Monday, June 27th, 2022 19:10:26

PM’s Meeting and its Implications for J&K

By Dr. Sanjay Kumar Pradhan
Updated: July 5, 2021 5:41 am

Issues discussed

The three-hours-long  high-profile meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 14 leaders from Jammu Kashmir at New Delhi on 24 June 2021 implied New Delhi’s sincerity to move a step ahead in the direction of restoration of democracy and development in the Jammu & Kashmir, that was once disturbed due to local protests and resistance in the wake of scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution in August 1919 which provided special status to Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and its people.  The meeting focussed on diverse issues related to J&K. Farooq Abdullah demanded for the restoration of statehood; Omar Abdullah sought for re-establishment of Jammu & Kashmir cadre of all-India services which has been merged with Arunachal, Goa, Mizoram, and Union Territories cadre; Mehbooba Mufti highlighted the problem of  ongoing “harassment” in Kashmir, and resumption of dialogue with the Pakistan government, so as to promote trade and sustain peace; Ghulam Nabi Azad set five demands: restoration of statehood, land and job protection for the domiciles, bringing back Kashmiri Pandits, releasing political prisoners, and holding assembly elections; Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami stressed for bringing back constitutional guarantee of  the state; Bhim Singh focussed on complete statehood,  delimitation and elections; Sajad Lone pointed out the existing  “emotional bonding”  between the Union  and J&K that is promising for a “cordial atmosphere” for sustained talk for future development; Altaf Bukhari focussed on land and job protection, infrastructure improvement, and strongly advocated for delimitation and assembly elections; Muzaffar Baig in a complete optimist tone restored faith on Modi while advocating the necessity of working together for democracy and development;  and for Altaf Bukhari, meeting was the roadmap towards elections. All these imply that the meeting was an independent forum to address and discuss various issues related to Jammu & Kashmir.

The Jammu and Kashmir Re-organisation Bill, 2019, that split Jammu and Kashmir from Ladakh, made the provision for a new Assembly for Jammu & Kashmir. Under the provision, the constituencies increased from 107 to 114, including 24 for Pak-Occupied-Kashmir. The increase in assembly seats in 2019 required delimitation of constituencies, which is a process for reorganising territorial boundaries of existing constituencies for election to various bodies. The Delimitation Commission under Justice (retired) Ranjana Desai was announced in early 2020. The process is underway and the commission was given an extension of one year-starting from March 2021. The release of prisoners and restoration of 4G internet access in the region have facilitated for a more conducive atmosphere in the political process. The Union government is committed for statehood, as demanded by most of the leader, for J&K yet it is not interested to discuss on the restoration of special status, as demanded by some of the leaders like Mehooba Mufti and Farood Abdullah, since the matter is a sub judice now. Although there were political differences yet the spirit of meeting went in the direction of broader national interest  that included the benefits of J&K benefit. The meeting as to chalk out future course of action, reaching to the people of the region, fastening of the electoral process and overall development of the region. Union’s  first outreach to Jammu and Kashmir’s political leadership in almost two years after scrapping of the Articles and aftermath crackdowns. Prime Minister Modi pronounced union government’s stand clear in his tweet, “Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy,  Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace and J&K gets an elected Government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory.” Amit Shah, while responding to demand for J&K’s statehood pronounced, the process of delimitation and conduct of elections are the milestones in restoring the same, as promised in the Parliament.

 

Implications

The impact and implications of the meeting are far-reaching, constructive and result-oriented which can be viewed through the following instances.

Firstly, the move that the Modi government initiated broke the ice 22 months after the abrogation of Articles, protests, and crackdown approaches. Talking to the leaders, and discussing on the issues of concern implies that New Delhi has attempted in reaching at a final solution to territorial, electoral and democracy issues. It is a move to reverse deficit of trust to surplus of trust, and misconception to mutual confidence between New Delhi and J & K, and between the Union leaders and the state leaders.

Second, as the international community is looking for a normalisation of situation and initiation of democratic process after the abrogation of Special Status, implies it is a timely approach of Narendra Modi in this context. Dean Thompson, the acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia of the United States, while appreciating recent step, encouraged Modi government to move further for  a conclusive end and durable peace in the region.

Third, except Mehbooba Mufti, all other leaders did not make any reference to Pakistan in the  political process of J & K. This implies that the leaders reposited all faith and potential on their own government and system for a lasting solution in the region. Farooq Abdullah, one of the strong critics of abrogation of constitutional Articles, even went to the extent of advocating Indian solution to Indian problem, by saying “ I don’t want to bring in Pakistan. I am going to talk to our own prime minister”.

Four, listening to all concerns of all leaders in an All-party meeting in New Delhi implies that in a democracy, like India, there are no sticking points in  the Indian government, listening to all, and looking into all angles.

Five, there were political differences in the meeting, but it was conclusive  to work under a broader national platform that will fill the interest  of J&K people, which broadly encompasses development, peace and security, along with democracy.

Six, Modi government’s stand for delimitation and conduct of election will definitely push the process for statehood, to which Amit Singh has assured the leaders. As there is unanimous demand for statehood, the government has to work over this idea.

Seven, as the district-level local elections for District Development Council have become successful, the prospect for future political transformations seems smooth and successful.

Bringing normalcy on a hasty way is a risky affair and complex issue; however, both the Union government and state leaders have moved a step forward for a durable solution in the region. The confidence-building measures, as shown by the Modi government, is an indicative of a win-win situation to address and resolve the issues concerned. The recent initiative of the Modi government is to bridge the gap that exists between Delhi and J & K. Therefore, he highlighted for an end to  “Dilli ki Duri”  and “Dil Ki Duri”, and assured the leaders to do everything so as to make Jammu and Kashmir “a zone of peace rather than conflict”. A fresh beginning has come up and Modi government has listened to all issues and taken into account all the  points raised, and assured positive outcomes. All these implies that the government is ready to look into all the dissents of J&K, and the move is definitely in a positive direction. In the process of transformation,  challenges are many, but overcoming the challenges are not impossible, although difficult. Starting from Surgical strike in POK to Doklam standoff, tough resistance to China in Galwan, to  robust  relationship with super powers today, are indicative of  Modi government’s strong determination for a pro-active national security. On these counts, Modi’s initiative for safety & security, democracy and development, and statehood, seems very purposeful and promising.

By Dr. Sanjay Kumar Pradhan

(the writer is Assistant Professor in International Relations, Pandit Deendayal Energy University,  Gandhinagar, Gujarat.)

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