DDC Poll: BJP’s Botched-Up J&K Plan

Some diehard, liberal optimists are yet again jumping the gun with fake optimism by overwhelmingly asserting that the District Development Council (DDC) election results for about 278 seats in Jammu and Kashmir is “a return to democracy”. There also seems to a view that the election results have proved that the BJP is the single largest party of this former state and new Union Territory, and, therefore, it has been absolved of the arbitrary abrogation of Article 370, the prolonged communication & social lockdown, mass arrests and the military clampdown. This, too, is flagrantly off the mark.

In this freezing cold, the winter of discontent has yet again been reaffirmed and expressed unanimously by the people in the Valley, with all their mistrust and misgivings about the mainstream politicians of the various mainline parties. The DDC polls, if at all, are a reminder, that all is not well in the restive region, and the Valley desperately needs freedom, peace, dignity and democracy. A restoration of the autonomy which was forcibly snatched from the people in early August 2019 by the BJP-led government in Delhi.

The tally of 75 seats for the BJP is a pointer to the sharp religious polarization witnessed in Jammu and Kashmir, especially since 2014. The fact that the BJP had an alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) earlier, against the popular mood, which led to another round of mass unrest in the Valley, has not been forgotten in the region. Certainly, it did not help in mainstreaming BJP in the region, especially in the Valley, more so, after it broke the alliance, as arbitrarily as ever.

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The military clampdown followed by the arrests of scores of politicians and ordinary people, the total communication and social and political lockdown which continued for months, including a tacit and overt clampdown on the local media, has not erased from popular memory. If at all, the DDC polls have only highlighted the serious lack of faith, the universal bad faith, and the total alienation witnessed in the valley since August last year.

The BJP winning a large chunk in the Jammu region is predictable, though even the Congress and the National Conference led by the Abdullahs have made inroads there. The Congress won 26 seats. The alliance has won in both mixed areas, as well as in Muslim-dominated areas, overwhelmingly.

There have been palpable fears in the Jammu region that outsiders might usurp their land in the current scenario, and this fear has been widely shared in the region of Ladakh as well. Despite that, the Hindu-dominated Jammu has voted for the local candidates of the BJP. The independents have won over 50 seats. Predictably, there are allegations that the BJP is trying to appropriate the independents.

Members of the Gupkar Alliance in Kashmir

Significantly, the BJP has got only 3 per cent odd votes in the Valley, and three seats in the Srinagar region. The Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), comprising the PDP, the CPM, the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, and others, have overwhelming won the mandate with 110 seats. And it has not been easy for the alliance, with its leaders such as Mehbooba Mufti and Sajjad Lone widely seen as compromised leaders who had earlier aligned with the BJP, going against the popular mood.

Besides, there were complaints by the alliance that they were not allowed to campaign freely, their movements were restricted, that the central agencies were making life difficult for them, and that their top leaders were not able to reach out to the masses in the interiors. There were also complaints of the BJP using the state machinery to its benefit, as much as pumping in huge money and resources to win the polls.

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Let it also not be forgotten, that the Apni Party propped up by Delhi has done badly with only 12 seats. The fact is that the Centre’s manipulative moves to change the course of the region’s politics has not really succeeded, especially in the Valley. Since the military clampdown, the Centre has tried to create a new and alternative leadership, sponsored by the Indian State and aligned to BJP, from the local level leadership, such as the panchayats and the districts. This move has not only boomeranged, but failed singularly in creating an alternative leadership, with most of these local, sponsored chieftains unable to even visit their areas due to the fear of a collective backlash.

Several other myths seem to have been broken by the final results of the polls and the process of campaigning. The BJP’s campaign to remove dynasties simply did not work. Despite the bad faith, the people have restored faith in the old dynasties, including Sajjad Lone, Mufti and the Abdullahs.

Second, the DDC winners will involve themselves with strictly local issues — health, water, infrastructure, among other factors. These are municipal issues and in no way reflect the big political picture and social process of the state. People have clearly voted to make a categorical point in the Valley and in the mixed population areas elsewhere – that they unilaterally and unanimously oppose the abrogation of Article 370, the dissolution of the assembly, the arrest of mainstream leaders and others, the lockdown and the clampdown, and the totalitarian method adopted by the Centre under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah since August last year.

