Despite Pakistani military-intelligence complex’s best efforts to push terrorists across the border and the Line of Control to disrupt the nascent political process, finally, the first-ever District Development Council (DDC) elections are underway in Jammu and Kashmir. In an eight-phase electoral process spread nearly over a month, 43 out of the total 280 DDC constituencies went to the polls on Saturday. These elections and the bypolls to the local bodies, of course, are not enough to set the democratic course right, which got derailed on August 5, 2019, with the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories. Then, politics is an art of incremental activism wherein something is always better than a complete suspension of mass mobilisation.
The participation of the seven-party People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in these polls is a big sign of positive, democratic engagement by J&K’s mainstream parties, which needs to be understood, appreciated and reciprocated by the Centre. The Union government ought to stop looking at leaders of PAGD, particularly the former chief ministers of J&K, through a prism of suspicion and malice. Even when they seek to restore the status of their erstwhile state, they are responsibly channelling the free-floating anger, frustration and political energy of the masses into the electoral paradigm, making the DDC polls a success.
Instead of valuing the contribution of these mainstream parties in stabilising society, for some time, there has been an attempt to demonise the leadership of the people of J&K, which would only help create a dangerous vacuum to be occupied by Islamist separatists. There was no need for stopping Farooq Abdullah from offering prayers at the Hazratbal shrine for Eid-Milad-un-Nabi on October 30. Now, Mehbooba Mufti claims that she and her daughter are under detention and not allowed to meet the parents of Waheed-ur-Rahman Para, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency on terror charges. It is difficult to disagree with Omar Abdullah when he says that personal liberty is being treated as a favour by the government, which offers and withdraws it at will.