Amidst all the not so good news coming, there is an encouraging news of the proposed meeting being called on 24th of all the mainstream political entities of Jammu & Kashmir to be chaired by the Prime Minister. Nothing can be a better political initiative than this. J&K has been in the news for all disturbing reasons till the Centre decided to strengthen the political roots of the territory fully amalgamating it with the rest of the main land doing away with illusionary 370 and 35a – a decision which has had the broad consensus across political spectrum of the country as well as the overwhelming welcome from people at large.
Along with Aug 5 notification came the unequivocal assurance of the Prime minister that – a) the state-hood that was being dispensed with, would be restored to J&K as soon as feasible, and b) the state would be handed over to be governed by the people of the state. The assurance has since been repeated again and again by the Centre giving the clearest of indications of the Centre’s intension to be honest to its assurances as also to adhere to the democratic ethos in letter as well as in spirit.
It is going to be two years that J&K and Ladakh have become like any other part of the country and the citizens have since been enjoying rights, privileges and amenities at par with their counterparts in the country. Our constitution in its entirety became applicable to them and so are all the central laws and rules – the territory or its people no longer face and suffer any exceptions whatsoever.
The J&K Reorganization Act 2019 followed by other three central laws and repeal of around 25 state laws facilitated complete restructuring of the territory in line with other union territories – J&K with the legislature and Ladakh without legislature. After these legal frame work the Centre did proceed with total dedication towards its avowed twin objectives of initiating democratic processes in order to re-vitalize the governing institutions with the ultimate motive of restoring state-hood and handing over power to the people of state.
The journey so far has been too tricky, slippery and delicate with many eyes – internal as well as external – with many colored glasses closely watching, scrutinizing, examining and explaining the situation in their own separate and divergent ways.
Notwithstanding the diverse opinions about J&K position at any given time including as of today as also the reservations one might have on the stand and steps of the govt of the day, one undisputed fact remains that efforts of complete normalcy and peace in the area have always met with more disturbing and disrupting attempts by the vested interests having deep roots away from country. We may not have to go too far in the political history of the land. The 2014 assembly elections of J&K – the conduct, participation and nature thereof – was widely praised, welcomed and appreciated internationally. But the time that followed saw crude and fatal disruptions of democratic processes ultimately marred by terror attacks clearly perpetrated from across the border.
It has been, therefore, incumbent on the part of the Centre and of all who honestly believe in strong and united India with J&K being the integral part of it, to remain extremely careful and move too cautiously towards the end that all Indians cherish so dearly. The Centre, even at the cost of being criticized in brutal terms, has moved too carefully taking simultaneous efforts in diverse directions.
One, it ensured that peace and order prevails in the territory whatever the cost be. It has been quite painful for the people at large to go through stiff and stringent restrictions but this did yield improved atmosphere of peace and tranquility coupled with enhanced governmental efficiency and accountability. People increasingly felt at ease and comfortable and started engaging in their usual way of life.
Two, economic activities increased with massive inflow of funds coming in from the Centre and the economy began to show overall excellent improvements. Prime Minister’s Development Package worth over Eighty Thousand Crores and recently announced industrial development package worth over Twenty-Eight Thousand Crores with many other state endeavors have been unique for the area which were never available to any of the states in the country with such an intensity. Many of the projects have already been completed, many ongoing with rapid pace with improved infrastructure in terms of Highways, Water supply, Electrification, Housing, Health, Education system etc. This also, naturally, resulted in improved employment opportunities for the local youth. Circulation and flow of money improved in the market and local businesses are flourishing. Opportunities for new areas of trade and commerce are opening promising improved way of living for the people at large. Large investments and big enterprises too are coming in with their own set of institutional establishments which will improve further the employment opportunities. Expanding MGNREGA and establishment of agri-industry at each of the districts would go long way boosting rural economy.
Three, Centre has been proceeding with democratic initiatives too. Elections to newly envisaged decentralized model of development Centres, District Development Councils, have been smooth and orderly. It has been good to see all political parties welcoming and participating in these elections, with Farooq Abdullah led Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) making big victory. These elections have been an excellent way forward in proceeding towards self-governance.
With these concerted efforts and remarkable achievements in the background the Centre’s move to invite the leaders across political spectrum is a welcome move in itself. So far there are positive vibes for the meet. PAGD Chief Farooq Abdullah has already been in favor of dialogue with the Centre. Panthers Party and Apni Party too have welcomed the move. Mehbooba Mufti, though, has had certain reservations, wishing the Centre to spell out its agenda. But PAGD as the group of the parties has decided to participate in the meet. Mehbooba too, as such, would be the party to the meet. Congress has also accepted the invite and will be there.
With the commission on delimitation headed by Justice RP Desai having almost completed the task a report by the commission would be in offing. It would be important prelude to the assembly elections in the area. The would be exceedingly nice to take all the stake holders on board and go in for elections as fast as possible and conducive. The pertinent question would definitely be whether the statehood is granted before or after the elections. The dilemma would be sensitive and too important. It would need serious and honest brain-storming thought process to be able to come to a conclusion. This is an issue where there would be lot of natural sentiments involved, the people at large would definitely love to have the state-hood restored immediately.
The destination to complete normalcy is, however, of paramount importance which could never to compromised at any cost. There may be various pressures from various corners and even from international quarters and rightly so. But none would come to rescue us if the situation goes backward. Across our borders, our ever-hostile neighbors would never like the normalcy and peace to prevail and too many of politicians at the territory too are often infamously find pride in becoming easy prey to the sinister design that they play. There must be a sound double-check of the decision of state-hood as at present. Stripping state-hood had never been a pleasant decision to take by the Centre. It must have been with lot of pain and anguish that the country was compelled to take that unpleasant and unpalatable decision. It could only be reversed if the country could achieve the purpose of making J&K a model integral peaceful part of our country.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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