There were three different and highly striking images that dotted Kashmir in 2020 – the swearing-in ceremony of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on August 7, coming together of the seven Kashmir-centric parties under the banner of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, and the queues outside polling booths set up for the first-ever District Development Council polls.
Each one of these has a narrative of its own. But at the end of the year there was more fog about 2021 as many things were unclear as to how Kashmir would move ahead .
The onus of spelling out the agenda for the year, apart from the government, lies on the PAGD that claimed victory of its August 22, 2020, reiteration of Gupkar Declaration. In Kashmir, this Declaration is read as a slogan coined by the PAGD to appease the sentiment and paradoxically to needle Delhi. And, of course it is well known that Delhi , that is the Central government and the ruling BJP view it nothing short of secessionism.
The PAGD that has claimed that its victory on 110 out of 280 seats in the Valley is a verdict in its favour and validated its agenda. The real issue, however, is that what is its roadmap about the development in Kashmir, and can it develop Kashmir without the support of the government.
It has not rolled out any roadmap as yet. It cannot survive merely on slogans; it has to tell the people how it would govern. Whether its governance style will be a repeat of its past doings, when it was ruling the erstwhile state, through the DDCs where it will run the affairs, or it has better plans to offer. It has not said much on it.
There is a danger that if it propagates that the DDC poll results were a mandate for its August 22 Declaration, then what happens to the original purpose of the polls. Does the development become hostage to the political sloganeering? Or, the development will have a political colour, and also what kind of development will be delivered to the masses ?
To begin with, the PAGD should explain what all it wanted to do in 2021. A new calendar year has started and its narrative remains the same: cursing Delhi and the BJP for doing what they did on August 5, 2019. Is arsenal of sharp criticism and rolling Delhi on coals the way forward. Absolutely not! The people want to see real hope and light in their lives and no agenda can survive on the rhetoric only. And there have been no signs to suggest that it has any definite plan for the governance once the DDCs are constituted . The draft should have been ready by now. The people have the right to know that how it would honour their vote, and translate the same into the real-time development which would lift them out of the fears of the past and fill them with confidence that their own people have the will and capacity to work for them.
In two separate interviews, PAGD president Farooq Abdullah and vice president Mehbooba Mufti have reiterated their commitment to the “ Declaration “ and the goals set by them for the restoration of the Article 370? They have also said that they are ready to face any consequences for their cause. But is this what the people wanted when they voted for the PAGD candidates.
This puts extra responsibility on PAGD. It has to read the mandate clearly – sifting it from its overall political goals and the relevance of vote for development. Nothing is in black and white. There are many grey areas. It is up to Gupkar Alliance to address these issues right now.
It is for the PAGD to show that it has the potential to reverse and remove all the tags of mis-governance that have been used for it by its political opponents. It becomes imperative because its governance agenda is not known and the Article 370 was not a guarantee of good governance. it was a political shield for the unique identity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The Article 35-A was all about the exclusive rights and privileges of the permanent residents of the state. It had no clauses for the governance .
It is time to roll out their vision about the governance. Most important part of which, they must have realized by now, is assemble an inspiring narrative that evokes trust of all communities and regions. The political vision should run with the basic thrust on governance in which people see hope and promise. The performance of the PAGD in the DDCs, wherever it can form and lead the councils would be reflective of its test on the governance front . It is as simple as that.