Kashmir mainstream faces uphill task

The NDA 2.0 led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to have put Kashmir on top of its agenda. The new Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, has chaired series of meetings with his focus on Kashmir and media reports suggest that lot of deliberations have been held on various issues vis-à-vis Kashmir.

Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, soon after taking the charge of his new ministry arrived in Kashmir and also paid a visit to Siachen glacier, world’s highest battlefield.

The developments which have taken place after the formation of new government at the Centre have made it amply clear that the Government of India (GoI) wants Kashmir situation to improve and the people at helm in New Delhi don’t want to take any chances.

People of Kashmir are watching the developments keenly. They know it very well that Delhi is framing its new Kashmir policy and it would be implemented in coming days.

The Union Home Minister has discussed Amarnath Yatra, Assembly elections and Articles 35A and 370 with the top officials. There were even reports that the Government of India is toying with the idea of setting up a delimitation commission in Jammu and Kashmir. Though the media reports were denied by the MHA but many people believe that something is cooking.

There are apprehensions that the Articles 35A and 370, which provide special status to Jammu and Kashmir, may go and delimitation can also take place. The Kashmir based politicians, including Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Sajad Lone and Shah Faesal have taken a strong exception to such news reports and have tried their best to convey it to New Delhi that it should not try to change the status-quo in J&K.

The National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah has been demanding that Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir should be held forthwith and people should be allowed to choose their own government. Since the day NC has won all the three parliamentary seats in Kashmir, the party has sniffed a chance to form a government and wants Election Commission of India (ECI) to take a final call so that uncertainty ends.

The ECI recently hinted that Assembly elections in J&K would take place after the Amarnath Yatra ends, September-October this year. But the reports about the possibility of New Delhi defreezing the delimitation could pose a serious challenge to Kashmir based politicians as it would increase the Assembly seats in Jammu region and there is every possibility that the party which emerges as the single largest party in Jammu demands the Chief Minister’s post.

If BJP fulfils its election promise of removing Articles 35A and 370 in Jammu and Kashmir it would further escalate the problems for Kashmiri mainstream leaders.

If Assembly elections are held soon then delimitation won’t be possible and Kashmiri leaders could get another chance to head a government in the state. If the BJP led NDA government decides to go ahead with its proposed plans vis-à-vis Kashmiri it could change the very dynamics of the politics in the Valley.

It seems that the New Delhi has stopped viewing Kashmir as a law and order problem only and it has decided to go ahead with the complete integration of the state with rest of the country. There is every possibility about the Government of India taking tough decisions in coming days and months. Kashmiri leaders would have to come up with a strategy which could save them from facing a huge embarrassment as New Delhi seems to have made up its mind. Among all the parties National Conference would have to put its act together as it has made safeguarding J&K’s special status as its main agenda. In fact the party contested the recently held parliamentary polls with a promise that it would go to any extent to ensure that special status of J&K is not fiddled with.

During the past five years New Delhi has succeeded in changing the political scenario in the Valley. Earlier Kashmir politics was confined to National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party. Today many options are available within the Valley. The cut throat competition among the Kashmir based parties has made things difficult for the mainstream leaders. It seems they too have realized that a single party in Kashmir cannot achieve much and regaining the power is not going to be that easy. And the elected government could face an uphill task to ensure that status-quo is not changed.

(Javaid Malik is Senior Editor Greater Kashmir).