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A New Dawn in J&K

Collective efforts key to unlocking peace in Union Territory
12:00 AM Jun 06, 2024 IST | SHABIR IBN YUSUF
a new dawn in j k

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir marked a historic turning point, as the highest-ever voter turnout was recorded in the Valley’s three Lok Sabha seats — Srinagar, Baramulla, and Anantnag-Rajouri — in the last three decades.


This remarkable participation is not just a statistical milestone but a profound indicator of the evolving political dynamics and a newfound sense of freedom among the people.


The high voter turnout can be largely attributed to the efforts of the Jammu and Kashmir administration and the police in creating a safe environment free from external threats. J&K Director General of Police, Rashmi Ranjan Swain in a recent interview to wire news agency emphasized that this election was the first major electoral battle since the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into Union Territories in August 2019. The administration’s commitment to security and the monitoring of potential threats from external elements, particularly “proxies of Pakistan,” played a crucial role in ensuring the smooth conduct of the elections.


One of the most significant changes noted during this election was the palpable sense of freedom from fear among the electorate. R R Swain highlighted that people felt safe enough to participate in campaign activities, including night rallies, roadshows, and door-to-door campaigns, without the looming threat of violence or intimidation. This newfound confidence is a testament to the effective measures taken by security forces to keep tabs on those who once posed a threat to the democratic process.


The members of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami, historically known for their opposition to electoral politics and their role in monitoring and targeting individuals involved in such activities, publicly participated in the recent elections. This shift in stance by Jamaat-e-Islami members is indicative of a broader change in the region’s political climate. RR Swain noted that the participation of these previously wary individuals and organizations reflects a growing confidence and a potential shift towards a more open and democratic future.


J&K Police chief also underscored the importance of using legal measures rather than kinetic actions to address security challenges. Over the past three-and-a-half years, the administration has relied on the force of law and the rule of law to handle threats and maintain order. This approach has been largely successful in deterring intimidation tactics used by adversaries and in ensuring a peaceful electoral process.


While the high voter turnout and the peaceful conduct of the elections are significant achievements, DGP R R Swain emphasized that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir remains a work in progress. Substantial progress has been made in restoring peace and security, but continued efforts are necessary to sustain and build upon these gains. The public’s rejection of calls for strikes and their active participation in the electoral process are positive signs of endorsement for the government’s efforts.


These positive developments have opened a window of opportunity for lasting peace, but this can only be achieved through collective efforts. It is imperative that all stakeholders — the government, security forces, local leaders, and the community at large — work together to foster a climate of peace and stability.

The progress seen during the elections provides a foundation upon which further peacebuilding efforts can be constructed. However, maintaining and expanding this progress requires a multifaceted approach. Here are several key areas where collective efforts can make a significant impact.

Local communities must be at the heart of peace initiatives. Engaging with community leaders, religious figures, and civil society organizations can help build trust and address the root causes of conflict. Community-driven projects focusing on education, employment, and social cohesion can foster a sense of ownership and commitment to peace.

The role of security forces remains crucial. Their continued vigilance in monitoring and neutralizing threats, coupled with a commitment to upholding human rights, can ensure a secure environment. Legal measures, rather than kinetic actions, should be prioritized to maintain law and order.

Encouraging political participation across all sections of society is essential. The participation of previously marginalized groups and individuals, including those from organizations like Jamaat-e-Islami, signals a shift towards inclusivity. Ensuring that all voices are heard and represented in the political process can help mitigate feelings of disenfranchisement and alienation.

Economic stability is a cornerstone of lasting peace. Investment in infrastructure, tourism, and local industries can provide much-needed jobs and opportunities for the youth, steering them away from the path of violence and towards constructive engagement. Special economic zones and incentives for businesses can catalyze growth in the region.

Education plays a pivotal role in shaping future generations. Promoting educational initiatives that emphasize peace, tolerance, and coexistence can help break the cycle of violence. Awareness campaigns about the benefits of peace and the dangers of extremism can also contribute to a more informed and resilient populace.

Achieving lasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir is a complex and ongoing process. It requires a collective commitment from all sectors of society. The government must continue to provide the necessary support and infrastructure, while security forces ensure a safe environment for all. Local leaders and community members must actively participate in peacebuilding efforts, fostering dialogue and reconciliation.

The high voter turnout in the recent elections is a testament to the desire for change among the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a clear signal that with the right support and initiatives, the region can move towards a more peaceful and prosperous future. Collective efforts, grounded in trust, cooperation, and a shared vision for peace, will be the key to unlocking this potential.

By working together, we can pave the way for a new era in Jammu and Kashmir — one where peace prevails, and the people can thrive in a stable and secure environment. Let us seize this opportunity to build a better future for all.

(The author is senior staffer Greater Kashmir)