The PDP and NC are endorsing the separatists’ narrative in J&K
The Centre’s careful groundwork aimed at kickstarting the democratic peace process in Jammu and Kashmir seems to have unravelled at an alarming pace. The two main parties of the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC), have now said that they will not participate in the coming urban bodies and panchayat polls. This comes at an extremely troubled time in the state, which has witnessed a new trend of targeted violence against the police as well as a major administrative reshuffle.
The Centre had hoped to get the political process moving with its appointment of the new Governor, SP Malik, the first politician to hold the post in 50 years. Mr Malik was to begin the regeneration of democracy at the grassroots level, but is now left with no one to engage with. The National Democratic Alliance government was clearly hoping to move forward from the fractious environment created after the bitter split between the BJP and the PDP, the absence of the major parties renders the panchayat polls infructuous. The latest round of angst has centred on Article 35A, which states that outsiders cannot own immovable property in Kashmir. This Article is now being challenged in the court. The boycott of the local polls seems to endorse the separatists’ narrative that all electoral processes in the state are illegal and against the wishes of the people. With this boycott, the PDP and the NC will only further marginalise themselves.
There is still time for both to rethink this course of action and the Centre could help them find a way out of this mess without losing too much face. There is a clear threat to the lives of those who may want to take part in these elections. On all fronts, the Centre has its work cut out for it. On Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of dialogue as the way forward in Kashmir. The boycott is a huge setback, but the Centre has to stay the course and try and get things back on track before the focus shifts to the series of state elections towards the end of the year.