Kashmir: Urgency for Restoration of Political Activity
With visit of select foreign diplomats and Supreme Court order for restoration of the internet, resumption of political activity gains salience in J & K, posing a Catch 22 dilemma.
Supreme Court of India ruling on 10 January that access to the internet is included under Art. 19 (1)(A) of the constitution, the next steps could be a direction to restore political activity as five months after repealing of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, release of detained political leaders in Kashmir is assuming importance.
On restrictions on the internet the Court has said that “Suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power,” and “mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be reason for Internet suspension.” “Suspending internet should be reviewed forthwith. Such suspension can only be for a limited time period and is subject to judicial review,” the Supreme Court
Meanwhile petitions challenging detention of political leaders may also come up for review as moves indicate that the government may be considering releasing a few top leaders including the Abdullahs of the National Conference – Farooq and Omar.
Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu on 12 December said political vacuum in Jammu and Kashmir won’t last forever.
The Times of India reported, “that the government was working out a deal where MP and National Conference chairman Farooq Abdullah and his son, MLA and former J&K CM Omar Abdullah, would be released from detention in exchange for their promise that they would take a break from active politics for a while”.
This is the second time in the last five months that news of the Abdullahs making a deal with the government has been floated in the media.
This comes even as the Times reports that the detention warrants of 26 people some of whom connected with the separatist Hurriyat Conference have been repealed thus providing them space for normal activity, though a bond declaring non participation in politics may have been executed by those released.
Meanwhile former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) expelled eight leaders, including those who met the foreign diplomats in Srinagar.
The party’s disciplinary committee recommended the expulsion of Dilawar Mir, Rafi Ahmad Mir, Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, Qamar Hussain, Raja Manzoor, Javeed Baig, Abdul Majeed Padder, and Abdul Rahim Rather. Manhas, Baig, Padder and Rafi Ahmad Miramong them met the diplomats.
There are rumours that the former PDP legislators could form a new party. Rajya Sabha member Nazir Ahmad Laway has also been expelled by the PDP for participating in the Lt Governor Murmu’s oath-taking ceremony in October last year
While the government would like to restore political activity, sensitivity to criticism of repealing of Article 370 or bifurcation of the State or downgrading of status to the Union Territory publicly will not be acceptable.
The government and BJP objective would be to regain power in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir which had been lost after the PDP under Mehbooba Mufti walked out of the alliance last year.
Towards this end there will be dependence on breakaway leaders from the mainstream state parties the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to float new outfits.
Prominence is also been given to grass roots leaders and some youth social entrepreneurs who are expected to support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
If this model is applied it would be back to the good old politics of the state wherein leaders aligned with Delhi are sworn to power in Srinagar.
These leaders lacking credibility in the local populace lose their relevance soon leading to discontent and in turn providing a fillip to militancy with youth believing that there is no justice in the mainstream political spectrum in India.
Pakistan expectedly would be hoping for just such an outcome.
Will the old cycle be broken this time around remains to be seen?
For this the government will have to make compromises with the leaders having credibility in the Valley – the Abdullahs or the Muftis. It’s a Catch 22 situation in J & K?