BY JAVED BEIGH
As a young aspiring Kashmiri Muslim candidate of a small sub regional Kashmir based political party with a background in management and journalism, I fought in the recently held DDC elections, the first major electoral exercise held after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India and demotion of Jammu & Kashmir state to a Union territory and its segregation from Ladakh.
The goal that motivated me to fight in these elections was that despite the prevalence of the atmosphere of general pessimism that over took Kashmir valley after August 5, 2019, some of the subsequent political and administrative changes introduced by the administration of newly created UT of Jammu & Kashmir installed hope and optimism that there is after all, some positive outcome of the catastrophic changes that took place in J&K last year in the form of the introduction of DDC model of political governance, which will give opportunity to many aspiring and politically motivated people of Kashmir to register their presence in the mainstream politics of Kashmir valley, which has so far been dominated by few high profile upper caste Kashmiri Muslim family dynasties. But the blatant manner in which Chairmanship positions of DDC were captured in Kashmir valley in total violation of the constitutional and ethical principles of polity has disappointed many young and aspiring Kashmiri Muslims like me, who are being cultivated as “seeds of future political change” in Kashmir valley.
To begin with, one must say that DDC elections were conducted and held in an absolutely honest and fair manner and that goes to the credit of the administration in a region that saw the infamous alleged rigging of 1987 J&K state assembly elections that paved way for the rise of separatist militancy in Kashmir valley. I myself lost in my own fiercely fought DDC counsel of Budgam in Central Kashmir and despite that I can vouch for the credibility of these results. What I am really disturbed is the fact that such a good, honest, clean and fair political endeavor
that actually brought ordinary Kashmiri Muslim close to the new political administration was all squandered and destroyed by the unnecessary political shenanigans merely to capture chairmanship posts. Despite Kashmir valley’s well-known grievances against the manner in which changes were brought to the erstwhile state of J&K after August 5, 2019, the people of Kashmir braved bullets and collective anger to caste vote in large numbers, thereby showing their support at least in part for some of the political changes introduced in last two years. Sadly, the DDC Chairmanship elections have all but dented a lot of goodwill that was otherwise generated by this new political change.
The question is, was it really worth it in a troubled region like Kashmir valley, where the administration is trying to reach out to the ignored sections of Kashmiri society like youth, women, Dalits and tribals against the status quo dominance of upper caste Kashmiri Muslim political families?
I am not a fan of the old corrupt, nepotism ridden family run mainstream parties of Kashmir valley, even though I have been part of that ecosystem in earlier times. The fact is that the political conglomerate that they formed to fight in DDC elections won overwhelmingly from Kashmir valley and should have in all honesty captured posts of Chairman and Vice Chairman from 6 out of 10 DDCs falling in Kashmir valley with the comfortable majority that they had and in three other Kashmir based DDCs, they just needed vote of one councilor to obtain the majority number of 9 votes. Yet, this conglomerate managed to secure only 5 councils. And in its place a newly formed political party with mere 12 seats spread across entire UT managed to win 2 DDC councils. The travesty that occurred in Budgam council for example, where the conglomerate should have on its own captured the Budgam council by virtue of the fact that they had 10 out of 14 votes and yet the conglomerate ended up in losing the council and ceding the same to an officially an “independent “candidate.
Such a political “feat” was accomplished through cross voting from few councilors of the conglomerate in favor of the independent candidate, which equalized votes between the conglomerate candidate and the independent candidate. The independent candidate eventually won due to draw of lots. It goes without saying that horse trading played an important role and what eventually happened in the end in Budgam effectively amounted to negation of the mandate of the people of Budgam. Similar shenanigans also took place in many other DDCs of Kashmir valley.
But was there really a need for that?
Kashmir’s old mainstream political parties are no saints and have had a long history of corruption, misgovernance and inefficiency but they clearly had the mandate in their favour. Under normal circumstances and in some other state, such political maneuvers might be dismissed as a normal political shenanigans but such view cannot be taken in a politically sensitive place like Kashmir, which has just recently gone through thunderous political changes and where establishing confidence is the prime motive of the administration of a newly created UT, especially when our neighboring countries are waiting to create mischief in this region that has suffered enormously in last three decades. It also doesn’t help that due to the abrogation of Article 370, there is a lot of ambiguity regarding the law that penalizes those who indulge in illegal horse trading.
DDC is indeed a revolutionary step and one of the most positive outcomes of the new set of changes that have taken place in this troubled region of Kashmir. It has a potential to create an egalitarian level playing field in Kashmir’s politics, which is controlled by rich and upper castes. Allowing such a wonderful endeavor to become a victim of a dishonest and unfair tactics that were identified with old political ecosystem of Kashmir has disappointed many in Kashmir valley, who are genuinely desiring the return of a permanent and sustainable peace in Kashmir valley. I hope correct steps are taken in time before this also adds to the list of political misadventures and lost opportunities that have destroyed Kashmir valley.
Javed Beigh is a Senior Political Leader of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Front. He Can be reached @Javedbeigh across Social Media Platforms. Views are his personal.