Changing Political Scenario In Jammu And Kashmir

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Dismissing governments and legitimising the practice of horse-trading ends up criminalising the electoral process and government formation

With the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in suspended animation, horse trading is in full swing. At this critical juncture, the individuals who were not in the running for the chief minister slot in 2014, the year assembly elections were held in J&K, are now staking a claim to government formation and chief ministership, because they are adept at the art of buying and selling.

This is statecraft at its most devious. Such practices will, in the long run, lead to the degradation of our polity. Such ad hoc and quick fix solutions might treat the symptom but will not address the cause. Whatever happened to the creation of responsible government? While respecting the political aspirations of the people and nurturing dreams for liberal political space, it would be foolish to ignore government formation and not to hold elected representatives accountable.

The first condition to achieve responsible government is the participation of all those people who live in this state. The demand for the responsible government should extend not just to the Muslims of J&K, but all state subjects. A representative government would enable the devolution of administrative responsibilities to districts and villages.

We require a multi-pronged political accommodation to respect the voice of our diverse population and maintain the integrity of Jammu and Kashmir

New Delhi hasn’t succeeded in consolidating democratic institutions in the state, which could have enabled effective participation. India’s political and democratic practices, as Robert A Dahl observes, “have displayed some egregious shortcomings from a democratic point of view. It has suffered from recurring violations of basic rights.”

The disillusionment created by New Delhi’s ploys and the warped motive of the Pakistani military in spurring the growth of a jihadist element in Kashmir and facilitating the infiltration of armed combatants across the Line of Control generated a militant movement in the state. A large number of young men from various parts of the Kashmir Valley crossed the Line of Control in search of ammunition and combat training. What began as a skirmish over the quashing of democratic institutions in J&K erupted into a conflagration that swept the Valley and some parts of the Jammu province of the state.

The various ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups in Jammu and Kashmir — Kashmiri Muslims, Kashmiri Pundits, Dogra Hindus, and Ladakhi Buddhists and Shi’ite Muslims — have been unable to construct a shared cultural and historical legacy that would enable them to fashion cultural alterity to that of the Indian nationalist one.

Due to the regional sentiments that are becoming increasingly communalised, the ideology and rhetoric of a shared cultural and historical past have been unable to garner public support and mobilisation for reconstruction and nation-building. The signifiers of nationhood in Jammu and Kashmir — flag, anthem, and constitution — have thus far not been able to move beyond a nebulous nationalist self-imagining. Regional political forces have sabotaged attempts made to construct a unitary identity.

The political acts of demanding the right of self-determination or clamouring for further integration into the Indian Union have not been able to nurture a unity amongst all socioeconomic classes, but, on the contrary, are threatening to create unbridgeable gulfs. We require multi-pronged political accommodation to respect the voice of our diverse population and maintain the integrity of the state.

Dismissing governments and legitimising the practice of horse-trading ends up criminalising the electoral process and government formation. Governments that are hurriedly rustled up and disconnected from the grassroots lack the foresight to pay attention to whether the legislation and execution of political, economic, and social policies and programmes in contemporary Kashmir are successfully addressing women’s as well as men’s experiences and concerns.

The Article First Appeared In Daily Times

 

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