Media reports of February 24 state that splinter groups from Congress, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) have come together to launch a new regional party in J&K. The new party is to include PDP founder and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Beg, former finance minister Altaf Bukhari and former Congress MLA Usman Majid who resigned from Congress, latter saying that the new party will be announced shortly. Usman Majid further said some 500-600 people who attended his rally in Bandipore after Article 370 was abrogated are all for re-starting the political process.
It is well known that former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti along with few others from their parties were placed under arrest under the Public Safety Act (PSA) on February 6, after their six month house arrest expired. Their antecedents and erstwhile provocative statements can hardly discount them inciting mass protests given their radical and cross-border links. PDP is firmly linked with POK-based terrorist outfit Hijbul Mujihiddeen (HM) – recall the Mufti Mohammad Saeed (mehbooba’s father) publicly thanking Pakistan when PDP had won elections.
The abrupt postponement of panchayat elections in J&K concurrent to claims of normalcy portrays the ambiguity in Centre’s approach, even as Congress, NC and PDP had indicated ‘conditional’ participation in these elections provided their leaders are set free.
Perhaps it would be better to acknowledge and tell the world that in backdrop of decades of radicalization, sufi clerics in J&K having been deliberately replaced with those following wahabism, plus continued Pakistani links makes one year too small a period to achieve normalcy to required levels.Maybe panchayat elections could have been held in the non-radicalized areas, followed by fully empowered panchayats as a signal to those who want to impede restoration of normalcy.
Equally baffling is lack of Centre’s resolve in opening inquiry into the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) when the Farooq Abdullah government in power till 13 January 1990 was clearly complicit. Similarly, the massive scam through the Roshni Act, 2001 (Farooq Abdullah was Chief Minister then), amended in 2005 during Mufti Mohammad Saeed’s PDP-Congress government and further amended by Ghulam Nabi Azad for ulterior motives has caused a loss of Rs 25,000 crores to the exchequer (as indicated by CAG) and deliberately changed the demography of Jammu. Lakhs of kanals of forest and agricultural land was jiggered in favour of particular community to alter the demography of Jammu region. This needs to be seriously addressed and righted.
Not expediting probes and prosecuting those responsible for the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits, as also politicians, bureaucrats and rest of the cabal involved in the Roshni Act scam is sending wrong signals to others. Centre’s hope that the old guard politicians will change course or sign a bond for not inciting violence on release and abide by it is akin to hoping Imran Khan converting to Buddhism and giving up on weed. The Union Home Minister has been talking of planned rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pundits. At the same time, it has been mentioned in these columns that the government must identify properties of KPs forced to flee and illegal occupants made to pay compensation in accordance with J&K Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection And Restraint On Distress Sales) Act, 1997.
There is no doubt that J&K needs streamlining of politics. To this end, a new political party coming up is a welcome step. But careful analysis is needed whether the motive behind is earnest desire for normalcy and on whose behest the new front coming up – what has been the involvement of the Government of J&K Union Territory in throwing up this alternative or is this on behest of Pakistan, which will simply amount to old wine in new bottle. On a different level, it was Pakistan that configured a brigade-level force of Afghan and Pakistan Taliban dissident militants in Peshawar and pushed them into Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan as the Islamic State. This does not mean for a minute that the upcoming new political party in J&K is Pakistan’s creation but the need for caution requires little emphasis.
The Centre has been sending ministers and lawmakers to interact with the public in J&K, as also organizing visits of foreign diplomats. This is good but at the same time rushing into energizing the election process may not be advisable till ‘normalcy’ is restored to the desired level.
A situation where Kashmiri Pandits can return to their homes and properties should be the eventual aim no matter how unachievable it looks today, rather than going for Israel-type settlement in West Bank.
Internal and external pressures in such situations are nothing new but overcoming them is what is needed. For those itching to visit J&K and incite the masses, they should be asked to go visit Balochistan.
As part of streamlining the political scene in J&K, a long-standing need is to dispense with the obnoxious practice of abandoning the populace of the Valley in winters and move the state/UT administration to Jammu. If the UT administration abandons the Valley population for winter months every year, how can they be expected to bond with the government? Srinagar hardly matches up to the Russian winter and doesn’t Ulaan-Baatar the capital of Mongolia function round the year?
In any case, security forces continue in Srinagar area through the winters, so doesn’t moving the UT administration to Jammu in winters with apart of the files amount to cowardice of sorts given all the luxuries available at their command at any place? Will the powers that be correct this anomaly?