Few days ago, in Delhi, senior officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs told a department – related parliamentary panel that” the situation in Jammu & Kashmir was returning to normal and the detained politicians, including former CMs, would be released .” Timeline of the release, however, was not mentioned . Even then it is an encouraging news . But at the same time it raises a question . What is ‘normal ‘ in J &K ?
The question can’t have a straight answer . But living as we do in the place and time , it is essential to find some sort of a meaning of the word . Ever since the word ‘normal ‘ has entered the lexicon it couldn’t find a meaning that would hold good for all situations and the circumstances . It is generally used in relative terms and from a particular perspective, held by a party or a person at the given point of time . Understandably so, because in the era of competitive politics – we live in – often positions get hardened and stances turn acutely polemical : where everything is seen and felt from a convenient and make believe angle . Therefore, it becomes well nigh impossible to stick to a static ( dictionary ) definition of the word ‘ normal .’ No wonder, late Arun Jaitly would always emphasize on the necessity of creating a ‘ new normal ‘ to govern ‘modern ‘ India . For him the meaning of ‘normal’, we knew , became old and out dated. So, he discovered a new normal in 2016 to justify demonetization of the currency of certain denomination.
The MHA officials gave enough indications as to how they came to believe that normality is returning to Kashmir . Residents in the Valley and some knowledgeable observers elsewhere in the country have a different view , in this regard . In the situation that prevails in the State – particularly in the Valley – ‘ normal ‘ for us is when social and political conditions settle down and create a conducive atmosphere for things to grow and flower,as ordained by the nature . So, are things in Kashmir normal as MHA officials would like us to believe ? Answer to it is quite mind boggling. May be for the MHA Kashmir is ‘normal ‘ because there are no noticeable demonstrations and the violent public uprising which they apprehended -post August 5th developments – due to which state suffered monumental changes in its history and the geography . But can we afford to disregard the truth that there is a simmering discontent, anger and indifference lying underneath the so called calm which one sees over ground?
May be MHA is right in its assessment that J &K is getting normal . In that case it is incumbent on the government to allow concomitant attributes of normalcy to play out in every nook and corner of the state . A common man has certain ingredients of the normality in his mind . He would want to have free movement of his legs, freedom of thought and mind and free flow of information . He wants his desire to engage in political and social activity respected . Then, children going to schools, business following usual pattern and availability of means of connectivity will surely be the signs of the ” normality” for an ordinary resident .
Restoration of internet services in the state would be a big sign of normalcy . Internet blockade has crippled the state’s economy and disabled lakhs of students from pursuing studies, within and outside the state .
It is an encouraging sign that , as revealed by the LG Girish Chandr Murmu , state will soon have elections to constitute Assembly . Before that happens a level playing field has to be provided to all those political forces who have faith in the electoral system, which they demonstrated in the past . Political leaders and the activists must be freed from the detention and given sufficient time to reorganize themselves so as to face the electoral challenge . As reported by the media, a development of far reaching consequences became noticeable some time back when PM Narendra Modi sent a letter of felicitations to Farooq Abdullah on his 84th birthday . If we believe the knowledge sources, a backdoor channel has been opened up to the other detained leaders, also . In the natural course of things, normal J &K will be the one when we start to distinguish between the detainees who always stood by India – in times good or bad – and the separatists . It is appropriate here to recall that the incarcerated mainstream leaders are those whom India, in past and the recent times, kept parading before the world as authentic representatives of Kashmiri people . To a discernible resident of the state ‘ normality ‘ will strike him most when Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and hundreds of other mainstream leaders are not lumped together with those whose only aim is to tear apart J & K from the Union . When a common person sees everything opposite to it in his near and far off neighborhood things can’t be normal for him .
Undoubtedly, there is real need to build a new ‘normal ‘ in Jammu and Kashmir . A ‘normal ‘ that is tempered with compassion and is alive to the local sensitivities. It has to be on the foundations of a cohesive social atmosphere, a sound sub-regional harmony , better management of political challenges and improved security scenario for all the residents, including those who, today in their own land, stand displaced from their home and hearth
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge )