Centre Should Assure J&K On Article 35A

After the decision of National Conference and the PDP to boycott the upcoming Panchayat election pending centre’s assurance about the protection to Article 35A, there is suddenly some media focus on the all-important  state subject law that protects demographic composition of the state.   This has generated some debate about the significance of the Article for Kashmir. And at the same time, the poll boycott by the two parties has for the first time created a situation for it to respond to. It is another matter, however, that so far no such response has come. The BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav has urged the two parties to rethink their boycott. In a tweet, he also called them “opportunist parties” as the parties hadn’t boycotted the Kargil polls when the case over Article 35A was in Supreme Court.  However, Madhav or any other senior central government functionary has said nothing in terms of an assurance on Article 35A. Let alone that, the state government has not even heeded the demand for an all-party meeting over the elections as sought by the NC and PDP.

This has created an embarrassing situation for the two parties. Both central and state governments have expressed their resolve to go ahead with the polls. According to the Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam  there would be no delay in holding the elections and that it would take place as per schedule. The issue has taken on some complexity for some other reasons as well.  All J&K Panchayat Conference has already expressed its willingness to be part of the polls. But it wants them held on a non-party basis and no politics attached to them. But it is the security situation that has become the most powerful factor. The past some years have witnessed a sustained deterioration in the security. Militancy is a ubiquitous phenomenon in South Kashmir. In Central and North Kashmir, while militancy is still under control, the anger and alienation among the people runs deep.

Eight people had lost their lives resisting the by-election in Srinagar constituency last year, the highest toll ever in the state on a polling day in a single constituency. The deaths took place as the security personnel at the polling booths tried to fend off the advancing crowds of protesters. This forced the government to defer the South Kashmir by-poll which was scheduled to take place shortly after Srinagar by-election. And ever since government is yet to make up its mind about the Anantnag poll.  A repeat of situation could be a nightmare come true. But the centre could certainly make a redeeming difference to the situation if it offers assurance on Article 35A. Its silence has only further reinforced fears in the state. And in such a situation, elections will be the last thing on anybody’s mind in the Valley.


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