A Long Wait

THE centre reiterated on Wednesday that Jammu and Kashmir would be granted statehood at an “appropriate” time after normalcy is restored there. Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai stated this in a written reply to Rajya Sabha. He was replying to a question on whether the government had any proposal to “reinstate” the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and whether some efforts have been made to end the year-long ban on different means of communication.

If anything, this means the centre has no immediate plan to restore statehood. This was also obvious from the recent meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the J&K political parties. He stressed expediting the delimitation exercise that is expected to enhance the seats of J&K assembly.  More of these are believed to go to the former state’s Jammu division. To this end a delimitation commission has already been in place since the last over a year and it may complete its exercise in the near future.

The enhancement of the Assembly seats, the PM’s statement soon after the meeting indicated, will be followed by holding of the elections within the union territory framework.  Though the PM’s statement did not say it, the statehood is hoped to be followed by the elections. And it is not clear whether this statehood would be full or a truncated  one where the  real power would vest with the governor.

So actually the centre has more or less stayed true to its ideological course on Kashmir and ironically wants now Kashmiri leaders to be its partners in this pursuit.

The BJP has highlighted the absence of protests in Kashmir as a sign of normalcy in the UT. The fact, however, remains that while the situation in Kashmir has remained largely calm, the government hasn’t been commensurate with the relaxation of restrictions and extension of rights. Also, New Delhi has been delaying the restoration of statehood to J&K.

Truth is that Kashmir has come a long way since the withdrawal of its autonomous status and the situation has held largely peaceful. This should have qualified J&K for the grant of statehood. But the centre has so far given no timeframe for it. It is hoped that since  the calm has held in Kashmir for close to two years, the government will take firm steps to make J&K once again a state.

In February too, the home minister Amit Shah had given an assurance to parliament  that the Centre will grant full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir at “an appropriate time”. And this appropriate time is now.

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