After restoring mobile phone connectivity in the Valley Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration is now working on a mechanism to initiate political engagement which is likely to involve mainstream political parties.
The move is expected to lead to the release of more political leaders from detention though a decision releasing former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti is not on the table yet.
Sources said the Centre is keen on beginning political dialogue with the Valley to bridge he trust deficit between the state administration and Kashmiris following the August 5 decision to scrap the state’s special status and bifurcate J&K into two Union Territories.
The political mechanism currently under discussion is likely to involve second-rung leaders from regional parties in the Valley to form a political council that can initiate dialogue with people and assuage their fears in the wake of the August 5 decisions.
Part of this council’s mandate is alleviating the sense of alienation and anger in the Valley. Also on the table are certain special provisions that will protect local jobs and the settlement of outsiders in the Valley in order to protect its demographic character and culture.
“Delhi is keen on initiating political engagement. The contours of it are still under discussion. Among the ideas is involvement of the existing political class which as of now does not include the Muftis and the Abdullahs,” said a senior official privy to the developments.
“Gradual release of significant political actors will be taken in the weeks to come. The Home Minister has already said that statehood will be returned. A decision on who these political actors will be is yet to be taken.”
Sources said these political actors may include leaders like Sajjad Lone, who earlier had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi his elder brother but has been under detention since August 5. Another young leader Shah Faesal, the IAS topper from Kashmir, who floated a political party after quitting government service, is, however, not in the reckoning.
Sources said with his attempt to fly to Turkey, Faesal had irked Delhi. Faesal was detained at the Delhi International Airport in August last year while on his way to Istanbul and has since been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
The change in J&K’s demography and the possibility of losing jobs to outsiders are issues of concern across the Valley, even among those who do not harbour secessionist sentiments. The idea of statehood too remains strong. That the state and its people were not consulted in what permanently alters their future is seen in the Valley as humiliation and the erosion of their democratic rights.
It is these sentiments that Delhi hopes to address through this political engagement where a “new solution” to the Kashmir problem will be on offer, said sources.
“While the larger idea has been to support the emergence of a new political class in the Valley, it may take some time. The emergence of new leaders and parties has its own socio-political process which can be very gradual. In the meantime, a political void does not augur well for the rebuilding process that Delhi has planned for the Valley,” said the official.
Over the past few weeks, the J&K administration has released eight mid-level politicians from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the National Conference (NC), Congress and Lone’s People’s Conference.
They include former PDP MLAs and leaders Noor Mohammed, Abid Ansari, Yawar Mir and Khursheed Alam. Maulvi Imran Ansari from the People’s conference, Syed Mohammed Akhnoon from the National Conference and Congress’s Mohammed Amin and Shoaib Lone. All were released after signing a bond that they will maintain peace and not engage in any activity that may disrupt public order.
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