WINDS OF CHANGE AND CHALLENGES

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Winds of change… and challenges
 Following the abrogation of Article 370, the administration in jammu & Kashmir has seen a clear shift. With better accountability, improved work culture and evolved governance, things have looked promising. But the common man’s unrest at the anti-encroachment
drive and the negative propaganda by State’s adversaries, seem to be a challenge. Can the administration fight these, is the question.
POST Abrogation of Article 370, much has changed on ground in Jammu and Kashmir.
The UT Administration has reinforced accountability and a serious work culture. The delivery system has improved, and so has the efficiency in the provision of a hassle-free
administration to the public. There are serious efforts in improving the governance system.
But what really hasn’t changed is the manufacturing of conspiracy theories.
The argument could be best illustrated by an anecdote. Four years back, when upgradation and four-laning of the Srinagar-Jammu national highway was at its initial stages,
a known terror apologist and the teacher at the Central University of Kashmir, wrote that the up-gradation was a part of the bigger project of colonial ambitions of New
Delhi. Interestingly, the discourse before the project was that the Srinagar-Jammu national highway was deliberately being left out as a part of a conspiracy against
the people of Kashmir! How conveniently they change their narratives sometimes!
There is a popular saying in Kashmir that in the old times, an underprivileged community – also considered ‘untouchable’ – would fight when a groom would arrive
with his baraat. There would be a fight if the baraat was accompanied by dhamaalas (folk dancers). There would be fight if it was not accompanied by dhamaalas. It was a
given that the parents of the bride would fight with the bridegroom’s relatives on ‘kyun laaye’ as much as on ‘kyun nahin laaye (why folk dancers are accompanying or
why not accompanying). This is precisely how the adversaries of the State in Kashmir have been operating for years. You do something, it’s seen as a conspiracy. If
you don’t do anything, it is again a ‘conspiracy’.
It is always very important to understand the dynamics of the State before taking a step – positive or negative. It is undeniable that people from all walks of life – be it
business, media or any other – feel that in the present times, the governance has improved a lot. Yet, the governance has to suffer severe jolts almost daily. The steps taken in the interest of the general public are often projected as anti-people. And the innocent public tends to believe it.
Allow us to present two important observations:
1. The North Block and the South Block at Raisena Hills in New Dehli are very clear in their intentions that whatever was required to be done in order to bring normalcy to the trouble-torn region of Jammu and Kashmir, was done on Aug 5, 2019. Now it is incumbent upon the Jammu and Kashmir government to take people on board and give them respite. For
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, abrogation of Article 370 and re- organisation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, was a monumental decision with far- reaching implications. For them, the chapter is closed and it should be the local administration that should work towards rebuilding Jammu and Kashmir.
There is an emphasis on earning goodwill of the larger under-privileged sections of the society. For New Delhi, Kashmir is beyond Lal Chowk and Dal Lake. Home Minister Amit Shah is particularly clear on reaching out to the deprived sections of the Valley. There is a rejection of the elitist and the VIP culture. There are hundreds of schemes that could be
hugely beneficial to the non-elites and of course, people are benefitting to a great extent. The schemes are devised to reach out to those who were left out by the former regimes in Jammu & Kashmir. As mentioned earlier, there is remarkable improvement in the delivery system and people appreciate it. However, at the same time, the discourse
unfortunately remains the same. There are conspiracy theories being attached and attributed to every action of the Government. The national and international media, particularly, have been a breeding ground for articulation of such negative discourse. Because of this, people of all shades and sects are trapped in certain false notions. And there are little efforts towards dispelling these notions. No wonder then that
the adversaries of the Indian state are still successful in running smear campaigns against the State.

2. The UT Administration is working tirelessly towards improving the governance in Jammu & Kashmir and has clearly made significant advancement towards achieving its goals. There is appreciation for hard work and sincere efforts for providing better administration to the people. That said, the UT administration sometimes goes in for hasty decisions that create more confusion than not. Take, for instance, the fresh controversy over retrieval of State land from illegal occupancy. The decision was initially hailed by a majority of the people because the government had made it clear that only the big fish would be targetted. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the common people were looking at it from the same view of August 2019. They were all set to enjoy and celebrate but the eviction party reached their own doorsteps! As of now, there is complete chaos from Lakhanpur to Lolab. People are facing a peculiarly uncertain situation. Because now, the common layman who’s encroached a few marlas, is the one being targeted. The big sharks are somehow managing to defer the action against them, while the common man is in the net. There were assurances from LG Manoj Sinha that the small encroachers won’t be touched, but well, the public does have a short memory. A single action that ruffles the common man, occupies the general mind-space more than hundreds of actions which may have benefitted him in many other ways. And alas, the propaganda machinery is as quick as a high intensity wind to spread disinformation and create fear in the minds of people. Many international media houses have, all of a sudden, got a stick to beat the Indian State with. Exclusive news stories, special features and documentaries are being aired to present a shoddy and grim picture of Jammu and Kashmir. Though the anti-encroachment drive has been started in both the regions of Jammu & Kashmir with the same intensity, the picture that is being painted shows gloom for the Kashmir region alone. A readymade conspiracy theory is on the top of the rumour mill according to which, the eviction drive is aimed at settling the non-locals in the Kashmir valley. The average mind has no reason not to be influenced by these rumours because there are little efforts to counter such propaganda. And it is human nature to feel insecure in the absence of a convincing argument followed by a serious action. Well, it was after a 30-year spell of chaos and confusion that people had just started reposing their faith in the system. But a hasty decision seems to have shattered the trust in a single drive.

Honestly, the government needs to look into what could be its undoing, despite best intentions.

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