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When the Centre interferes in Kashmir

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When the Centre interferes in Kashmir
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The Centre's abuse of the country's constitutional institutions for its own political ends has ceased to be anything new. Each day comes with evidence of Modi government bringing under its tight grip the institutions that reinforced India's democratic set-up such as the judiciary, election commission and Reserve Bank.

The revelations by Jammu & Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik can be seen only as the latest in that series. What he disclosed the other day at a function in ITM University, Gwalior was that he decided to dissolve the assembly in the context of the Centre's asking him to invite Sajjad Gani Lone a former secessionist leader, and leader of People's Conference , a party without majority in the assembly, to form a government. He repeated it later during a channel interview. People's Conference is a party that enjoys BJP's backing, and whose strength in the assembly is just two. What was thwarded by the Governor's act was the BJP's tactic to capture power projecting this small party, although it is another matter that in the process he made a virtual slaughter of democracy by dissolving the very assembly. Perhaps it is realising this fact that many including PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti issued a statement lauding the 'honesty' of the Governor.

The BJP-PDP coalition government that came into power in J&K in 2015 - proving the Bismarckian dictum that politics is the art of the possible – survived until June this year facing different kinds of internal conflicts. In the meantime, following the death of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed , his daughter Mehbooba was elevated to that post. Still later, consequent on BJP's withdrawal of support to the ministry, Mehbooba resigned on 16 June. After a week, governor rule was declared, which brought Satya Pal Malik to Jammu & Kashmir. That appointment also had the distinction that it was for the first time in five decades that a politician was placed as the governor of the northernmost state of India. Not only that, among the governors appointed by Modi government, Satya Pal, also a former parliamentarian, was one with relatively less RSS links. When he took office on 23 August, the first thing he said was that he would win the trust of the Kashmiri people. Only three months were left before the end of the term of governor rule. When speculation was rife that the state would come under President's rule, he in an interview given to PTI on 16 November, had also made it clear that he would not dissolve the assembly. It was about the same time that PDP, National Conference and Congress together decided to form a government. With the three parties coming together, proving majority in the assembly floor was only a matter of course. But it became a different ball game with a fax message Mehbooba sent to the governor staking claim to form a government. Not only did he not receive that fax, he even threw his earlier statement to the wind by dissolving the assembly.

The act of dissolving the assembly by Satya Pal Malik, the politician gave another thunderbolt to the people of the valley already reeling under a vitiated atmosphere. He has his own justifications for that, and claimed it was a step to prevent political horse trading. When majority was guaranteed with three parties, i.e. PDP, National Conference and Congress joining hands, many wondered what horse-trading he meant. It gives room for suspicion whether Amit Shah and his coterie were planning a repeat of the political horse-trading that BJP indulged in or attempted in Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Gujarat. It cannot be ignored either that there is a big contradiction between the governor's action and his new disclosure. Had he given an opportunity to Mehbooba and her allies to prove majority in the house, another democratic government would have come into being in J&K. The fact is that the governor fell under the pressure tactics of BJP to thwart the governor's move by allying itself with a former secessionist. What got shattered in that fall were in fact the vital strands of democracy. In other words, Satya Pal Malik also, knowingly or unknowingly became party to Modi government's agenda of annihilating statutory institutions. For that very reason, one has to understand that the real political significance of his plainspeaking is yet to emerge. Although the precept of democracy is that the ballot is stronger than the bullet, what have proven their strength in Jammu & Kashmir are mostly bullets and pellets. The only way-out from this sad state of affairs is a return to the ballot. That path, one cannot help saying, is being made extremely narrow and complex by the anti-democratic approaches of Modi government.

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