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Tough task ahead

Tough task ahead
Highlights

Fear of the unknown future grips the birth of a new government in troubled Jammu and Kashmir that, in the words of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed promises to “win the hearts and minds of the people of state”.

Fear of the unknown future grips the birth of a new government in troubled Jammu and Kashmir that, in the words of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed promises to “win the hearts and minds of the people of state”.

That he complimented at his first media conference Pakistan and the separatist Hurryiat Conference for ‘facilitating’ smooth elections is unlikely to go down well across the country. Critics are bound to say that the elections took place despite the two, and not because of them. Also, Mufti had not a word for the security forces, the civil machinery, the candidates and parties and the voters who, in record 70 per cent, braved a nasty winter and militants’ bullets. This is at once a challenge to Sayeed’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Ruling at the Centre, the BJP’s gambit to mark its political presence succeeded with an unprecedented 25 seats and now, with a dozen ministers, including a deputy chief minister.

Sworn in 49 days after it won the elections, the alliance has come up with an “Agenda for Alliance” that indicates compromises made by both on their forcefully stated positions, before, during and after the elections.

The BJP, even in its previous avatar at Jana Sangh, had always wanted Article 370 of the Constitution that grants the state special status be scrapped. It has had to be satisfied with the status quo. No time frame has been mentioned for its revocation. On the other contentious issue of scrapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the PDP has accepted its gradual and not immediate, revocation. The new government will have to “examine the need” to de-notify areas governed by AFPSA. This is not going to be easy as past experience shows, what is peaceful today could get violent tomorrow. On working of the security forces that has attracted numerous charges of human rights violations, Sayeed promised to act decisively as the Chairman of the Unified Headquarters. This, too, will not be easy.

The new government will take measures for sustenance and livelihood of refugees from West Pakistan. It will work out a one-time settlement for refugees from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) who came during 1947, 1965 and 1971. All this is advantage PDP. There appears no mention of the return and rehabilitation of the Hindu Pundits who have been terrorised into leaving their homes and have been living as refugees in their own country for nearly 25 years now.

Yet, the new government should be cautiously welcomed as the beginning of a process of reconciliation among its differing, even opposing stake-holders. There is no alternative to a democratically-elected government and that the popular mandate must be respected. That a former separatist, Sajjad Lone, is now a minister, is significant. Sayeed may be right in calling the alliance one between “North Pole and South Pole”, as it combines “Hindu nationalists” with a party representing the predominantly Muslim Valley that, albeit moderately, espouses the cause of the separatists. But these are precisely the contradictions – political, ideological and religious, this being the country’s only Muslim majority state – that pose the challenge. Working them is not going to be easy, but try they must, and try sincerely.

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