The legislative process in Jammu and Kashmir has become shambolic. This is perhaps best reflected in the bland reaction and response to the proposal for rendering Maharaja Hari Singh’s birthday into a state holiday. The major opposition party, the National Conference, instead of opposing the resolution proposing the holiday, staged a walk out before the resolution was prtesented. This mild form of protest that could be read as connivance allowed this piece of legislation to pass, in essence rendering the holiday legislation a fait accompli.
The same shambolic discussion and debate, process and procedure applies intergenerationally to many themes and pieces of legislation that have been deleterious for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The autonomy resolution of 1996 springs to mind here. From a ‘ mainstream’ perspective, the legislative arena should protect both the rights of the people and the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and articulate issues that affect the lives of citizens. But this legislative arena has over time rinsed of its effectiveness and perhaps even real power.
The reasons appear to pertain to the nature of Jammu and Kashmir, the faultlines thereof and the need to always appease Delhi. The Hari Singh holiday perhaps best encapsulates this. The legislation appears to be aimed at pandering to the Hindu vote bank in Jammu. Opposing it would mean losing or alienating this vote bank. No party (not even the National Conference) would openly oppose this for fear of angering this vote bank.
The answer for the party then lies in the path of least resistance. That is, take the route of omission so that the onus of blame does not fall on it. There is a larger malaise embedded in the whole saga: if parties (in or out of power) placate vote banks instead of articulating and aggregating the aspirations of the people, then the future of Jammu and Kashmir, at least from a mainstream perspective, is in jeopardy. Extra regional parties can play games to divide the regional parties and pass legislation whose import and consequence can be even more damaging to the people.
This allows extra regional parties to play the age old colonial game of divide and rule where the voice of the people is lost in the din of shambolic opposition. This needs to be checked and stopped. But for this to happen, regional parties of Jammu and Kashmir need to actually be representative of the people and hold people to be their real constituencies instead of Delhi. This, however, might not be forthcoming given the ultimate spoil that mainstream parties vie for: power.