Today (July 6) Delimitation Commission and the Election Commission will be arriving in Srinagar in preparation to deliver their judgment on the demography, topography of J&K and to decide when the Assembly elections will be held and for how many seats. In a broader perspective this might seem to be a routine affair, but it is not. It is exceptional and exclusively meant for, we, the people of J&K – the connotations of saying it is about Jammu and Kashmir has changed since. It became the Union Territory on October 31, 2019, as a sequel to the August 5, 2019 Reorganization of the State.
Jammu and Kashmir should have had its Assembly elections by December 2018 – six months after the Mehbooba Mufti government was forced to go in June 2018. The failure of the political leadership of the times to foresee that what was in store for them, their place and the people have brought the situation to this pass.
Much before Mehbooba resigned following the withdrawal of the support by the BJP, that too in a faxed message from Delhi, Centre was flooded with the calls and recommendations for the dismissal of her government. There were cheers in many quarters that the government has gone for they wanted to see the back of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti as early as possible, the narrow-minded political thinking, an all-time bane of Kashmir politics, and it is continuing till date.
The bigger problem was that none of the parties had any plan. They were all waiting for the Centre to make its first move. All the parties did not have any narrative – they were shy of the dissolution of the Assembly, scared of facing the people, nor were they able to put together credible efforts to have an alternative government.
All these parties have to start afresh, and they know that their geographical space has shrunk. For 14 months after the resignation of the Mehbooba Mufti government (from June 19, 2018 to August 5, 2019), Jammu and Kashmir was a state, and Ladakh was part of it. The political parties in Kashmir were fighting over where the Divisional headquarter of newly created Ladakh division should be – Leh or Kargil. They failed to see that it was a prelude to the declaration of Ladakh as a Union Territory. They should accept that Ladakh is a separate entity now and it is very difficult to reverse the geographical boundaries. Now there are groups that are demanding legislature and the statehood for Ladakh. Things are not easy but these developments do denote that whether they want to stay as UT or demanding statehood, they are getting distanced from the Kashmiri leadership.
There may be endless debates on August 5, the day and date that reshaped the whole political and geographical structure of Jammu and Kashmir, the reality as stark and as high as Himalayas is that there would be a lot of drum beating but on ground it is as tough a task as scaling the mountainous heights.
I heard Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha politely telling a brash and ill-informed TV channel interviewer, “ It was not the time to dig into the past, but move forward.” The rude interviewer through gestures, tone and tenor was asking questions far removed from the current-day reality. Mehbooba or for that matter any leader of Kashmir, demonized by the illiterate media of Delhi by their ignorance or design, had stood for the nation in the times of crises, though, at times, they were part of the problem, too.
Sometimes, I wonder that how a suave and soft-spoken Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha entertains and grants audience to Kashmir illiterates. Sheikh Abdullah used to say that there is no point in clearing doubts of those who have frozen mindset.
Today, it is both the time for the political leadership to introspect that what it has lost not by reading the writing on the wall in 2018 or before that , and mending fences with Delhi in a cordial fashion, and also to ask Election Commission of India, why it did not hold Assembly elections in 2018 or 2019 – that time there was no Delimitation Commission in place. If they fail to do so now with all the facts and figures reflecting the sensitivities of the people, they would be partners in subverting the need for the political set up in J&K- people are desperate for that. They want an outlet.
And, it should be clear to them that the people are not looking at them as to how they present their case before the Delimitation Commission that is working on a decade old census to determine what J&K needs in 2021, but also how they are able to speak for their people and areas. There is no scope for repeating mistakes, sorry, blunders of the past.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.