If anything, the poll results yet again reflect mass resentment and anger at the state of affairs and are a signal that the entire strategy of the ruling regime in the region has moved from one political failure to another.

In this context the rhetoric that the polls would end militancy or extremism is much too far-fetched. If anything, Pakistan-backed armed militancy has only increased since the state was turned into a union territory, and there is no sign of it abating. With China fishing in murky waters in Ladakh, hitherto a part of Jammu and Kashmir, allegedly occupying Indian land, despite the high-level talks, the border region will continue to be restive.

Indeed, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris coming to power in America, there is speculation that the human and fundamental rights issue might be again raised by democrats, involving Kashmir. Pakistan is sure to raise it yet again internationally, tacitly backed by China. And with the new American leadership’s stated position in support of democracy, secularism and freedom, if there is a shift in American foreign policy on Kashmir, that surely will be another big headache for the regime in Delhi.

Despite all the shadows and black holes, the DDC poll campaign and the results are a good sign. It restores minimalist electoral democracy in a state under siege and virtual occupation. It also promises the final restoration of autonomy and the state assembly under federal principles of the Indian Constitution, whereby people of the region might once again choose to vote for an elected state government – and not a power structure controlled by the Centre with military clampdown.

Forget PoK, Pakistanis not weak, says Farooq

Dr. Farooq Abdullah addresses rousing public meeting in Uri. Admits Dr. Sajjad Uri into the party. Seeks reversal of all post-1953 Central Laws extended to J&K. pic.twitter.com/4mrIOaHNMl

— JKNC (@JKNC_) November 15, 2017 Farooq added, “Today, they (India) claim it is their part. So take it (PoK). We are also saying please take it (from Pakistan). We will also see. They (Pakistan) are not weak and are not wearing bangles. They too have atom bombs. Before we think about war, we should think how we will live as humans”, Abdullah said. Abdullah, who represents Srinagar in the Lok Sabha, had last week said that even a war betwen India and Pakistan would not change the status of PoK. Reacting to Abdullah’s PoK statement of last week, Syed Tahseen Gilani, General Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, told Lokmarg: “The recent comments by Farooq Abdullah are neither surprising nor relevant. The movement in Jammu Kashmir is a reality. It is a movement of right of self-determination and Kashmiris have the right to determine their own fate like anyone else. “It is a long-standing issue and Farooq Adullah’s, frankly ignorant, comments does not help the situation at all. However, it is not altogether surprising to see him coming out with such statements. Over the recent years, his party has lost significant ground on political front, and their political leadership is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Their showing at the last election was a clear indication of eroded confidence that the electorate has in his party and its politics. I do, however, find it insulting that he has attempted to dismiss a movement which is asking for a basic human right. I believe the movement in Jammu Kashmir is for legitimate right of self-determination and all must must not only respect it but also take measures to ensure it is afforded to people of Jammu Kashmir.”

(Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy) // ]]>

Autonomy for Kashmir: Who stands where?

The autonomy issue and who stands where Kashmir’s accession to India was predicated on it getting a special status in the Indian Union, that the Centre would only be responsible for defence, communications and foreign affairs. This was done by means of Article 370, supposed to be a temporary provision in the Constitution but one that became de facto permament because the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir dissolved itself in January 1957 without abrogating or changing it. Later rulings of the Supreme Court, and one as recently as 2015 by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, have made the article permanent. Article 35A, inserted into the Constitution by a presidential order in 1954, seeks to preserve the demographic status of Jammu and Kashmir by defining permanent residents of the state for the purposes of buying immovable property, getting a state government job, admission to a professional college, scholarship or aid. The validity and expanse of this article is being considered by the Supreme Court now. BJP: The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A is one of the pillars of the right wing’s view of the state and its further incorporation with India. The BJP campaigned aggressively for this aggressively in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 and the Jammu and Kashmir elections of the same year. A status quo prevailed in the Agenda of Alliance that the party came up with when it partnered the Peoples Democratic Party to form a coalition government in the state. That hasn’t kept them from talking about it though. “The prevailing situation in the Valley shows that Article 370 has created a separatist psyche and acts as a breeding ground for separatist emotion.” BJP spokesperson Vijender Gupta in August 2017

