Though the state of Jammu & Kashmir is saddled with many serious problems, the biggest challenge for PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed will be to restore people’s faith in democracy when he takes over.
The December 2014 elections of Jammu & Kashmir have become a theater of absurd. After 50 days, we have no government in Jammu & Kashmir despite all machinations and back channel talks between principal political players and stakeholders.
If we go by what is being whispered in the corridors of power in Delhi, the BJP and PDP are close to clinching a deal and a government, led by PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, will take office in Srinagar shortly.
No doubt, it is a welcome sign for the people of Jammu & Kashmir but this inordinate delay in the formation of a government has done a serious damage to the idea of democracy.
Mufti also candidly admitted that “a greater worry is the erosion of the credibility of our democratic institutions.”
It cannot be emphasized enough that governance deficit and trust deficit were the main causes of the ever-increasing alienation of the people, and there was an urgent need to restore people’s faith in governance and democracy.
The people of this northern-most state of India have no great faith in the democratic process thanks to its electoral history that is replete with postponements of elections and alleged manipulated elections from 1996 till 2002. The people, bruised and bloodied by the militancy, were looking for a relief through the ballot, but their hopes were belied.
The most viable opportunity for resolving the Kashmir problem was lost by the allegedly manipulated mandate of 1987. Several pro-Pak and pro-azadi outfits including the Jamait-e-Islami had joined the electoral battle under the banner of Muslim United Front (MUF).
The secessionist leaders like Yasin Malik, Hamid Sheikh, Javed Mir and Aijaz Ahmed Dar had then campaigned for M Yusuf Shah alias Salahuddin (presently United Jihad Council supremo based in Pakistan).
This was a welcome departure from their public stand because by contesting elections under the Indian Constitution, they had expressed faith in the democratic political system. The MUF had won four seats and were part of the legislative system. T
his should have been welcomed and encouraged by the New Delhi government to ensure greater participation in the next elections. But the manipulated elections ushered the Valley in the dark decade.
Moreover, the non-performance of successive governments surely pushed pro-azaadi outfits towards the other side of the fence, where democratic options are not available.
Unfortunately, most of the democratic forces here are unconcerned about the much-too-conspicuous ground realities and are busy pursuing their own agenda.
The genesis of this problem lies in the erosion of confidence of people in the elected governments. It was not for the first time that people in the Valley took elections with reservations; rather it has been such in the post-Sheikh Abdullah era. Meaning there has been gradual erosion of faith in the democratic political system in the Valley. What makes matters worse is that at no point of time, corrective steps were taken to check this erosion and restore faith in the system.
At the time when militancy was on decline, Farooq Abdullah had got elected in 1996 with nearly two-thirds majority in the state assembly, and the people had looked up to him with hope amidst death & chaos.
But his National Conference government miserably failed. Even after being in power for six years, Dr Farooq Abdullah was treated as trespasser — a wazir-e-aala who has been thrust upon them by the central government.
A serious mistake which Farooq had committed was that he killed all such moves, which mooted the idea of involving militant organisations and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in trilateral talks to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio.
Reason for Farooq’s fear was very clear — if New Delhi agreed for unconditional talks with militants (as was being fiercely suggested by the Congress, BJP and the CPI-M), these outfits would become more popular amongst the masses and if they decided to take a plunge into elections, chances of NC returning to power would be grim.
History will not pardon Farooq and other Chief Ministers for wasting the opportunity to bring these strife-torn people back into the Indian mainstream. By 1996-97, youths (and their parents) had realized the futility of gun and were anxiously looking forward to new avenues for better future.
The serpentine queues before the Secretariat and ministers’ bungalows in the Capital indicated people’s hopes and aspirations from Farooq’s government.
The 2002 elections did see Farooq voted out of power by winning only 28 seats (as against 57 in 1996) but the Congress–PDP alliance government hardly proved better than the inept NC governments. Had Mufti got full six years to run the government, the situation could have turned better.
There is no denying the fact that no government worth its salt can provide jobs to each unemployed youth, but it can at least be fair in its selection process and allay any misgivings. Subsequent governments’ failure to create parallel jobs in the private sector is no excuse.
Everything is not lost if Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis do not want to invest in Kashmir. Why can’t cottage and small-scale industries be encouraged, especially when there is no dearth of raw material and entrepreneurs?
In a highly complex situation like Kashmir, the very purpose of holding elections should have been (especially in the post-peak militancy era) to hand over power to the people and not appeasement of the traditional ruling class.
Politically conscious Kashmiris now have no love lost for 50-odd ruling families, which control the destiny of 50 lakh plus Valley-dwellers.
The consequences of the loss of faith in the democratic political process will certainly be more serious than the erosion of faith in governance.
All that multi-million rupee military exercise will become irrelevant (excepting keeping Kashmir within the Indian map) if the democratic process loses relevance for the masses.
Mufti, who fully comprehends the complexity of ground situation, is the right man for the job who can bring in a historical shift in the tidings with his deft handling.
“Goli se nahi, boli se”( By talks, not by bullets) is the best option for Mufit if he can practice what he preaches.