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Two faces of 'normalcy'

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

Gross misuse of PSA while seeking removal of AFSPA is sheer hypocrisy
Two simple and straight words, ‘normalcy’ and ‘stability’, have been too frequently interpreted, re-interpreted and misinterpreted, to suit shifting political convenience of successive regimes in Jammu and Kashmir. The result is that the real meaning of these words is being freely perverted to justify quite opposite ends and means. The latest instance being the wholesale detention of separatist leaders on the heels of the just concluded parliamentary elections which were hailed as ‘victory’ of nationalist-democratic forces and projected as a sign of normalcy and stability in the state. The sweeping action that smacks of authoritarianism betrays intolerance of the ruling political regime and is bound to unravel the fragile positive trends that were becoming discernible in the wake of the recent developments including the two rounds of elections, in 2008 and 2009. The only plausible explanation for such irrationality is that the coalition government of the National Conference and the Congress lacks confidence in facing up to the political challenge. More importantly, it also reflects poorly on the self-confidence of the regime’s faith in its own popular standing. Obviously, the mandate on which the regime came into being has acquired odium within less than a year’s time. Even if it is accepted that technically the mandate is sound and unquestionable, it is unavoidable to doubt its efficacy.
The ground situation in the state in general, and in Kashmir valley in particular, has visibly improved. There is no credible new threat to either normalcy or stability apart, of course, from the inevitable consequences of the acts of omission and commission of the coalition regime itself. Two striking features of its existence over the past six months have been non-governance and administrative incompetence in dealing with day to day occurrences. The first is all to evident in the failure of the government to show any worthwhile achievement on the performance front despite enjoying almost a free run on the ground and also being fully backed up by the UPA government in Delhi. The second was exposed by the disgustingly clumsy handling of the Shopian crisis. The two together amount to failure on the threshold itself. Whatever goodwill and popular support the coalition had managed to secure in the two elections has got dissipated in the heat of its incompetence. That is why its confidence in facing up to the situation, largely of its own creation, is giving way. Arbitrary detention of government’s political opponents is a familiar symptom of this disability.
The long history of this state shows that such tactics invariably backfire, sooner or later. The period of authoritarianism from 1947 to 1964 ended up in mass upheaval in the wake of the theft of the Holy Relic from Hazratbal shrine in 1963. The era of political liberalisation initiated by (late) Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq paved the way for restoration of normalcy leading to return of the Plebiscite Front to the mainstream and its eventual reincarnation as (today’s) National Conference. The two contrasting scenarios hold out a useful lesson for those interested in learning it. It is that there is no alternative to letting normalcy and stability being practised in their original spirit and meaning. Deviation from this course has only precipitated instability and undermined normalcy with a heavy cost inflicted upon the hapless population. It is time that the coalition government realises its folly and retrace its step. Resort to arbitrary detention of inconvenient opposition is no less draconian than imposing the notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) beyond its justified use. It is hypocrisy to support the demand for lifting of the AFSPA on the one hand and, on the other, to take recourse to flagrant misuse of equally abominable Public Safety Act to suppress democratic dissent. This is nothing but duplicity of the worst kind.


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