By Arun Joshi
Political developments have picked up pace in Jammu and Kashmir after the top leadership of the Union Territory received call for an all-party meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 24. The parties have been deliberating how to approach the meeting and with what outcome at the end of the day.
The discussions and consultations have been going on since Saturday and will continue till the time they board flight to Delhi to be present at the meeting to get some concessions from Delhi against the backdrop of what all happened to Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, 2019. On that day of August 5, the state lost special status and statehood and suffered geographical split into two union territories.
Among those who received call for the meeting included four former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mehbooba Mufti, inviting them to the meeting, it was a culmination of the home work that the Centre had done over the past few months with a move to avert the international pressure on Kashmir and also to take the ownership of the things it had planned for Jammu and Kashmir with the political acceptance of the local leadership.
It is a big swing from one stand to the other. The demonization has been replaced with the prospects of dialogue. It is part of the history now that Kashmiri leaders were jailed and the Valley was locked down with a communication clampdown to preempt the troubles feared by the authorities post abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A. This saved the day for the Centre as there was a calm and the feared bloodshed was not allowed to take place. Kashmiri leaders were subjected to a continuous narration of being corrupt and peddlers of dynastic politics and patrons of secessionism and secessionists . They were painted as “ anti-nationals”.
Delhi had anticipated that its push for infrastructural and human development would help it gain place in the hearts and minds of the people of J&K, especially the Valley, which is often known for its anti-Centre narrative. Simultaneously there was an all-out assault on the roots of terrorism in Kashmir. The army chief Gen. M M Naravane concluded that Kashmir situation is “ normal”. He also claimed that the security scenario is comfortable and peace is what the people are asking for and joining efforts to consolidate the same.
Delhi could not shrug off the criticism that the landscape in. Kashmir was politically barren. It was bereft of any political narrative and activity. BJP had tried hard to sell that “ things are better and headed toward dream of peace and progress becoming a reality” , but there were not many takers.
BJP had its own flaws because the unemployment continues to soar and the people are still finding it difficult to get the basic necessities of life – sadak, Bijli pani. Secondly, the pandemic spelt another disaster in which BJP resorted to rhetoric , but locally it neither showed any will or capacity to deliver .The people’s experience with it when the party was in power in coalition with PDP was also not good , to put it mildly . They had seen that the majority of the local leaders were self-servers and had refused to stand for anything , not even defending or guarding the interests of the people who had voted for them in 2014 Assembly elections .
Politically, much hyped District Development Council polls and panchayat elections did not match up to the hardcore political expectations of the people. They wanted Assembly to be in place and that, too, with all the powers not as an institution that had no powers. The Reorganisation Act of Jammu and Kashmir had rendered all the future governments as powerless. There was complete control of the Centre through Lieutenant Governor .
First to see the realism was Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, who is among the prominent leaders invited for the all-party meet He was the first to say and insist that should be taken forward in a way that could secure future of generations .. He was the first to initiate dialogue with Delhi- Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah in early 2020 and then maintained the pace of it. his dialogue with Delhi invited the ire of some of the political parties, particularly National Conference and PDP, that called his party as “ B” team of BJP.
But now when they are themselves entering into a dialogue with Delhi, that B team tag has gone. He and his party are seen as torch bearers of solution to Kashmir’s problem through talks. “ Where else should we go except to seek things from Delhi,” he says. His argument is that “ it’s Delhi that took away our statehood and powers, and Delhi alone can give it.”
Now it remains to be seen as to what would be the outcome of the June 24 meeting. The restoration of Article 370 is out of question. In all probability, things would settle for the restoration of statehood and Assembly elections in which the elected representatives will have the powers to address the grievances of the masses.