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Time for CBMs in Jammu and Kashmir

There is no good justification for more delay in restoring statehood
12:00 AM Mar 12, 2024 IST | KHURSHID A GANAI
time for cbms in jammu and kashmir

Most people in Jammu and Kashmir have welcomed PM’s visit to Kashmir on 7th March, 2024 and were impressed by the turnout at Bakshi stadium. Although the PM did not make any surprise announcements but he adequately reciprocated the enthusiasm of his audience by his own enthusiasm, body language and speech.


PM had a busy day inaugurating some new projects and therefore at the end of it, it was a successful visit for him and fruitful for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He was also able to strike a chord with his audience by thanking them for the warm reception and promising more good work in future for peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).


Notwithstanding the good spirit exhibited by the people who had come to Bakshi stadium, majority of population in J&K have been feeling rather deprived of voice and say ever since August, 2019, when the special status accorded to the erstwhile state by the constitution of India was withdrawn and the state downgraded to union territory status, albeit with provision for an elected assembly on the pattern of Puducherry and Delhi.

For a long time after August, 2019 and till recently, it appeared that most people in J&K were not at all enthusiastic about elections because of the demoralising downgrade to the UT status. But of late some visible desire for elections has been gathering both among the people as well as the politicians.


The politicians look to be more keen and raring to go, although most of the old guard are still not fully out of the shock of August, 2019 changes and the downgrade. In such a scenario of despair and hope, the central leadership will be well advised to serve the badly needed confidence building measures (CBMs) to restore the morale and confidence of the people and create a happy atmosphere in the erstwhile state. No prizes for guesses, the most important CBM is obviously the restoration of full statehood.


There is no good justification for more delay in restoring statehood. Peaceful atmosphere prevails, militancy is under complete control and development works are going on smoothly. Common people are cooperating as they must.


There is no sign of expressed resentment or revulsion from any corner of the erstwhile state. Most of the demands from certain sections of population which the party in power at the centre wanted to fulfill have been fulfilled during these last five years of direct central rule.


Any more of it without considering local political fallout may henceforth turn out to be counterproductive in the long run. Delay shall also widen the political and social divisions within J&K and make future consensus building that much difficult.

Therefore, letting the future elected governments to deliver in a democratic spirit and consultative manner will be an act of farsightedness which the central leadership must demonstrate to all the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Any further extension of the status quo will only fuel speculation about central leadership’s unstated intentions and unfinished agendas which is neither in the national interest nor in the interest of Jammu and Kashmir.

The next CBM, in priority, is of course holding of free and fair assembly elections. It will be in everybody’s interest if these are held after the forthcoming parliamentary elections to delink them from the heat and dust of  parliamentary elections and sectarian narratives so commonly witnessed during campaigning in north Indian states.

The third important CBM is assurance to the people of the state on land and jobs and against unregulated ingress from other parts accompanying investment and industry.

The mindset of common people in both divisions of the erstwhile state has been long conditioned by Maharaja Hari Singh’s state subject law of 1927 which continued in another form with constitutional backing from the  abrogated Article 35-A till 2019.

The ongoing agitation of people of Ladakh in this regard is a pointer to the fact that how off the mark has been the perception that people of Ladakh will have no more aspirations and demands after accord of UT status.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir, it is well known, are equally if not more sensitive about land, jobs and unregulated ingress from other parts in view of the threat of adverse environmental and ecological impact on the limited land area and fast depleting natural resources and declining natural assets and beauty of the erstwhile state.

The fourth CBM would be a policy statement that only green and sustainable development projects would be undertaken in future in the erstwhile state barring those necessitated by defence and security and that compensatory measures would always be undertaken to make up for environmental impact and damage, as far as possible.

Last but not the least is the question of return of Kashmiri migrants to the valley which would be best left to the elected governments as the scheme for return is likely to have a longer gestation period and will also need reconciliation efforts prior to implementation. It is nobody’s case that the scheme for return should drive a wedge between communities and lead to newer problems.

To that extent the next elected government in the state has to be trusted as well as guided to do the needful in close coordination with the central government and representatives of Kashmiri migrants.

Jammu and Kashmir needs to be dealt with administratively and politically using a systemic and strategic model.

It will be a mistake to assume that the peace obtained on ground over the last few years has solved all the problems that have dogged the country and the state for more than seven decades. There is a historical baggage which continued to weigh in even beyond the 1975 accord when it was felt that this baggage had been offloaded for good.

However, the problems reappeared virulently and violently through the two decades after nineteen eighties, the remnants of which are still requiring heightened vigil and security measures of highest grade.

It is no revelation that top Generals of Indian Army who have served in J&K have also favoured a political solution to the problem.

That political solution will come only through wide ranging internal dialogue and discussion. Anything less than that will not get us a sustainable resolution.

(Khurshid Ahmed Ganai is a retired IAS officer of the erstwhile J&K cadre and a former Advisor to the Governor )