Nine months after the promised new ‘dawn’, J&K still groping in the dark  

Despite signs of a tired political class yielding to New Delhi’s overtures in Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi still finds it difficult to ensure political legitimacy for the agenda it seeks to implement

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
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Gulzar Bhat

An opinion piece published in a local broadsheet and another in The Indian Express have sparked speculation over what is being hatched on Raisina Hill next.

Both opinion pieces have come in the backdrop of renewed militancy, with early May witnessing the killing of an army Colonel, a Major and a J&K Police officer by militants. The spurt in militancy called the bluff of normalcy that is claimed in official statements. With New Delhi coming under increasing international pressure on Kashmir, the urgency to initiate even cosmetic political initiatives has increased.

In his opinion piece in the national newspaper, BJP national secretary Ram Madhav spoke of rewarding Kashmiris with restoration of 4G Internet connection and revival of the political process. Meanwhile, in a local broadsheet Tanveer Sadiq kicked up a storm by calling for reconciliation. Sadiq, political secretary to former chief minister Omar Abdullah, also called for the release of political prisoners and lifting curbs on data services.

A day after the Sadiq’s opinion piece appeared, the chief spokesperson of National Conference Aga Syed Ruhulllah tweeted:”Revisit” domicile law? Lift curbs on internet? “LET” political process be run? Is that all you are looking for in this reconciliation? If I am not reading wrong, you are basically asking for 4G and THEIR ‘PERMISSION’ to let us start the political process? & then all is well?”

Sadiq’s reconciliation call had clearly touched a raw nerve and indicated New Delhi’s failure in winning friends and influencing people in the Valley. Sadiq’s call was also curious because of its timing. National Conference had clarified on several occasions that it would speak on post-August 5 developments only after all political leaders are released. What then compelled Sadiq to speak out of turn ?

The timing of the publication also appears significant because of renewed attempts by the BJP and the administration to form a ‘political’ Advisory Council in Kashmir.

“With none of the government’s much publicised development plans for Jammu and Kashmir having taken off , it has now occurred to the top leadership of BJP that reliance on the bureaucracy alone is not going to help; that is why they want some sort of political arrangement till the elections are held”, said a leader of the Apni Party.

“The advisory council will be a guided one. It cannot possibly secure political or democratic legitimacy”, says Shahnawaz Mantoo, a Kashmir based political observer.”Such a council can’t be a substitute to a popular representative government”, he added.

Speculation in Srinagar suggest however that the newly minted Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari is all set to head the council.Sources in Apni Party confirmed the developments but admitted that sceptics outnumbered people in favour of the council.

“New Delhi wants an advisory council of political leaders who will be accountable to the people”, said the sources. The new dawn promised by the Prime Minister after the BJP Government abrogated Article 370 and overnight bifurcated the state of J & K into two Union Territories, is yet to break. The lives of people have not changed for the better, development projects have been scarce and militancy has survived.

Nine months after August 5 last year, when BJP leaders had exulted and said abrogation of Article 370 would solve all pending problems in one go, there is no visible improvement in the situation. The dramatic political strike of August 5 has neither helped people nor the Government.

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