Governance in Kashmir: An Appraisal

Governance in Kashmir: An Appraisal

The conflict in Kashmir is one the world’s longest running and most tragic conflicts; its origin lies in the unfortunate partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.The politics of subcontinent greatly affected the princely states and Kashmir was no more exceptional. The oppressed nature of politics in the state gave birth to the Muslim Conference in 1932 to achieve responsible government. It was under the leadership of late Sheikh Abdullah that the organisation was renamed to National Conference in 1939.The politics of protests and anti-Maharaja sentiment led to the strong involvement of both INC and Muslim League in the state, resulted in divided public opinion. Both the parties claimed to be the well-wishers of the people.The state under Maharaja acceded with India conditionally on certain subjects like defence, foreign affairs and communication. The state’s controversial accession with the union of India was challenged from day one, both in Kashmir as well as from Pakistan. The tall leader like Abdullah too also lost his stature as he was criticised by the parties who were either in favour of Independent or accession with Pakistan and the state entered into the politics of protests and agitations.
Sheikh Abdullah in the early years from 1948 , when he was installed as the Prime Minister of the state,  tried to improve  governance. Yet, since partition, Jammu and Kashmir has rarely witnessed good governance. The major factors responsible for this dilemma have been the political instability, overt and covert destabilisation of political institutions by the central governments and deficiency of determination on part of the local political leadership. All state political stalwarts from Sheikh Abdullah to present day Mehbooba continue to be obedient to their kings in Delhi and cultivated their interests for retaining or obtaining power.
The relationship of state with India was determined by Article 370 or in other words,  greater autonomy was provided to the state within the framework of the  Indian constitution. Abdullah was dismissed and jailed during 1953 to 60s; the arrest of Abdullah changed the political discourse of state as he was replaced by weak and incompetent administrator Ghulam Mohammad Bakshi, Sadiq and others. The state governments were neither responsive to people’s aspirations, nor run on the moralities of accountability. This policy of the central government to install weak administrator’s created a  democratic deficit in the state. There was hardly any presence of opposition to the main stream politics except the Jammu based Praja Parishad.
The State’s Constitution was overridden by the Centre’s orders. Its basic structure was altered. The Governor replaced the Sadar-i-Riyasat and state’s Prime Minister was replaced by the   Chief Minister. As to whether, Article 370, has  retained its original position or not, the answer is giant a  No. Out of the 97 union subjects 94 have been made applicable to the state. This clearly shows that article 370 has been eroded from time and became a dead provision. Thus,  the autonomy as visualized by article 370 has been eroded extensively.
The return of Abdullah from a separatist tendency to mainstream politics in1975 by signing the infamous Kashmir Accord was yet another setback to Kashmir autonomy. The Sheikh who claimed to be the tallest leader surrendered the plebiscite front for which he was in jail. The message was clear from the centre that the clock would not be turned back. The return of Sheikh Abdullah could not provide good government during the second spell of his term as Chief Minister, because of some secretive compulsions and the Centre’s conspiracies.  Abdullah died in 1982 and Farooq Abdullah, his son, assumed the party’s leadership. What followed was shameful.The death of Sheikh created a leadership vacuum both within the ranks of NC as well as in the state. The Central government now found it easy to replace one administrator with another weak and incompetent administrator. Farooq was replaced by the G.M.Shah.These were the years of rapid concentration of power in the hands of New Delhi Governments and growing intolerance toward all opposition in the state.
The rigged election of 1987 was turning point in the history of Kashmir. The state entered  a new phase: the emergence of armed struggle and the direct central rule under the most communal governor, Shri Jagmohan.The unfortunate migration of Kashmir pandits from the valley against the back drop of armed struggle and communal governor led to the further governance and democratic deficit in the state. New Delhi’s tactics generated a wave of widespread anger and freedom movement was reborn with fierce means this time, deteriorated by poor governance and extensive corruption. To quote one of the Kashmiri opposition leaders Abdul Ghani Lone, “It was this (subversion of democracy) that motivated the young generation to say ‘to hell with the democratic process and all that this is about’ and they said, ‘let’s go for the armed struggle.”
The period of Farooq Abdullah from 1996-2002 of NC’s rule was only on papers. The collapse of administration and institutions in the state was a major problem created by the counter insurgency operations against the armed struggle. The use of black laws like AFSPA, PSA, TADA and POTA further created legitimacy crises in the state. People got ruthlessly killed by the state apparatus and institutions which lead to the people’s movement and anger in the valley. The serious human rights violations and disappearance also created alienation and rift between the people and the institutions of the state.
The advent of PDP led coalition government in 2002 to 2008 somehow changed the old model of governance, as this was the period of thaw between Indio-Pak relations, as several peace building measures were taken by both the countries which showed the positive signs in Kashmir also. The Amarnath land row agitation in 2008, the Shopian Rape Murder case in 2009 and 2010 Uprising again molded the state in new political directions and governance remained in the back seat. The state institutions were hardly operative according to the law of the land. The collapse of both NC and Congress in the 2014 assembly elections and emergence of present BJP and PDP Coalition government did nothing in improving the governance and institution building in the state. The 2016 revolt after the Killing of Burhan Wani and endless day to day protects in the state further put governance in the back seat. The institutions of the state are hardly functioning; there is complete catastrophe of governance in all fronts be it executive, legislature and judiciary.

—The author is a Doctoral candidate at  the Department of Political Science,  Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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