Imperiled Panchayat Raj
Evacuate panchayat institutions of politics for them to survive
POINT OF VIEW
The political uproar over the killing of two sarpanches in a span of fortnight roiled Kashmir for several days. The consequent spate of resignations from the elected grassroots workers forced central government to take note. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi called for the empowerment of the panchayats and in an unprecedented step even called to New Delhi a delegation of panches and sarpanches to get a sense of prevailing ground situation in the state.
But at the end of it, there has been little consensus on the measures to avert the recurrence of future attacks. Though there has been an across-the-board call for providing security to the panches and sarpanches, nobody has bothered to explain how to translate it into action. To individually secure around 35000 elected grassroots workers against attacks is not only impractical but also impossible for any government in the world.
And it is only when security is ruled out as an option to address the attacks against panches and sarpanches, do we start confronting the real issues at stake. This involves the evaluation of the context under which they operate. They were elected last year in an overwhelmingly participated elections, an almost abnormally high percentage of 80-85 percent. There was little militant interference in the process. What helped the process was the perception that the panchayats were basically the agents of grassroots development. But ever since their coming into existence, the discourse around panchayats has been increasingly politicized. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was the first to project them as the “fitting reply” for the militants.
“The way you have exercised and are exercising your rights to vote is a gift and a lesson to those who by their acts want to terrorise and weaken us,” she said at a public rally in Basohli in Kathua in May last year while panchayat polls were still going on.
For both, the state and the central government, they became symbols of normalcy in Kashmir even while the spirit of Kashmir remains deeply troubled by the conflict. There is no denying the fact that militancy has declined and its physical footprint has considerably shrunk, but it continues to have a pervasive psychological presence. At the same time, while Hurriyat as a political entity may have been pushed to the margins, the separatist ideology has always had an independent existence of its own in the state.
As a result, thousands of panches and sarpanches operate haplessly in a bitterly contested space. Militants see their continuance as the absolute negation of their two-decade old struggle while as the government sees them as the symbols of the ultimate triumph over separatist resistance. And with militants deciding to carry out their threats, rubbing in as a result the message that panchayat representatives are a fair game for them, the fallout has been disastrous. A spate of resignations have followed, leaving the Panchayat Raj system tottering on its foundations. According to newspaper reports, more than 200 panches and sarpanches have tendered their resignations through paid newspaper advertisements. Many, who couldn’t do it through media, have rushed to their village mosques to announce the decision. The situation is eerily reminiscent of early nineties when classified pages in local newspapers were filled with resignation letters of the political workers.
Government’s frantic efforts to stem the tide have hardly helped. The number of resignations only grew in number for the first few days after the second sarpanch killing before the situation stabilized again. The media outcry and Rahul Gandhi’s intervention has helped generate some confidence. But it could be only matter of time before the situation could go back to square one. And with security ruled out as an option, the only pragmatic solution to the problem is to evacuate the discourse about panchayats of its politics. The temptation to see them as harbingers of normalcy pits them against the history of the past two decades and lends their role an uncomfortable political dimension. And with Kashmir unlikely to become a normal place anytime in the foreseeable future, the politicized panchayats will always be prone to attacks.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OPINION
‘Panch Muhammad Shafi Malik Wanted To Grab Ex-Gratia Relief, Job’
‘ASRA SHAFI CASE SOLVED’
Kupwara, Oct 2: In apparently a first incident of its kind, police Tuesday charged a man with killing his minor daughter here for want of ex-gratia relief and a job. With his arrest, the cops claimed to More
- Srinagar City
Land record officials play hide-and-seek with aspirants
GK CITY CORRESPONDENT
Srinagar, Oct 2: Getting land in this City –shrinking fast at the hands of urbanization –could still be comparatively easy but access to Patwari, the official who looks after land records is turning messier More
Latti (Udhampur), Oct 2: Taking a jibe at National Conference led coalition regime for indulged into “deceit tactics” to systematically undermining democratic institutions in the state, patron of Peoples More
- South Asia
NISAR AHMED THOKAR
Islamabad, Oct 2: Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman Tuesday said the strike observed by people of Kashmir on President Pranab Mukharjee’s recent visit to Kashmir is “sufficient More
London, Oct 2: Lt Gen K S Brar, who was assaulted by four people in central London on Sunday night, is convinced that it was an attempt to assassinate him by "pro-Khalistan elements" for his role in the More