Row over Article 35A: PDP to Boycott Panchayat, Municipal Polls

by September 12, 2018 0 comments

The People Democratic Party, another regional party of Jammu & Kashmir, announced on Monday it will boycott the municipal and panchayat elections to be held later this month, days after the National Conference announced its decision to stay away from the polls.


We would have been entirely sympathetic, even supportive, of the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) decision not to contest the urban bodies polls due in the first week of October and panchayat polls scheduled to be held over November-December due a month later in the terrorist-infested State of Jammu & Kashmir had they cited the very valid security concerns which would have made it suicidal for their cadres and candidates to campaign in a meaningful way.

Indeed, we would have been the first to criticise both the State administration under the Governor and the Centre for failing in its primary duty of providing security to and assuring the safety of Indian citizens participating in the democratic process. That, however, is not the case. Instead, both the premier regional parties active in the State, the NC and the PDP, have announced a ‘boycott’ of the elections because of a legal challenge to Article 35 A, which gives male residents of the State special land rights, before the Supreme Court of India. The parties want an ‘assurance’ from the Government of India which incidentally did not move the petition challenging Article 35 A, that the provision will not be repealed and that the Centre will stand for continuance of the prima facie discriminatory Article before the apex court before they can be persuaded to change their mind about contesting the urban local bodies and panchayat polls.

While both parties are fully within their rights to not participate in the polls for the reason proffered by them, and we should respect their honesty of articulation, it devolves upon the rest of us to call them out for what they are coming off as: Soft separatists and misogynists to boot. National parties including the BJP and Congress won’t do so because they are interested primarily in the pursuit of power and feel they will need the support of the regional parties with some support base in the Kashmir Valley at some stage. As usual, they are behind the curve. For, the law of diminishing returns has already set in vis-à-vis the relevance of regional parties in Jammu & Kashmir which have traditionally been portrayed as a bridge between the people (mainly Muslim residents of the Valley, to be precise) and state — whether at the local or national level. The vicious Islamist insurgency has made the Valley a hotbed of terrorism and softening the edges of a narrative of separateness, as it were, works neither with an increasingly radicalised population nor has any traction with the unitary impulse of the rest of India. Unfortunately, there’s no Kemal Ataturk-like figure on the horizon who can persuade, cajole and if needed drag the Kashmiri people into the mainstream of an Indic narrative and a modern state premised on equal rights for all citizens.

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Writer: Pioneer

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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