Mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir are threatening to bring mass agitations back in the Valley if Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik continues with his "mission of eroding the special status of the state" through a series of controversial decisions
The National Conference, the grand old party of Kashmir, has been on the streets for quite some time now. The party has been protesting against the policies of the erstwhile Peoples Democratic Party- Bharatiya Janata Party (PDP-BJP) coalition government, which, it claims, put the Valley on the line of fire over the last three years, and now, the party has joined hands with former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP which was part of the ruling alliance in the state until June.
At the centre of their attacks is the BJP and its controversial governor who sparked an uproar following his decision to dissolve the state Assembly. He hasn’t looked back since. The governor was called out again for attempting to change the legislation governing the issuance of Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) for state subjects. The PRC is linked to the Article 35A in the Constitution, which grants the state its special status, and has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
Following on his path of controversy, Malik, according to reports, is now likely to bring in a new juvenile justice law by repealing the existing act which was introduced in 2013 and implemented last year. The new law, for the first time, has a provision on adoption, which is seen as a "breach in Jammu and Kashmir's Permanent Residents Act".
And, as if it was not enough, Governor Malik is also contemplating to accord 'autonomy' to Ladakh following the "persistent demand" of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils of Leh and Kargil for a separate divisional status for the arid desert region.
"This is a first step to grant Union Territory status to Ladakh," said Nasir Aslam Wani, a senior National Conference leader, adding, "With the divide between Hindu majority Jammu and Muslim majority Kashmir widening, it seems the governor’s administration is on a mission to trifurcate the state. But, we will not allow these divisive attempts to succeed. We will come out on the roads if the decision is not revoked."
The Jammu and Kashmir governor has faced a lot of criticism lately for its decisions whether it is converting Jammu and Kashmir Bank into a public sector undertaking, repealing of Roshni Act or changing the criteria for obtaining PRC. The mainstream parties have said that the governor is “crossing the red line” and that he should leave these decisions to a democratically elected government.
On Friday, Mehbooba threatened to launch an agitation if the J&K governor went ahead with his plans of granting divisional status to the Ladakh region while ignoring the Muslim majority region of Pir Panjal and Chenab in Jammu, who have been making similar demands.
“The decisions taken by the governor are against the interests of the state. We thought he is a politician and he would be cautious, rather overcautious. But unfortunately, the Raj Bhawan issues some order every other day, and that has put the people in distress,” Mehbooba said at a press conference at her residence on Friday.
The governor, Mehbooba said, was encroaching upon the democratic spaces and that the orders that he has been passing are of no significance because once the elected government assumes office, they will be withdrawn. Mehbooba also alleged that the governor was carrying forward this "divisive agenda" on the “orders of someone in New Delhi".
The PDP chief’s outburst follows reports that the governor's administration will accord a divisional status to Ladakh. She said, “We are not against it. I request the governor and I hope all parties like the National Conference, Congress and others come together on this and demand that if you are giving divisional status to Ladakh, then Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley should also get it."
"Otherwise we will be forced to agitate peacefully and I will talk to other parties also on this," she added.
Pir Panjal is the gateway to Kashmir Valley. The range, whose name is derived by combining Pir, the archaic Dogri word for mountain, and its Kashmiri synonym, Pantsal, stretches west to east from Poonch to Doda, separating the Valley from Jammu. It is a Muslim-dominated region and pathetically underdeveloped.
As is the case with Ladakh, people from Chenab and Pir Panjal have to travel hundreds of kilometres to Jammu in order to get administrative matters resolved. Though all the districts in both the regions have deputy commissioners, the heads of various departments like power, health, water supply, etc, are based in Jammu.
"It will be a good move if Ladakh, Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley get divisional status. That will speed up the developmental process in these remote areas and people will not have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get their grievances addressed,” Wani said.
But at the heart of these renewed attacks is a deft admission by the regional political parties that they have no issues to go to the people with when the state Assembly elections are held. The PDP, in particular, lost its credibility due to the alliance with the BJP. Mehbooba herself admitted it recently in an interview. The road to redemption for the party is going to be long and hard.
On the other hand, the politics of horse trading and defections, as revealed by Governor Malik himself, has put the National Conference in a tight spot as well. The party has also lost ground due to the volatile situation in the last three years in the Valley. The coming together of the NC and PDP, with Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba warming up to each other on Twitter these days, has sent out a signal of pre or post-poll alliance in the state.
"The street agitation post-Burhan Wani’s killing made National Conference and PDP irrelevant. They were chased out of their strongholds by the wave of unrest and protests. Hitting the streets with issues that have touched the emotional chords of the people is an attempt to reclaim the lost space,” professor Gul Mohammad Wani, who teaches political science at Kashmir University, said.
Updated Date: Dec 08, 2018 16:49 PM