Opinions

Democracy at Stake with Kashmiris denied democratic rights

Pillars of Indian democracy, responsible for its basic strength, have never before appeared to have been caught in such a complex situation. Yes, this refers to the political, bureaucratic, judicial, economic and several pillars of Indian democracy, which are supposed to contribute to progress and development of this country. At this juncture, one is forced to deliberate on what may have contributed to the present government giving the impression of exercising an iron hand regarding whatever seems appropriate in its understanding. Now, of course, given that the BJP-led government has returned to power with a sweeping majority, it certainly has needed numbers in its favour to take decisions it views as appropriate in the interest of the country.

But, mere strength in Parliament does not always justify actual democratic essence of all decisions. This may be said about the recent bills passed regarding Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as well as the triple talaq issue. It may be noted, decisions on Articles 370 and 35A have been taken without any assent from the J&K government which is mandatory under the Constitution. Nor has opinion survey of any kind, reflecting the opinion of Kashmiris, seems to have been  undertaken. Certainly, the present government has taken this decision as it was a part of BJP’s political agenda. Equally significant is that these Bills have been passed by the Union Parliament at a time when J&K has no elected government as the region is under the Governor’s Rule.

Whatsoever may have been BJP’s electoral agenda, democratic ethics demand that opinion of the affected people should be taken regarding any major decision about them. In all probability, decisions over Articles 370 and 35A may not have raised such a storm if they had the consent of the J&K Assembly. Politically, this has not been allowed to happen. This is hardly suggestive of democratic ethics having been practised with respect to democratic rights of the people of J&K.

So what if a majority of politicians and even people may appear to be strongly in favour of scrapping these two articles. Give it a thought from another angle. Elementarily speaking, democratic principles are supposed to be based on democracy of the people, by the people and for the people. So, if democratic opinion and choice of the Kashmiris is not given any importance, from their angle any measure is undemocratic if it is imposed upon them without taking their opinion. With respect to the scrapping of these two articles viewed as significant for integration of Kashmiris into the rest of the country, this adds greater substance to the undemocratic nature of the decision regarding these articles. If Kashmiris are not viewed as “integrated” with the rest of the country, it only means that they are considered as “alienated.” In this case, undemocratic nature of any decision imposed upon them can only further alienate them.

Of course, the government is duly responsible for taking decisions it seems as appropriate. But, importance should also be given to the democratic ethics of its decisions. Whatever is viewed as politically ideal in the interest of the country can prove to be counter-productive if the affected people don’t view it as such. Let us accept it, militancy has been the root cause of problems affecting life of Kashmiris in J&K these past three decades. They have been suffering its impact. Each and every Kashmiri Muslim is not a pro-Pakistan citizen nor is he/she a militant. Tragically, in general, the tendency prevails to view Kashmiri Muslims along these lines. This also suggests that it is imperative to take crucial steps for changing stereotyped, negative views about them which are prevalent in most parts of the country. Till people in other parts of the country change their opinion about them, how do we expect Kashmiris to be integrated in rest of the country? It would be great, if the present power-holders give some importance to this aspect also.

There is yet another angle which must be adequately considered by the leaders now in power. Kashmiris have for decades been caught betwixt bullets fired from all sides. Militants from across the border and also a few of the region (who have taken to militancy) have not spared them. Sadly, there have also been cases of innocent Kashmiris being targeted by our forces as alleged terrorists. There is the fear factor grappling the daily life of ordinary Kashmiri Muslims, that of being shot down by militants as well as by forces. Till militancy is defeated, without targeting innocent Kashmiris, peace is likely to elude J&K. And till peace eludes the region, prospects of outsiders investing here for their and/or others’ benefits may be viewed as dim. Why would anybody invest even a penny there when/if there prevails continuous fear over their investments being bombed by militants and/or lost in clashes between them and Indian forces?

Rather than have world’s attention focussed on J&K, India should give greater importance to addressing this issue unilaterally. It is Indian government’s responsibility to ensure security and safety of Kashmiris. It is for the Indian government to ensure peace in J&K and that Kashmiris are not denied their democratic rights! 

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at sales@milligazette.com

blog comments powered by Disqus