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How political identity of J&K has been 'systematically usurped' by rightist politics

Omar Abdullah, then and now
By Sandeep Pandey*, Rajendran Narayanan**
The decision on August 5, 2019 to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A and division and downgrading of State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two Union Territories J&K and Ladakh was taken in a most undemocratic manner without consulting a single person of J&K. The State Assembly is not in existence for 18 months now.
There were four occasions when a new government could have been formed but the Union Government did not let it happen. Immediately after the fall of Bhartiya Janata Party-People’s Democractic Party coalition government, PDP, National Conference and Congress Party were willing to come together to form a government.
Governor Satyapal Malik imposed Governor’s rule as a preemptive measure. At the expiry of the six month period elections should have been held. But instead President’s rule was imposed. When the General Elections were being held it was expected the elections to J&K Assembly will also be held along with four other states. But that did not happen.
Finally, the President’s rule was extended for a second six month term in July 2019, instead of holding the elections. In retrospect in appears that it was deliberate ploy. Because if a State Assembly had been in place in J&K then the decisions taken by Union Government would have to have been approved by the Assembly first.
The Governor substituted in lieu of the State Government and recommended amendment in Article 370. However, considering that the Governor was a man from outside the State handpicked by the Union Government, the entire process was a clever manipulation to prevent the participation of any citizen of J&K in the important decision taken about the State.
Most shockingly Dr Farooq Abdullah, a Member of Paliament from J&K, was not allowed to attend the Parliament and the Home Minister lied to the nation that Dr Abdullah was unwell and that he couldn’t bring him to Parliament at gun point. Fact is, Dr Abdullah was under house arrest and police would not let him go out. And that too without any written order.
It was only when the South Indian politician Vaiko filed a habeas corpus in September 2019 for Dr Farooq Abdullah, as he wanted to invite him to an event in Tamil Nadu, that Public Safety Act was invoked against him to prevent him from being released by a Court order.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, both former Chief Ministers, also continue to be under illegal detention at their homes like a number of other political leaders, including Shah Faesal, who had recently floated a Party.
As if this humiliation was not enough, the Prime Minister and Home Minister have accused three political families of looting the State. While this may be true it is not as if corruption is a J&K specific phenomenon. Several other CMs like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Om Prakash Chautala, Jayalalitha, Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren were jailed or are in jail on corruption charges. 
Even BJP CM B Yeddyurappa has faced corruption charges and at one time was discredited to the extent that BJP distanced itself from him. It appears that this again is a conspiracy to discredit the political leadership of J&K.
Now we hear that the government is planning to release Abdullahs provided they quite politics for a while and possibly move abroad. This is really strange. If they have committed any crime they should be tried and sent to jail like some of the other politicians in country. But removing politicians from the scene altogether who can possibly help revival of electoral politics in state is sinister.
In the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution the Local Government is a subject under the State List, yet Union Government went ahead and got Block Development Council elections conducted which was boycotted by the two major Parties of J&K as well as the Congress Party. This presents a dangerous scenario. The BJP-RSS has been building a ‘One Nation, One Constitution, One Language’ narrative and they may lead us to a situation of One Party rule.
BJP was the only party contesting the Block level elections in J&K. This will be the end of democracy in India. Indian democracy has thrived on a multi-Party system so far. The opposition Parties play an important role of check and balance and also offer an alternative to the people in the next elections if the people are not happy with the ruling Party.
It is strange that while BJP has implemented the longtime political agenda of RSS to abrogate Article 370, it is preventing other political parties to carry out their political activities. Even the Supreme Court, when it has allowed any politician from outside to visit J&K, has put a condition that politicians should not carry out political activities. This is really strange. If the political parties are prevented from carrying out political activities, what else are they supposed to do?
It is strange that the government is arranging trips of foreign envoys to J&K while not allowing own MPs to visit.
With the downgrading of State status to Union Territories, the bureaucracy and military establishment is clearly dominating the politics and the officials don’t feel accountable to the people as a people’s representative would have felt.
Hence in all possible ways the BJP government in power in Delhi is making sure that there is no political alternative in J&K or any voice demanding democratic rights for people. It wants a police or military state in J&K and forces everybody to accept its point of view.
Attempt should be made for a dialogue with Pakistan to reunite the two portions of J&K. A joint management of the united J&K should be worked out
We have been told by BJP politicians and RSS leaders in the past five months that people in J&K are happy with the decision taken by Union Government on 5 August. The reality is quite the opposite. Government says J&K has been integrated with India. Whereas people of J&K feel that their alienation is now complete.
It is quite a politically hopeless situation in J&K with no revival of political process in sight. The fundamental rights guaranteed by the Article 19 of Constitution of freedom of expression, to assemble peacably, to form associations or to move freely, which are basic requirement for carrying out any political activity in a democracy or for the existence of democracy itself, have been throttled.
The Union Government goes on the claim that normalcy has been restored in J&K, yet heavy military presence and restriction on fundamental rights, as we directly experienced during our Jammu to Srinagar march organised during November 26 to December 1, 2019, do not augur well for the future of J&K. The Union Government does not even seem to have a roadmap to create a situation of normalcy. The most important ingredient of normalcy - dialogue - is something in which the BJP and RSS don’t believe.
The restriction on fundamental rights facilitated by heavy presence of security forces -which is not a pleasant situation for them either - and democracy cannot go hand in hand. The Union Government must consider phased withdrawal of the Army and lifting of restrictions on fundamental rights for revival of political process.
There could be turmoil and the situation may turn very messy, but people’s will cannot be suppressed for very long if democracy is to survive. There should be State Assembly elections of the undivided J&K held as soon as possible and if the Union Government claims that people of J&K are agreeable to the decisions taken by it then the decisions should be approved by the Assembly, only then the decisions can be considered legitimate.
Otherwise, the situation existing prior to that must be restored and, in fact, the agreement of Government of India with the ruler of J&K at the time of accession must be honoured. In addition an attempt should be made after a dialogue with Government of Pakistan to reunite the two portions of J&K, currently with Indian and Pakistan, and a joint management of the united J&K should be worked out by the two countries.
Only such a solution will end the enmity of India and Pakistan too and will make the people of J&K happy. As things stand, numerous people in J&K feel that they have become a scapegoat for political gains of ruling elites in India and Pakistan.
---
*Social and political activist, **teaches at Azim Premji University

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