Road ahead for Political Reconciliation

Kashmir Magazine

Tasaduq Rasheed 

Almost two years after the bifurcation of the erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state into two union territories and abrogation of article 370 and article 35 A, the mainstream parties in Kashmir are reconciling themselves to a new administrative and institutional arrangement in Jammu & Kashmir. They fought district development elections and also contested seats left unfilled in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and municipal bodies of some major towns in Kashmir valley before the commencement of winter last year. Though the battle for the restoration of Article 370, Article 35 A and statehood in the highest court of the country is on the suspension mode due to suspension of physical hearings in the courts across the country for about two years now the battle for power has started with DDC elections and may end up with assembly elections sooner or later and this is how mainstream parties in Kashmir are now giving acceptability to a new institutional and administrative arrangement in the erstwhile state since bifurcated into two union territories. It is not the legislations but the posturing of political leaders and peoples’ responses to the actions of both the government and as well as the leaders of the opposition which gives strength to new institutional and administrative arrangements put in place with the approval of the central government during the last two years. The only success for National Conference and Peoples’ Democratic Party was the demonstration of their full control over their political constituencies in Kashmir and consequently, the attempts of a new role for new parties in a new political engagement process have suffered setbacks. The DDC elections have ended up with a verdict that any plans of polarising public opinion for electoral gains will never ever work in Kashmir the main constituency of Kashmir’s traditional mainstream parties National Conference and PDP. It is a stark reality that while conveying their total disapproval to politics of polarisation People in Kashmir have also conveyed the message that they are no longer impressed by either People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) self-rule or the National Conference’s (NC) plank of autonomy now in the fast-changing political environment. They now talk about new institutional and administrative arrangements put in place for a new process of political engagement in a centrally controlled Union Territory called “Jammu & Kashmir Union Territory”. The events unfolding in Jammu & Kashmir show that it has taken the central government less than two years to bring Kashmir mainstream parties on a political reconciliation mode. Just two issues are left unresolved- one the final call on the restoration of statehood and the other one an assembly election on the recommendation of a new delimitation panel tasked the job of creating new assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Jammu & Kashmir. So the restoration of statehood and assembly elections on the recommendation of a new delimitation panel are only two issues left unresolved for defining the new terms of political engagement in Jammu & Kashmir. With National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah saying that his party National Conference is not opposed to new delimitation for assembly and parliamentary constituencies but to the procedure adopted for delimitation process, the top mainstream party of Jammu & Kashmir is now overtly and covertly showing willingness to enter into a new engagement process for accepting the new realities in erstwhile bifurcated Jammu & Kashmir state since reduced to a union territory. So by all means the Central Government has put the cart before the horse. It is now only a matter of time to blow the final whistle for defining the rules for a new political engagement in Jammu & Kashmir. Ultimately the political challenge is no more a political barrier now for the central government as it has built the bridges for bringing the Kashmir mainstream parties on a reconciliation mode.