In all probability the stalemate in J&K is finally heading towards an end and the legislators hitherto hibernating in suspended animation are gearing up for resumption of their normal function of law making. The political scenario unfolding now in Srinagar and New Delhi shows that stakeholders were silently working out a formula for breaking the impasse. It seems that good wisdom has prevailed and re-alignment of forces is round the corner. Political parties were given adequate time to cobble a government capable of delivering the goods.
Analyzing the sequence of events, we find that the Union government has firmly upheld the dignity of the office of Governor by allowing Mr. N.N. Vohra to complete three months of extended term. He demitted office gracefully.
Hopefully,, from her nearly three years’ stint in office, the PDP chief will have learnt at least one far-reaching political lesson, viz. no covert conciliation or espousal of anti-national elements is going to separate the State from the Indian Union. The hard core of her vote bank carved out of radical ideologues was the last arrow in her quivers that is now standing exhausted.
Not only that, owing to her political shortsightedness and flawed conviction she gradually and recklessly paved the way for disintegration of the PDP, a party which she had built with the tacit support of Jam’at-i-Islami of South Kashmir. The cracks in the party became visible soon after the coalition government fell. She lost the strength which otherwise she would have made use of in projecting PDP as a victimized party to retrieve her image. The question of horse trading, an inevitable consequence of suspended assemblies, did not arise for her when she found her herd in total disarray. At the end of the day if the stint in a thorny office has had any lesson for her it is that this nation and its people have to be governed by democracy essentially anchored in justice and benevolence not in hatred and acrimony.
For the NC chief also there is the stark lesson that he cannot extract unjustifiable concessions from New Delhi by dramatizing situations and handing out subtle threats to known or unknown adversaries. He seems to be euphoric about a fair chance of returning to power, something for which he has the inscrutable penchant. However, he needs to realize that sometimes his unpredictable waywardness can become ruinous for him. Now that he is again pandering to nationalist politics after brief honeymooning with a faction of the Hurriyat, he will be faced with the challenge of rebuilding his and his party’s along the old profile. One is tempted to argue that old parameters have collapsed and there is no escape from looking at Kashmir politics through the prism of pragmatism. With his re-assessment of ongoing situation and its candid public expression, Dr. Farooq has to remember that he has chosen to categorize Kashmir situation as indisputable part of Islam’s domestic strife between the radicals and the progressive forces. As such, nearly three decades of violence and mayhem in Kashmir could be called the lull before the storm.
These realizations of current Kashmir politics by the mainstream parties have to be counted as signals for a positive change in Kashmir political scenario after three decades of violence and blackmail. In 1975, when late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah returned to power after signing the Accord with Indira Gandhi, a correspondent asked him what the achievement of his long years of political exile was. He quipped that for all those years they had done only “awaragardi.”
Dr. Farooq is known for his whimsical statements and contradictory comments. It is difficult to assign him any specific category in the game of politics. Yet proverbially speaking he has a method in madness. Dr. Farooq’s nationalist utterances at the funeral of Vajpayee and his bizarre interview to Arnab Goswami of Republic TV channel have already caused anger and revulsion in separatist groups in Kashmir. At the Hazratbal shrine, the traditional stronghold of NC, he sat with ordinary people in a row to offer Eid prayer. Miscreants unsuccessfully tried to rough him up. The so-called freedom fighters in Kashmir Valley consider it a scandalous setback to their Islamic radicalization movement and threat to their anti-democracy campaign. They have already begun to pour abuse on him in crudest possible terminology. However, Farooq with inherited as well as acquired knowledge is not at all a stranger either to the Kashmirian psyches or to the secrets of who butters whose bread in Kashmir.
Nevertheless, he has never been ideologically comfortable with the Jamat-i-Islami or the Ahle-Hadith factions. True, these rabid communal groups did succeed in diluting some of NC’s constituencies in previous election, yet Dr. Farooq retains the capability of retrieving the lost ground with some meaningful input when he means it. NC and BJP have the history of working in unison at the Union level. Dr. Farooq’s recent statement that while the nation has progressed and moved forward, the State of Jammu and Kashmir remains stagnant, at least gives the impression that the stagnation of the State must come to an end. He candidly holds the separatists and the Jamat is responsible for the sordid phenomenon of destruction. Maintaining the pace of development of the State with the rest of the country is possibly only when there is peace and State’s relations with the Union are smooth and congenial.
The credit of fostering a re-think of ground situation in the State should actually go to the Jammu BJP electorate that sent in a solid team of the national mainstream party to the State Legislative Assembly. For the first time in the history of the State, Jammu has played the crucial balancing role. Its results will be known after some time.
A Good deal of spade work has been done behind the curtain during last couple of months to bring about political stability in the State. BJP top leadership was throwing subtle hints to that effect intermittently. One can find the rationale in Modi government taking Dr. Farooq into confidence while contemplating a thorough shake-up in the ground situation in the State in general and Kashmir Valley in particular.
A new chapter in current Kashmir politics opens with the appointment of new Governor Mr. Malik who has essentially a political background and is not a bureaucrat or a retired army officer. His friend Dr. Farooq was the only Kashmiri leader present at the airport to receive him.
The tasks before the new governor have to be prioritized. Restoring the rule of law and denying politicized and polarized bureaucracy the freedom of defiance with impunity, thanks to the intransigence of PDP’s pro-Jama’at proclivity, is of immediate importance. Entire State administration must go through a purge of anti-national moles that have created networks and dens. Clean administrative system is largely dependent on improving and strengthening of democratic institutions like Panchayats for which elections are overdue. Developmental works have come to a standstill and public services have become farcical owing to widespread corruption. Yet another area that must receive the attention of the new Governor and the in-coming government both is that discriminatory treatment of Jammu and Ladakh regions has to be done away with. Disgruntled Jammu and Ladakh are the source of instability of the State and no government with the well- being of the entire State at its heart can afford to become a prey to regionalism.