All is fair in love and war. Governments are entitled to do whatever is within constitutional limits according to the political belief of their ruling party and normal rules of conduct. Others may not like it, but then they did not win the confidence of the people.
What is unforgivable is incompetence. The saga of Article 370 began at the top as a brilliant manoeuvre.
The decision to abrogate Article 370 on August 5-6 was a stunning success. Somehow the government seemed to have found a window of opportunity when, with the J&K government out of office and hence the responsibility for any change in Article 370 falling on the Central government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah found a sequence of adjustments to various articles in the Constitution to make the most profound change in Article 370.
Modi and Shah had cut the Gordian knot. The de facto situation of J&K not being truly autonomous was now legally secured. As used to happen in the past, mobile telephones were shut down, public meetings banned, curfews imposed. Now, however, we were promised that these bans would not last. The promise was that business of the government would improve and healthy and prosperous Kashmiris would be empowered. New governments would be established.
This was however not a priority. The eyes of the government were firmly fixed on Pakistan and the United Nations. The avoidance of any official censure by the UN Security Council was adroitly managed by the government.
Ninety days have passed since then. There is even now no normalcy. What is obvious is that whatever scheme the top echelon of the government had in mind has not been delivered by the lower rungs, from the Governor down.
The episode involving the European Parliamentarians shows that the government does not believe in its own propaganda that all is well. Whoever dreamt up this clumsy and transparently flawed programme should be sacked. It is not just one but a dozen own goals. It has exposed a serious gap in international diplomacy.
It has been obvious for some time that there is a serious dearth of talent in political personnel below the top two. The PMO also has not been up to the challenges that the PM sets for it, as was obvious in the demonetisation case. The Article 370 saga has been allowed to harm India’s reputation thanks to a lack of foresight.
An urgent policy intervention is needed. Chanakya’s sequence of Saam, Daam, Dand and Bhed seems to have been reversed. Dand has been used at the outset. But bhed has failed as the MEP (Members of European Parliament) fiasco shows. Daam has been promised but not delivered.
What remains is saam. There is a need to display confidence in the rightness of the policy if indeed it is believed and, I am sure it is, that the policy was correct and in the interest of J&K.
Relax the curfew completely, release all prisoners, face the crowds of protesters and show the world that they remain a minority. Allow anyone and everyone to visit Kashmir as indeed now, after the abrogation of Article 370, they have the right. Let the world come openly rather than report furtively. Somehow people believe furtively obtained news more than its truth value. It hurts India.
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