The Vajpayee doctrine
The Vajpayee doctrine on Kashmir called for peace, progress and prosperity in the Valley by imbibing the spirit of Insaniyat (Humanity) , Jamhuriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Identity of the people of Kashmir). The doctrine was hailed across Jammu and Kashmir, including by extremists. Vajpayee’s mantra included resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including Jammu and Kashmir, peacefully through bilateral dialogue without any third party intervention. He carried his message of peace to Pakistan during a bus journey to Lahore on February 19, 1999.
Congress: It stands for the much-denuded Article, but takes a fine line on not pushing a strong line on autonomy. “Article 370 (3) read with Art 370 (2) clarifies 370 cannot be repealed without the consent of the Constituent Assembly which does not exist. No brainer.” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari in May 2014 National Conference: All for it. Seeks the pristine autonomy of the pre-1953 era. In June 2000, the state Assembly passed a resolution seeking greater autonomy for the state. Farooq Abdullah was chief minister at the time. The resolution was roundly rejcted by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government of the time, the Union Cabinet saying “it would set the clock back and reverse the natural process of harmonising the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with the integrity of the nation.” Peoples Democratic Party: Is for its own dressed-up version of autonomy that it calls self-rule. In partnerig with the BJP, the Mehbooba Mufti-led party is in a distinctly uncomfortable place on this issue. Separatists: By definition, self-determination or independence is their goal. They do not see autonomy as a goal, much less a desirable interregnum. Most of the current lot in the splintered Hurriyat were part of the Muslim United Front that contested the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections of 1987, their poll manifesto invoking the Shimla pact, Islamic unity and real autonomy. The MUF got almost a third of the popular vote but only four seats in elections that were widely believed to be rigged. The Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference in partnership with the Congress came to power, and the last chance to bring back disaffected elements of the population had been lost, some now say forever.  

Rishi Kapoor backs Farooq, gets trolled

Bollywood star of yesteryears Rishi Kapoor took to Twitter to back Farooq Abdullah. Here’s what happened then: And the bashing started: (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy) // ]]>

Centre's interlocutor begins Kashmir visit

No hopes from talks, autonomy only way: Farooq

National Conference President Farooq Abdullah on Sunday said he does not have any expectations from newly-appointed J&K interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma and the only way forward in Kashmir is restoration of autonomy to the state. Addressing a party gathering in border town of Tangdhar in Kupwara district, he said the the Central government should devise a sound Kashmir policy and termed the appointment of a new interlocutor to J&K as nothing new. “I have very little expectations from this new interlocutor. Like it has been done before, he will come and meet people. In 2010, then UPA government appointed a group of interlocutors who visited the state and had detailed discussions with every section here. The process took more than two months and after they were done with meeting people, a report was compiled. What happened to that report? Did the government discuss that report in any forum including the Parliament? “No. Instead it has been thrown into a dust bin somewhere in north Block. It was followed by a delegation comprising of parliamentarians who visited Kashmir. What happened to that delegation and their recommendations? Nothing happened. So I expect nothing to happen now as well,” said the former Chief Minister.
Sharma is expected to meet political leaders, traders and students. However, separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik have declined to have parleys with the interlocutor. He said it was their choice whether they want to meet him or not. “I can only suggest everyone to contribute to peace building in the state. People have suffered a lot there.” Sharma is an old Kashmir hand who served as Assistant Director Intelligence Bureau in the state from 1992-94 – the time when militancy was at its peak in Jammu and Kashmir. He headed the IB for two years from December 2015 to December 2016. It was also the time when widespread violent street protests erupted in the Kashmir Valley following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. (IANS) // ]]>