Keeping silent on holding Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the ruling dispensation has decided to set up elected district development councils in the union territory.The move comes after the mainstream political parties of Kashmir unanimously decided to fight constitutionally against the revocation last year of Jammu and Kashmir‘s special status. More salt was rubbed into the wounds of the people of the state by dividing it into two union territories.Simultaneously, leaders of national as well as regional mainstream political parties were arrested or detained under various laws so that they could not raise their voice against the Narendra Modi dispensation’s moves.
But the detention of the mainstream political leaders could not continue for ever. Gradually, they have been released from detention under the pressure of public opinion or courts.The last of the prominent political leaders to be released from detention was former Chief Minister and PDP head Mehbooba Mufti. The father-son duo of Dr. Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, both former Chief Ministers, had been freed from detention earlier.Both of them belong to the National Conference, the other leading political party of Jammu and Kashmir.
The long detention of the mainstream political leaders has not deterred them from raising their voice after their release. Of course, political activity has been subdued because of Covid 19 virus restrictions.But in a significant political move, the mainstream leaders of seven Kashmir parties have decided to fight unitedly for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. The Gupkar declaration issued after their meeting earlier this month is a direct challenge to the moves of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah led dispensation, so far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned. There was talk earlier of holding Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir but it has stopped after the mainstream political leaders decided to work unitedly for the restoration of the special status.
The Narendra Modi government’s strategy now appears to be to keep the Kashmir people busy with local body elections and the like. The decision to form elected district development councils has to be viewed in this context.
But in the long run, there can be no running away from genuine elections to give the people of Jammu and Kashmir control over their destiny as in other parts of the country. The earliest steps are taken in this direction, the better it would be for Jammu and Kashmir as well as the country as a whole.