The movements of the Center in Kashmir are welcome | HT Editorial – Editorials
Over the past week, the government has taken two positive steps regarding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The first is the decision to release the former prime minister, leader of the National Conference, member of Parliament and one of the most important figures in Indian politics, Farooq Abdullah. The second is the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Interior Minister Amit Shah to representatives of the newly formed J&K Apni Party that there are no plans to change the demographics of the Union Territory (UT). The interior minister went one step further and said that J&K will have a better home policy than other regions. And the Center assured political leaders that the gradual restoration of statehood remained on the agenda.
Both steps, seen together, are an indication that the Center has recognized, somewhat belatedly, the need to restore normal political and democratic activity in the UT. Abdullah’s arrest was legally tenuous and politically counterproductive and raised international concern. It is also time to free the other two former chief ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, and allow them to freely express their views and carry out political activities. All of these leaders have strongly supported the Indian Union in difficult times, and despite its differences with the current approach of the government, its fundamental rights must be respected.
The Apni party will need to be the voice of cashmere, rather than the Indian state, to gain credibility on Srinagar Street. It is noteworthy that the party has transmitted apprehensions that exist on the grounds that the annulment of article 370 will lead to a change in the composition of the population. It is equally remarkable, and laudable, that at the highest levels, the government has dispelled these apprehensions. The Center must now build upon it, reveal a more intense scope, and devise a concrete plan leading to the restoration of statehood. This is the only way to restore political normality at J&K, even when the security apparatus remains vigilant and fights cross-border violence and terrorism.