Time for bureaucracy to wake up in Jammu and Kashmir

By, New Delhi
Jan 19, 2023 01:39 PM IST

The J&K bureaucracy is safely ensconced in fortress secretariats and does not reach out to people. The traditional babu handling Kashmir in Srinagar or Delhi with convoluted wisdom of past still can’t think beyond two political families of Valley despite clear-cut directives of Modi government.

It has now been more than three years since the Narendra Modi government decided to abrogate Article 370 and Article 35 A and carved out union territories of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh. The national political leadership led by PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are totally in sync with the national security establishment on the question of J&K and find no reason to talk to Pakistan on what is an integral part of India. Yet, the bureaucratic mindset of those handling Kashmir in the UT as well in Delhi is still to come out of the traditional mold and still cannot look beyond the two political families in Kashmir. Weaned on Pakistani-US propaganda “Jhelum and Chenab” solutions and with the governments of the past convinced that the road to peace in the Valley went via Rawalpindi GHQ, the bureaucracy including Indian intelligence could not build a political buffer between the anguish of people and the apathetic bureaucracy. It is the same confused bureaucracy with the pro-Pak fattened conflict resolution industry in Srinagar and Delhi that predicated a doomsday scenario post-abrogation of Article 370. Nothing happened.

File Photo of Home Minister Amit Shah's rally in Baramulla in Kashmir.
File Photo of Home Minister Amit Shah's rally in Baramulla in Kashmir.

In the past three years, violence levels have gone down in J&K with Pakistan-based terror groups facing serious attrition at the hands of security forces and the Indian Army in full counterinsurgency and counter-infiltration mode rather than doing “Sadhbhavna yatras” of the past. The tourist arrivals in the Valley have hit record numbers, schools and colleges opened for record days as compared to the past in 2022 and UT people have discovered the peace dividend. There have been violent incidents but the numbers have been far and few with immediate response from the security forces with NIA involved in digging up the conspiracy and funding behind the attack. The attacks on Kashmiri Pandits, who started leaving the valley on January 19, 1990, and on the minority Hindu community in Rajouri district this month is part of Pakistani design to put pressure on the minorities and force them to leave the state.

While the present political leadership has the vision to fully integrate J&K in India, the bureaucratic mindset is still to change as even today there is hardly any engagement between the babu and the public at large. Despite peace in the Valley and Jammu, the bureaucrats only reel out infrastructure statistics while safely ensconced in the fortress secretariats. Rather than reaching out to public at large, the UT bureaucracy is fighting its own “Quixotic” battles with the state police while looking towards Delhi for solutions. The political and administrative vacuum needs to be plugged soon as the public is largely interested in peace and want to get on their lives with proper education for their children and fresh opportunities in growing India. They do not want the bureaucracy or the police to behave as an instrument of an occupying power.

According to a J&K watcher, some of the present-day bureaucrats are still towing the line of their peer group, which believes that Kashmir can only be managed and not solved. Given that J&K is now part of AGMUT cadre, the government should think in terms of infusing fresh bureaucratic blood in the new UT so that secretariats become a thriving place for interaction and engagement between the public and the administration. Pakistan cannot be blamed for the chasm between an anguished public and an indifferent bureaucracy.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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