Politics is the art of making possible the impossible. Buoyed by an unprecedented mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created history.
The controversial Article 370 that was tied intrinsically to the life and times of the strife-torn state for almost 70 years has itself become history.
August 5 will go down as a day India summoned political will to undo what large swathes of Indians deemed as a ‘wrong’. In doing so, Modi and his team have literally changed the map of Jammu & Kashmir.
The bold decision is likely to receive wide support from majority of political parties in the country. The trend has already started on the floor of the House. That makes it a truly nationalistic decision.
Yes, like in any true democracy, there will be opposition. For the so-called mainstream political parties in the Valley, the decision to scrap Article 370 is a big setback. They deserve what they have got, given their ambivalence over the Kashmir issue.
Time not to exult but to be sensitive
But the nation must not unduly worry about their opposition. What India must strive to achieve with this historic decision is to try and build bridges with the people in the Valley. It is time to recall the great sacrifices made by local policemen guarding India’s interests there.
The government must work overtime to ensure that the ordinary citizen sees merit in the development. This is easier said than done. The narrative war will be woven around the issue of religion. Vested interests (ever happy) to keep the Kashmir cauldron burning would try and inflame passions and ensure peace never returns to the Valley.
India has to respond with maturity and magnanimity. It has to serve the twin planks of peace and development as the main course of its planned integration. We have to ensure that the moment doesn’t get vitiated by vested interests keen to show the bold decision in bad light.
The government has to invoke the peace constituency in the Valley to fulfill its responsibility and vote for peace. Kashmir has already lost a lot of innocent blood. There is no point being a fence sitter when there is a golden opportunity to rewrite the Kashmir story. Lutyen’s Kashmir has long fed off the double talk. It must choose collective prosperity over individual growth.
Outside of Kashmir, the majority population has to show restraint. There is no point exulting over a decision that is bound to create initial unease. Now that the decision is taken, it is important to address sensitivities. Time to talk to Kashmiris outside the state either studying in various educational institutions or doing business. A constant dialogue is paramount.
Politically, BJP has made real its poll manifesto but the real work for the Party and the government begins now. This is not an easy task. Building trust and confidence when passions would be sought to be inflamed calls for some very mature approach.
Kashmir has bled through the decades and is crying for governance. Governance is a challenge across India but for J&K it assumes strategic importance. Kashmiris want quality of life to improve with development driven by peace as the mission of their life.
Reimagining J&K economy
The historic opportunity to reimagine the J&K economy is knocking at the doors. The realty infrastructure piece blended by a robust tourism package will help revive the Valley entrepreneurial spirit. India Inc must quickly rise to the occasion and partner the government in its efforts to build a truly Naya Kashmir.
As for the local political parties, it isn’t game over. Only if they see it from the prism of truly being in the service of people in the state. The expectation from an elected representative is no different in Kashmir than in Delhi.
With an elected legislature mandated under the new charter, local political parties must prepare ground to face the voters in a new era where peace is a given. The narrative has not to be about perceived special rights having been allegedly taken away but about a commitment to truth and reconciliation.
End to politics of discrimination
Jammu, which hopefully will get an expanded political catchment area in the new scheme of things, must shed the discrimination tag and work closely with the people in the Valley for inclusive development of the state. The new elected legislature should work assiduously to ensure that there is no room to play favourite when it comes to sharing the fruits of development.
In terms of the new Lieutenant Governor for J&K, it isn’t necessary to host a former defence man. There is need to look beyond the stereotype and look for able administrators who have a demonstrated track record in making a positive change in people’s lives.
Ladakh has finally got its due. It needs to reimagine itself in the new light. But better governance would be the guiding principle there as well since it has suffered development deficit given the excessive focus on the Valley.
As for managing the external environment, India must host the decision as one that brings peace and prosperity to the beleaguered state. Pakistan would aim to ratchet up the pressure in the international fora.
Prime Minister, who has shown the ability to act on his election promises, now needs to take some important steps to reach out himself to friendly nations and deliver the message of peace.
Modi, must for a change, address the nation on August 15 from Srinagar. He needs to be seen as a statesman in this hour when his detractors would be keen to paint him as a muscular villain.
Every citizen in the country, accordingly, has a role to play. Great nations don’t exult when they take defining decisions in national interest. Having bitten the bullet, it is time to win hearts.
Rakesh Khar is senior editor, Special Projects, Network 18. He writes at the intersection of politics and economy.
Read Rakesh Khar's columns here.
First Published: IST