- Ever since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, and the bifurcation of the region as two Union Territories, including Ladakh, has received consistent opposition from the local political parties vociferously seeking restoration of the status quo ante. Many political leaders placed under long-duration house arrest and incarcerated in different parts of the country did create an atmosphere of distrust. This only helped in exacerbating the feelings of animosity towards the Union Government. Continued restrictions on internet usage did little to assuage the vitiated situation in the valley. Subsequently, many of the restrictions are on the mend what with 4G internet getting restored as well as the release of prominent politicians over the last few months.
- Since then, certain decisive moves are afoot in J&K to restore normalcy. The direct elections of Sarpanches and members of the District Development Council was one such definite positive move initiated by the administration in their efforts to resume restoration of normalcy. Further, in significant progress, the Prime Minister also took a measured step in the rebuilding of the political process in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir by calling a meeting of the political leaders from the region. Of course, the optics of the Union Government calling for a meeting with the political class itself sounded a positive step ahead as it was the first formal meeting leaders from Kashmir Valley had with the PM.
- The symbolism of the PM meeting regional leaders amidst a lack of harmony from the opposition ranks cannot be lost either. Though any positive move evokes hopes for the future. Notably, Article 370 did not prove to be a negotiation-killer during the meeting. As you are aware, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is seized of the legal issues about Article 370. Most hearteningly, invited political leaders from Kashmir indicated that they would abide by the outcome of the ruling. It is worth reiterating that the entire peace process for decades in Kashmir has been hostage to cross-border terrorism. With a palpable thaw visible in India’s relationship with Pakistan in the last few months, this appears to be an opportune moment to take the next few steps in the political process.
PC: Prabhati Nayak Mishra
- In this regard, timely completion of the ongoing delimitation exercise assumes paramount importance to kick-start the process of assembly elections. The thorny issue of associate members from Kashmir restraining from participating in the delimitation committee meetings could be amicably resolved only with the active participation of all political stakeholders. Against this backdrop, this meeting would facilitate to cover all aspects and ensure the credibility of the process itself allowing some political parties to shed their reluctance to join the democratic process in right earnest. Make no mistake, the long-term goal is to restore statehood. The Government of India is leaving no stone unturned in its resolve to develop the region as it recently approved a financial package of Rs. 28,400 crores spread over 16 years for J&K’s industrial development. This large commitment will augur well for the region.