Modi govt’s Kashmir policy enters next phase with focus on reforms & political engagement
New Delhi: The recent flurry of activity and developments in Jammu and Kashmir indicate that the next round of the Modi government’s policy in the union territory will continue to have a multi-pronged approach.
The administration has started the process of conducting elections of district councils, amended land laws, resolved the long-pending issue of permanent resident certificates and introduced Kashmiri, Hindi and Dogri as official languages of J&K. It has also cracked down on the separatist activities by taking action against a couple of media outlets and half a dozen non-governmental organisations.
This shows that three key components of the ‘third phase’ of the Kashmir policy, which started with the appointment of former union minister Manoj Sharma as the Lieutenant-Governor, are political engagement, hardline against separatists and terrorists, and administrative and legal reforms.
The first phase of the policy began in August last year when Article 370, which gave the erstwhile state special status, was amended and Section 35 A, which allowed only residents to purchase property, was scrapped.
Then, in the second phase, the Modi government appointed civil servant G.C. Murmu as the L-G of the newly carved union territory. Murmu had his task cut out, as he set to realign the state’s administrative processes and institutional structures to the requirements of its new status in the federal structure.
Sinha has subsequently been brought in to expedite the political process in the state and carry forward the overall multi-pronged strategy of the Modi government.
The ‘Gupkar declaration’, which has indicated the coming together of the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a few other political outfits in the union territory has not frazzled the Modi government. The parties have demanded restoration of Article 370.
The Modi government, however, is not waiting for the Abdullahs and the Muftis to come around. It has decided to move ahead with its policy of political engagement. The process of holding the district council polls, an important step to ensure self-government, has already started with the government setting up committees to plan for the elections last week.
“The Gupkar declaration has been made by political leaders who have lost relevance as they turned their parties into family fiefdoms,” said a senior government functionary.
“Corruption, nepotism and lack of presence at the ground level has created a huge trust-deficit for them. The new political leadership emerging from the ground-level reflects the true aspirations of common people.”
‘Crackdown on separatists and terrorists’
Not just the process of political engagement, the government has also continued with its hardline policy against separatists and terrorists as well as those supporting them.
The crackdown in the last week of October on half-a-dozen NGOs and a couple of media outlets in J&K can be seen in this context.
The evidence has been painstakingly collected to show how certain elements are misusing the name of media and human rights to promote the separatist agenda.
A clampdown on owners of ‘benami properties’ that may expose the nexus between separatists and the ‘so-called activists’ is also expected in the near future, according to sources.
As far as the government’s policy on terrorism is concerned, the security forces have almost wiped out the leadership of all terrorist groups in J&K. More than two dozen commanders of such outfits have been killed in encounters with Indian security forces just this year.
The terrorist groups, in their desperation, have started attacking and killing political workers, especially those of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Sources in the security establishment, however, said that the forces would continue to relentlessly crackdown on terrorists and that they had the full support of the Centre and the UT of J&K.
Moreover, sources added, the number of active terrorists and local recruitment in the UT is at an all-time low.
Administrative and legal reforms
Several important legal and administrative reforms have also been brought in and more such steps are in the offing for Jammu and Kashmir.
Providing long-pending permanent resident certificates; making Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi official languages and the introduction of new land laws on 27 October are a few of key steps taken by the Modi government.
Under the new land laws, non-agricultural land in Jammu and Kashmir can be purchased by anyone from India.
Sant Kumar Sharma, a veteran journalist based in J&K underlined the significance of this move. “Under these laws, it will be possible to divert land for education and health care facilities,” said Sharma. “This may lead to private universities and corporate hospitals opening up in the UT. Incidentally, there are no private universities or colleges in J&K at present.
“It may be mentioned here that thousands of students, from school-level to the university-level, for professional or technical education go outside the UT. They can be found in the neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Delhi or further far-off places like Mumbai and Bangalore,” he added.
More such legal, administrative and other reforms are also expected in the near future.
The Modi government’s decisions aim to bridge the gap between the administration and the common people that had been created due to decades of ‘misgovernance and misuse of resources’.
Those who have created this mess are making the ‘Gupkar declaration’ but they seem to be becoming increasingly irrelevant and one can expect that with this realisation, the Modi government would continue to roll out the Kashmir policy as it has planned.