Current Political Scenario in Kashmir: An Analytical Perspective

 Mohd Ishaq Shah ✉

The political climate in Kashmir is currently tense as the 2024 parliamentary elections approach. All local and national parties are actively campaigning to win the support of the public and secure their votes. Political figures from various regional and national parties are frequently holding public rallies in different locations, attempting to rally support for their respective parties.

The political environment appears to be highly competitive, with the BJP facing off against all other local and national parties. The outcome of this parliamentary election is uncertain, and its impact on the future political discourse between the centre and the state is a matter of speculation.

Maharaja Gulab Singh has been called the founder of the polity of Jammu and Kashmir. Following the 1860s, interaction with British India resulted in the region becoming a part of the geopolitical game between Russia and Britain. During the period of India’s independence, the partition, up till and after India became a Republic, the question of Kashmir’s future marked political decisions. The introduction of Pakistan into the internal political situation at this stage created complexities.

Some observers point out that the Kashmir conflict is a political issue. Amidst the political instability that the conflict has brought to the region, all the governments of Jammu and Kashmir have been engaged in attaining normalcy. “The state has seen a parallel existence of the democratic and separatist sphere of politics”; and a shift from political hegemony till as late as 2002 to a multi-party system.

Historically Kashmiri Muslims preferred greater autonomy and sovereignty for the region or an independent Kashmir. However, a minority of the non-Muslims who live in the region prefer the state to be fully integrated into India. Some Kashmiri Muslims also prefer to be part of Pakistan and a small part of Kashmir is under Pakistan’s control.

There have also been several separatist movements, both political and militant, mostly led by Muslim leaders. However, in recent years there have been claims that a growing number of Kashmiri Muslims have been leaning towards remaining in India for economic and cultural reasons. A 2008 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determined that the State of Jammu and Kashmir was the only & partly free state in India, but it is now a Union Territory rather than a State. Human rights abuses in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and a strong Indian army presence have also been issues and affect the politics of the region.

In August 2019, the Government of India introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, 2019 in the Rajya Sabha and moved the resolution to scrap Article 370 from the Constitution of India and bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir with a legislation like Delhi, and Ladakh with a legislation like Chandigarh. Jammu and Kashmir was the only Indian state that had its flag. However, as Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted Jammu and Kashmir autonomy, was abrogated in August 2019, the flag has lost its official status.

Since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, there have been various paradigm shifts in the political scenario of J&K like bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories, the emergence of PGDA, its breakdown and fixing of the strong roots of BJP in the state and set back of local parties in the making and especially the loss of faith in democratic procedure on the part of the public. 

At the time of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, all the local parties united against the BJP with the motive that they would defend the status-quo position of the state and with time they lost their ground when finally Supreme Court of India gave the final verdict that the abrogation of said articles was justified under constitutional provisions for their temporary nature and the stand of BJP being that these provisions were a hurdle in between the state (UT) and the centre relationships.

Not only this but the centre also would say that it was the main obstacle in maintaining accountability and transparency in the state as the special status of J&K would not allow the union govt. to intervene in the affairs covered by the state list and consequently, the people in political power would exploit the situation for their interests which is justified to a great extent.

The current elections are of utmost importance for political stability or instability in Jammu and Kashmir in the sense that in case the local parties make their way to winning some/all the Lok Sabha seats of the UT it will impact the future political discourse of the UT of J&K to the effect that people will be inclined to vote them in an Assembly Elections as well. If the case, the BJP is successful in winning some seats of J&K, it will have adverse effects on the overall footing of local parties, and they may lose the ground forever. Now the matter of introspection is what/how should people behave in said elections to change the political scenario of J&K. The situation may become much more difficult for local parties to win in the Assembly Elections.

As of now, it seems that the National Conference (NC) may win a considerable number of seats to be followed by PDP and other parties like APNI Party and Democratic Azad Party). But there is a saying that “Kashmir Kay Mousam Aur Dehli Ki Raajniti Pe koee barosa Nahi” meaning that there is no guarantee on the weather of Kashmir and the Rajniti at Delhi. These are the most unpredictable things in themselves. The most crucial thing is that the temperament of the Kashmir people is never stable They can change their mode anytime and turn the things topsy-turvy.

In case BJP wins the parliamentary elections in J&K that may impact the Assembly Elections in future and they might gain ground in the UT as in the 2014 Assembly Elections. So, as a result, there will be a complete change of the scene and a tough time will start for both the mainstream politicians and their allies. Law enforcement may take the new shift and it may encompass the religious/ ethical discourse of the state and perhaps the people might be scared to manifest their belief and practice their faith in the form of formal worship and other activities. The hard stance of the BJP will get more momentum and the subjects of the UT may be subjected to more hardships than they would have faced during the Dogra Rule or Afghan Rule.

So, far as the work culture under BJP is concerned there is nothing wrong with it. And it has been witnessed that the official work culture has been updated up to the mark. But the political manifesto of the party comprises of Hindu Rashtra based upon Hindutva which is totally against the constitutional ethics of India. Article 25 of the Indian constitution guarantees every citizen the right to propagate and practice his religion. All this is reflected by BJP intervention in terms of the Beef Ban, Triple-Talaq and purdah system.

So, the current political situation has a crucial relevance with the future political discourse of the UT of J&K. It may reshape the political set-up or damage it totally to the effect that the local parties will never think of contesting elections. And BJP will enjoy its position unto the change in the overall political set-up of India. As history reveals the political discourse of Jammu and Kashmir is directly or indirectly influenced by the political scenario at the national level.

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