Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, except the BJP, are disappointed as another year has passed by without the Centre living up to its promise of restoring statehood and holding assembly elections in the youngest union territory of the country.
As the delimitation process and revision of the electoral rolls were completed in Jammu and Kashmir, the political parties were hopeful that the Election Commission will take the next logical step of announcing the poll schedule to the assembly of the union territory.
However, this did not happen with 2022 coming to an end.
The biggest news of the year emanating from Kashmir, however, was the targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley by militants, which led to hue and cry across the country.
A large number of Kashmiri Pandits, who had returned to the valley under the PM’s Employment Package announced in 2007, fled to Jammu following killing of Rahul Bhat by militants inside his office in Chadoora area of Budgam district in May.
The employees, supported by various KP organisations, have been on a relay sit-in at Jammu, demanding that they be transferred to Jammu till the situation improves in the valley.
This demand has found resonance with the major political parties and their leaders including Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Ghulam Nabi Azad – three former chief ministers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, the LG administration has been adamant that the employees have to return to work in Kashmir and stopped the salaries of those abstaining from duties.
Several non-Kashmiri labourers – coming from various parts of the country to earn a livelihood here – were also targeted during the year.
On the political front, National Conference – the oldest political party in Jammu and Kashmir – said the political emancipation in Jammu and Kashmir was at its lowest as the union territory was being administered by those not elected by the people.
“Many things have been promised to the people of J&K like the restoration of democratic institutions. Unfortunately, that did not happen. We were told as soon as delimitation process would get concluded, the election commission of India would announce assembly elections but they didn’t take place as yet.
“If we look from the prism of political emancipation and power of democracy, we are at the lowest in the past few decades,” said NC spokesman Imran Nabi.
He said the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir was evident as targeted killings in the valley have risen in the past few months despite heavy security that has fuelled a wave of fear among minorities and non-locals.
“Number of killings has increased, targetted attacks on minorities and non-local people is shocking. People from minority communities who have been living here for more than 30 years are migrating which is depressing,” he added.
Mohit Bhan, spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the year was a disappointment as the ground situation remained uncertain and no steps were being taken to restore the confidence of the people in the democracy.
“The government is claiming that situation has improved. If that is the case, then democracy in its real sense should be restored here. It is not only about elections as elections are just one part of the democracy. However, on ground, that is not the case. Laws are being changed unilaterally.
“So, before elections, the confidence of the people in democracy has to be restored. We don’t see any steps being taken in that direction,” Bhan said.
He said political activity in true sense was not taking place in Jammu and Kashmir as a level playing field for all political parties was missing.
“Whatever is happening is one sided at the behest of Delhi. There is no level playing field where one could say that serious political activity is taking place. A few handpicked politicians are allowed to go about, while others are being restricted,” he claimed.
Bhan said the aspirations of the people, which are reflected by the older regional political parties, are not taken into account.
“Objections were filed to the way delimitation was done, the voters’ lists were prepared but none were considered. So, they are following the rule of ‘my way or highway’,” he added.
Apni Party leader Ghulam Hassan Mir, while giving credit to the BJP government for holding panchayat and DDC elections in Jammu and Kashmir, said it was time to restore other democratic institutions as well.
“BJP government has made panchayats on the ground level, have also formed DDC and BDC which the previous governments had not allowed to happen. For this, the credit goes to the BJP government.
“2022 was the year of expectations for the people of Jammu & Kashmir but not holding elections has left the people here highly disappointed. Though law and order is maintained, in a democracy elections should have taken place,” Mir, who was a minister in PDP-Congress coalition between 2002 and 2008, said.
BJP’s Tarun Chugh, the national general secretary incharge of Jammu and Kashmir, listed development and return of tourism boom as the major highlights of the year.
“This year has been great for tourism and development under the rule of Modi government. Kashmir is flooded with tourists, which has left no hotel with a single unoccupied room. People are enjoying and have come out in large numbers to support this change,” he said.
On the elections not being held in Jammu and Kashmir even three years after the landmark move in 2019, Chugh said “election announcement is the prerogative of Election Commission”.
As the revision of electoral rolls has been completed in Jammu and Kashmir, Chugh said he expected that the polls in the union territory “will be announced soon”.