Getting to Dialogue

OVER the last two weeks, Kashmir has been agog with all sorts of speculations about the centre mulling some more important changes with regard to Jammu and Kashmir. All anticipated changes are extraordinary: people think that the centre is mulling further division of J&K. Many say a new union territory is being carved within the Valley. On the positive side, there's hope that the centre may restore statehood to J&K. But before that, the centre would like to complete the delimitation exercise which is set to give more seats to the Jammu division, thereby bringing it politically at par with the Kashmir Valley. This is expected to be followed by the restoration of statehood and the announcement of Assembly elections.

There are also speculations about the nature of the statehood, the centre will be inclined to grant. There is an apprehension that the centre may only be inclined to restore a Delhi type statehood where the power will largely vest with the Lieutenant Governor with some local representation in the everyday governance. However, nothing is known with certainty as of now.

According to some media reports in sections of national media, the centre is set to hold dialogue with the J&K political parties including the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). The recent meeting of the PAGD which took place after a long hiatus is seen in this context. Otherwise, the PAGD had long given up the pretense of existing as an alliance which is dedicated to struggle for the restoration of Article 370 that granted J&K an autonomous status within Indian Union.

Be that as it may, it will certainly be a positive development should the centre start engagement with the political groups in Kashmir. This will certainly go a long way to address the current political vacuum in the union territory. It has been a long time since the political activity has been by and large dead in the Valley. The release of the political leaders last year, in a sense, changed little on the ground. In fact, some political leaders are still in jail and there is no telling when or if they will be freed in near to medium future.

This is where a dialogue between the centre and the J&K leadership holds some hope. This could go a long way in breaking the ice and putting the union territory on the road to a political normalcy. Every J&K citizen has a stake in such a dialogue and all would want it to reach its logical conclusion: a statehood for J&K and redressal of the local political and public grievances and aspirations.

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