sense of realization has also started occurring in their hearts and souls but the only work left out is how to give words to those feelings and face the supporters who were always kept in the dark.
Strangely, Ghulam Nabi Azad had also categorically said that militancy had led to disempowerment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “Thirty one years of militancy has brought pain for the people of J&K, affected it on all fronts and brought in death and destruction”, Azad had said. If one reads between the lines, it is understood that those who mattered on the political profile of J&K have stated a clear message to one and all that nothing less than a democratic process can pave a way for peace and development. Be it Omar or Azad, everyone wants elections in J&K which is a healthy sign.
Omar Abdullah, though had lambasted the Central Government and alleged that claims made by it were proving hollow especially after annulling of Articles 370 and 35-A, it will only be the time that will tell who was right and who was wrong. The way Central government projects are going on in the state, this is for sure that leaders like Omar Abdullah and even People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Mehbooba Mufti will have to chew their words back, participate in the democratic process, swear by the Indian Constitution and ultimately work for people’s welfare, without scaring them or threatening the Union Government of Pakistan’s misadventure or militancy threats, which is on its last leg.
Leaders like Omar Abdullah, who until yesterday were talking about state or country’s politics, are today trying to exploit people on regional lines. Those who didn’t bother about their workers and boycotted Panchayat or Urban Local Body polls are today patient to see reports of Delimitation Commission and J&K becoming a state or participating in elections whenever held. A healthy criticism of the government from the opposition is always welcome, but those who have now reconciled themselves to the developments, especially abrogation of Article 370, must stop exploiting people and instead tell them as well that it was a stumbling block which stands removed for their welfare.
(The writer is BJP Executive Member J&K UT)