1st Time In 30+ Years, India Puts Kashmir On Path Of Political Stability While Pakistan Struggles With “AK”

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah has said in no uncertain terms that Jammu and Kashmir will soon hold Assembly elections and that the development process that has begun will continue.

In a recent interview with PTI, Home Minister (HM) Amit Shah gave a comprehensive analysis of the political landscape in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with insights into the future policy of the Union government for the region. The minister’s interview gives definite clues about how the government wants a full-fledged democratic dispensation to be the guiding star for future administration.

The HM has set at rest a long-standing misconception about the Kashmir Valley’s political leadership that the NDA government was either unclear or intentionally sidetracking its plans for the future course of action.

Parliamentary elections in three constituencies of Kashmir—Anantnag, Srinagar, and Baramulla—have been held peacefully, and the voter turnout was satisfactory in contrast to the years of disturbances.

Significantly, those parties and segments of leadership who did not want to vote under the provisos of the Indian Constitution silently participated in the voting process. Their leaders did not issue a whip to dissuade them from the democratic process.

The mainstream regional parties—the National Conference (NC), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the Congress, and others—had already indicated their willingness to participate in the democratic process. Interestingly, even the Mirwaiz Farooq faction of the Hurriyat desisted from calling for a boycott of the election. This is a crucial point and merits a deeper insight.

The Hurriyat (Mirwaiz) has been the bastion of the Valley’s Jamat-i-Islami after the demise of the former Jamat-i-Islami stalwart, Ali Shah Geelani. Maulvi Omar had been kept in internment for some time when he was alleged to be the conduit for the transfer of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) funding for the Kashmir separatists. When that revelation came to light, it was expected that the Mirwaiz would be prosecuted and exposed for his clandestine activities.  But this did not happen, and the matter was left out in the cold.

For quite some time, Mirwaiz, the prominent and influential Muslim leader of Kashmir, was no more in the news. Nor did the Kashmir Jamaat-i Islami figure prominently in the local media in a big way.

Was Mirwaiz re-assessing and introspecting the situation on the ground? Was he tracking the disturbing situation in Pakistan, where, apart from the financial and economic crisis, a shocking political scenario was unfolding? Was he analyzing the power and shortcomings of Islamic countries and India’s growing clout with many of them, especially Saudi Arabia?

More importantly, has he been watching with great distress the fast-deteriorating relations between the people of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the rulers in Islamabad?

Incidentally, Mirwaiz has a good constituency of the Kashmir Valley migrant diaspora in “Azad Kashmir” (AK). His ancestor, Maulvi Yusuf Shah, was banished from Srinagar by Sheikh Abdullah soon after the Sheikh assumed power in 1948.

The almost year-long anti-Islamabad agitation in “AK” and Gilgit-Baltistan has rocked the Islamic State of Pakistan. It is Islam versus Islam. This also explains why top Indian National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leadership has been relentlessly issuing threats and warnings of retaking the POK in conformity with the unanimous parliamentary resolution passed in 1994 when the Congress under PV Narasimha Rao was in power.

No less significant is the impact of military and security planners’ strategy in Kashmir in the last two or three years. South Kashmir, especially the region of Pulwama, Shopian, etc., has been cleared of separatists and terrorists, and people are happy to see the new era of peace and progress brought by the new approach to the Kashmir problem.

All this and the wise and pragmatic policy of addressing the development issues of Kashmir in a planned manner—which has created a conducive atmosphere for the youth, providing them not only jobs but, importantly, with self-employment and entrepreneurship opportunities—have brought about a radical change in the attitude of Kashmiris.

Thousands of Kashmiri youth have been admitted to premier formal and professional institutes in the country, where their talent and originality have been rewarded.

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is no longer the cherished destination where a negative political orientation was available to embrace them and then mislead them. The number of degree colleges, universities, medical colleges, IITs, IIMs, and polytechnics has mushroomed in the State, where young and promising students interact without fear or favor.

In his comprehensive interview with PTI, the Home Minister mentioned these developmental activities. However, the most important part of his interview was related to the forthcoming assembly election in the Union Territory.

He said that New Delhi was bound by the Supreme Court’s verdict that Assembly elections should be conducted before September 30. He reiterated that, with the successful conclusion of the delimitation of constituencies and the parliamentary election (according to that delimitation), J&K was now on the threshold of assembly elections and the reversion of the UT to statehood status.

The Home Minister’s statement dispels the heat from the stand taken by NC, Congress, PDP, CPI, and some separatist parties that the BJP-led government at the Centre wants to dissolve the state and convert it into a “Hindu” majority state.

For the separatist elements, the plethora of propaganda attached to this basic argument had become the key to the election process in J&K. The Home Minister’s statement has ended the canards, with communal undertones, spread against the BJP.

The tailpiece of this narrative is a bizarre story doing the rounds in political circles in Kashmir. Though not verified formally, it is said that Mirwaiz is likely to indicate the willingness of his group to participate actively in the Assembly elections.

Observers relate this rumor to the recent one-day visit of the Home Minister to Srinagar. It is also believed that the reason the BJP did not field a candidate can be traced to the understanding with the Mirwaiz.

The BJP wanted to blunt the propaganda of some mainstream political parties that it had carved out a strong constituency in Kashmir, by fair and foul means, to dominate the political stage in Kashmir. This provides considerable space for Mirwaiz and his political maneuvers, which could catapult his group into power after the assembly elections.

  • Prof. KN Pandita (Padma Shri) is the former director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University.
  • This article contains the author’s personal views and does not represent EurAsian Times’ policies/views/opinions in any way. 
  • The author can be reached at knp627 (at) gmail.com