Withering leadership in Jammu and Kashmir

Mahesh Chander Sudan
We, the people of JK, have been experiencing diminishing political leadership post bifurcation of the erstwhile state of J&K into two union territories. Imposition of restrictions and preventive custody of prominent political workers including three former chief ministers of the state left main stream valley centric political parties headless. This tough move of the central government to control uprisings in the Kashmir saved losing hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir. The political narrative in the Kashmir changed after youth took over the reign of dissent and it is felt that Union Government had no other option than redrawing the state structure. Bifurcation though unexpected became out of box option. Though politically it has been easy to undergo such drastic change but the aftermath demands mature handling of ground situation, political skill and ability to connect with multiple stakeholders with clear vision. It was felt that certain constitutional provisions like Article 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution may pose inherent handicap. Internal political contradiction within the state along with monolithic ethnic, religious, linguistic and political composition has been exploited to carryout desired bifurcation of the state as a political solution. Simultan-eously, a well-crafted move to revitalize anticorruption agencies for opening all pending cases against politicians, bureaucrats and separatists was initiated to scare local people away from the regional leadership so that desirable situation emerges for people to accept new arrangement unopposed. Disconnect so created between the leaders and the people of JK helped union dispensation to effectively carry out desired political change.
As it now stands that Union Government has used most considered option of bifurcation to handle issues of security, development, unemployment and alleged discrimination towards people of Jammu province, an objective analysis of the present situation indicates towards a serious political vacuum besides no major initiative to engage people in dialogue for generating a sense of confidence among people of both the regions and conveying future plans of the union dispensation. The uncertainty about the restoration of statehood as conveyed by none other than Home Minister and Prime Minister on many occasions perturbs general masses and is being exploited conveniently by political outfits by instilling a sense of unplanned and unscheduled governance for last one year. The tenure of first Lieutenant Governor could not initiate any dialogue with people of JK to convey the intent of the government neither through local political leadership nor directly through any ground level initiative. Ineffective and studio based attempts by local and national leaders of BJP, including ex-MLAs and sitting MPs, could hardly bring any positivity in the mind of people across UT. Direct dialogue without any discrimination as conveyed by new LG, Mr. Manoj Sinha, on his oath taking ceremony may expectedly turn the table. Intent of the ruling government is to be conveyed right through to the masses to scare away the sense of insecurity.
There apparently is a shrilling silence in the valley that speaks eloquently about the lack of space for people to communicate with their leaders. People are anxious to hear a soothing voice due to prolonged suspension of normal life affected out of imposed restrictions/lockdowns post abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and subsequent reorganization of the state into two union territories besides pandemic. It is now the turn of ruling dispensation to come forward and hold the hand of general masses to lead them out of shadowed ideological bent of mind spread/instilled with a design to manipulate the local populace. No doubt, our Armed Forces are able to control ongoing terrorism substantially by eliminating active terrorists and arresting new recruitment of local cadre but yet there are miles to go. Meanwhile, it is expected that recent change of LG may initiate dialogue process with local leadership across the political spectrum to minimize existing vacuum and also attract direct dialogue with prominent members of the society to convey future plan and invite their participation for interactive governance at this critical juncture to break the cycle of mistrust. Ignoring local political leadership may jeopardize smooth turnaround of the masses as monopolistic political attempt proves unhealthy in a functional democracy. Besides political empowerment, economic activities for opening new avenues for young entrepreneurs of the UT also needs rejuvenation to meet developmental aspirations and mitigate inequalities induced by decades of mismanagement and corruption.
A practical and pragmatic approach with just and fair treatment towards all irrespective of geographical considerations is need of the hour. Quality of governance with zero tolerance for corruption and excessive bureaucracy is expected from the new regime. There are a couple of issues where government should revisit like AFSPA, PSA and newly introduced Domicile Act. Issuance of Domicile certificate to citizen of JK irrespective of the fact whether one holds Permanent Resident Certificate generally referred as State Subject or otherwise is creating concern to bona fide citizens of then state of Jammu and Kashmir not only for undergoing the process but to face rampant corruption and intentional delay involved at Tehsil level.
It has inherent issue as regards permanent residents settled outside the geographical jurisdiction of the erstwhile state of J&K. There are couple of other issues like employment of educated youth, long pending high value projects, quality of education and school infrastructure, agriculture and horticulture sector where farmers have lost two crops in succession due to untimely rain and storms.
In the given scenario, it is evident that only a perception change can prevent further rise of public sentiments and a careful appraisal of building an alternative is needed to prevent people from being alienated irrevocably. It is in the right earnest that a healthy interactive political activation must be encouraged for providing a space for people to communicate and rejuvenate withered leadership in the interest of democracy at large. No democracy would flourish in single party system; hence we the people of JK urge Union Government and UT administration in specific to honor the healthy existence of multiparty system. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat.
The author is Wg Cdr (Retd)