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A 'Popular' Government in Jammu & Kashmir
A continuous refrain about the installation of a 'Popular' Government in J & K makes one ask what the people in general understand by the word 'Popular'
Monday February 16, 2015 10:58 AM, Mohammad Ashraf

Cambridge dictionary defines the word "Popular" as "liked, enjoyed, or supported by many people". As per this definition can any of the governments in Kashmir since 1947 be termed as "Popular" governments?

The first government of Sheikh Abdullah who was given the title of the "Lion of Kashmir" was an emergency government set up to strengthen the accession which the Maharaja had very reluctantly signed in those compelling circumstances. Even at that time most of the people had hesitatingly sided with the Sheikh Abdullah under the belief that he would lead them to the ultimate goal of freedom. However, the government soon became the most unpopular after Indian intentions became clear and very harsh measures had to be taken to suppress the unrest. The Jammu agitation for total integration of the state with the Indian Union resulted finally in its dismissal in 1953.

Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad installed by Delhi opened the gates for free flow of money and material to Kashmiris who had been starved by Sheikh Abdullah because of his programme of making the State self-sufficient. Character of a Kashmiri was virtually massacred. After that, one after the other governments were installed to toe the Delhi line and suppress whatever semblance of self-respect and dignity was left in a Kashmiri.

The holy relic agitation of 1963-64 like a revolution overthrew the puppet government and the Indo-Pak war resulted in a stalemate. It is claimed that the only free and fair election in Kashmir was in 1977 during the premiership of Morarji Desai. That government even though not to the liking of the general masses because of the compromise made by the "Lion of Kashmir", could be called a popularly elected government. All other governments even though claimed to be popular are alleged to have been installed, manipulated and virtually run from Delhi.

Interestingly, the popularity of our present day leaders can be judged from the security they are provided. Gone are the days of these political leaders mixing freely with the public. They are now everywhere under layers and layers of security. Black cat commandos, Z plus security, bullet and mine proof vehicles; closed-circuit TV cameras and so on are parts of the modern security set ups. The leaders have become distant from their followers especially at the higher level there is a wide gulf. Sometimes these top leaders are conducted like prisoners by the security persons. In such circumstances, how can these leaders be called part of a "popular" government?

In the present context of a fractured mandate, can a government formed by two ideologically incompatible groups be called a "Popular" government? Half of the government would be popular in the valley while the other half would be popular in Jammu! In reverse, the Kashmir part would be unpopular in Jammu and vice versa.

The popularity would have to be redefined in case of J & K. It would be region wise popular government. Only, Ladakhis will not form part of any regionally popular government. They would continue to aspire for direct central rule even though by getting that they would lose all the privileges of whatever special status is left for the state. In the end, the regional as well as the communal overtones will pull apart the "popular" government.

One wonders what sort of a common minimum programme can two ideologically poles apart parties give to the people! Kashmir valley represents extreme alienation from the Indian mainstream while as Jammu majority desires total and complete integration of the state with the Indian mainland. Ultimately, both may have to part ways!

Can't the leaders of these "popular" parties wait for a year or so like Kejriwal and then go back to the people? In the meantime, the people in two regions should be allowed to work out their own minimum common programme which should be facilitated by the centre.

Delhi has set the real records for popularity. Just a year's wait made all the difference. The popularity swept away all the opponent parties with a broom! In no earlier elections anywhere has a political party taken 96% of the seats in an assembly!

This shows that a firm belief in one's convictions and patience definitely pay dividends in the end. The only example of such a massive mandate in Kashmir is the Sheikh Sahib's Assembly of his early days when all the members were supposed to have been returned "unopposed"! Same thing had occurred in Bakshi Sahib's time.

Sometimes these members were called "Kaliq" made who was a deputy commissioner those days and ensured that the opponents physically disappeared! It would be interesting to wait for the common minimum programme supposedly being worked out by the two political parties aspiring to install a "popular" government in J & K. If such a government finally gets installed and carries on, we may have to redefine the word "popular"!

[Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir]

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