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An askew democracy

An askew democracy

In India's representative democracy, electorate elect their leaders who make decisions and implement them in the best interest of the people—as per the theory. Another aspect of this notion of representative democracy is that will of the majority prevails, but according to the Constitutional ethos of Indian democracy, there is utmost respect for the will of the minority even if it is outweighted by the will of the majority. It pleased the majority in India when on August 5, the Narendra Modi-led government of India made a dramatic move and scrapped the special status of India's northern-most state and made Article 370 inoperative in a manner that it has twisted the polity in the Jammu and Kashmir region. While the Kashmir valley has been under severe lockdown owing to the Centre's decision, the upcoming local body polls are to be discussed as a National Conference delegation meets the senior most politico of the valley, Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, both representatives of the popular politics in the valley. It was not too long ago when senior Abdullah was detained under the Public Safety Act on the grounds that any stir or agitation caused due to him would be a threat to peace stability in the region, and thus an impediment to the Centre's plan of action. Confining mainstream leaders to house arrest may very obviously be interpreted as a clampdown on the will of the people as those elected leaders are but representatives of the local people. And now, as local body polls approach, democracy in its most basic form seems to be getting back in shape. The adviser to Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Farooq Khan, had earlier stated that politicos of Kashmir will be 'released one by one' after analysis of every individual.

In what is seen as a first major political development since the Centre's decision to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories and abrogate its special status conferred under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, a 15-member National Conference delegation met detained party leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah in Srinagar with due permission of the Jammu and Kashmir state government to discuss developments in the state and upcoming local body polls during the separate meetings with the two leaders. The meeting with Omar Abdullah is said to have lasted a little over half an hour. It is but obvious that for any political process to take start, the prerequisite is that the leaders be available for the people to elect. As matters stand in the valley, anguish over the developments, particularly for the lockdown of the people is pervasive and palpable. The revival of democracy cannot simply be guaranteed by talks about upcoming polls, but the political detainees must be released in order to bring back on the track the ongoings of a normal political process. It is through these elected representatives of the common people of Jammu and Kashmir that the Centre could create any space in the hearts and minds of the local populace. The example of Sheikh Abdullah serves as the greatest instance of how effective the local leadership could be in establishing a connect with a region and its people. It was Sheikh Abdullah who was instrumental in directing the Muslim-majority region to turn towards a secular India and not go with a Muslim Pakistan. The imprisonment of Sheikh Abdullah also had the Central government pay the price of it. It only follows that there is no substitute for local leadership and it is them who are the necessary channels for the Union government to reach out there. But, since August 5, with the utter disregard shown to them, the Centre has only put itself in a very difficult spot. Sheikh Abdullah-founded National Conference is said to have a legacy, history, and a chequered track record but of unanimous view that it would continue to strive for the welfare of the people and shall continue to work for communal harmony, brotherhood, togetherness and keep the secular fabric of the state shining—in contrast to the other dominant party of the valley which is known to be soft on militants and thus, not particularly pro-India. For the purpose of elections to the block development committee, establishing the flow of democracy has been impeded. This means that democracy at its grassroots has been difficult to practice, so carrying out the democratic process in the higher levels certainly remains a matter of very serious concern, one that demands a solution at the earliest possible. A counter point to this is the in the general elections of 2019, the voter turn-out was abysmally low in the valley, so one argument might justify the paralysis of democracy since the people have already registered their apathy in normal circumstances. But, with due respect to the decision of the people, the government must never forget to abide by the Constitutional value it swears by and respect the will of the minority. Now, the big question is, when will the people be allowed to exercise their will?

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