4 years post-Article 370: Govt misses window of opportunity in J&K

People are yearning for elections and the return of the same politicians who were previously sidelined. This desire seems to reflect a longing for the old and criticized ‘ecosystem,’ where separatism and violence once thrived.

| Updated: 05 August, 2023 9:03 am IST

Four years ago, the change in Article 370 was a momentous event, but it was not the only significant development. Parliament’s decision to strip away statehood was equally stunning. However, one aspect that gained popularity in Jammu and Kashmir was the sidelining of the political class, which extended to politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics, and others.

The silencing of politicians, including BJP leaders in Jammu, and their confinement in hotels or palaces garnered mixed reactions. Many people, particularly the youth, initially celebrated this move in both Kashmir and Jammu. However, as time passed, sentiments shifted dramatically.

Now, four years later, the mood has undergone a complete transformation in several parts of the union territory. People are yearning for elections and the return of the same politicians who were previously sidelined. This desire seems to reflect a longing for the old and criticized ‘ecosystem,’ where separatism and violence once thrived.

READ MORE: Repeal of Article 370 ushered in new era: A Kashmiri’s account

Opportunity gone by

Over the past four years, there was immense potential for transformation in Jammu and Kashmir. Although the initial shock and grief subsided, people were eager to see the promised “naya Kashmir” that Home Minister Amit Shah spoke about in Parliament. The environment was conducive for significant changes in the economy, governance, ecological management, and overall functioning.

While some improvements were evident, such as enforced rules and timely functioning of government offices, people expected these changes to pave the way for a larger transformation. Even halfway into the process, people remained hopeful and patient. However, as time passed, their hopes dwindled, and many have now given up.

The elected panchayats and municipalities were not sufficiently empowered, missing an opportunity to decentralize power and engage local communities. District Development Councils could have been utilized as geopolitical instruments to shift the focus away from the major cities and towards the underrepresented regions.

Regrettably, the expansion of the scheduled tribes list has sparked strong backlash, rather than uplifting the lives of women and scheduled castes and tribes. Many Rajputs, Syeds, and Brahmins have been included in the list, raising concerns about its appropriateness.

The past four years could have been transformative, but the opportunity has slipped away, leaving behind a sense of unfulfilled promises and missed potential.

Blinkered politics: Missed opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir

Four years ago, hopes were high for a new generation of politicians to lead the way in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the reality has been different, with established politicians and newcomers facing ups and downs in their political journeys, leaving many disillusioned.

READ MORE: Creeping militancy casts shadow on upcoming polls in J&K

Even young and dynamic politicians like Touseef Raina, who was elected as an independent and became chairman of the Baramulla municipal council, faced challenges. He was brought down by opponents from the BJP and another party, leading to clashes and criminal charges.

Some of the new faces joining the BJP in Kashmir have questionable backgrounds, raising concerns about their suitability for power. The sidelining of potential inspiring leaders only adds to the disillusionment, which could lead to fresh alienation and a return to violence.

Despite the desire of most people to avoid unrest and violence, the closing of the window of opportunity amid global developments and regional concerns is disheartening. The need for transformative leadership remains, but it seems to be slipping away.

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