Democracy in Kashmir: Indira’s failure, Vajpayee’s success

Source: The post is based on an article Democracy in Kashmir: Indira’s failure, Vajpayee’s success” published in The Indian Express on 29th September 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2

Relevance: concerns associated with Jammu and Kashmir

News:  Elections in Jammu and Kashmir is due for the past four years. It has been under direct administration of the Union government since Article 370 was revoked.

What were changes brought by revoking Article 370?

Jammu and Kashmir was transformed from a state to the union territory by the Union Parliament.

The new UT was given limited powers along the line of lines Delhi assembly.

The central government made further more changes in the UT.

For example, State subject certificates were replaced with domicile certificates which allowed voting and property rights to a temporary as well as long-time residents.

It altered land laws and affected forest rights, allocated mining rights to industry from outside the state, removed the right to free education up to the post-graduate level.

The latest changes were to revise the delimitation of electoral constituencies as ordered by the reorganisation act.

However, there are still many problems with Jammu and Kashmir.

What are the problems present in Jammu and Kashmir?

Voter’s list: Jammu and Kashmir administration began to revise the voters’ list after the delimitation commission submitted its report.

However, in the absence of recent census 2020 it is difficult to understand how the voters’ list was prepared.

New laws: Jammu along with Kashmir has also suffered from the result of the new domicile certificates, land laws and industrial policies.

Delimitation commission: there are also allegations that the delimitation of electoral constituency by the delimitation commission has not been fair to the Kashmiri population.

Border dispute: J&K shares border with Pakistan and there have been wars which has disturbed the area.

Insurgency: There has been increase in the insurgency within the Kashmir valley and targeted attack on Pundits, panchayat officials and the police still continue.

Therefore, there is a need for a free and fair assembly election especially that which allows civil society observers.

How past government has helped in free and fair election in Kashmir?

Atal Bihari Vajpayee government ensured free and fair elections in 2002 when the insurgency was at its height.

The elections were followed by new policies of non-interference in state governance along with peace negotiations with armed groups as well as Pakistan.

Vajpayee government followed by Manmohan Singh government led to a sharp fall in attacks and casualties and the restoration of a functioning government.

The peace-building years of 2002-2012 also laid the foundation for India to use the UN’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to target Pakistan-based terrorists.

Therefore, there is a need to revise the current policy of the government.

What can be further course of action?

First, a free and fair election in 2023 can help to restore peace in J&K.

Second, the strongest confidence-building measure would be to restore statehood prior to elections and stop the implementation of the delimitation commission’s recommendations.

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