Yours, mine and ours
by Bisma Nazir
After decades of unrest and turmoil, the Kashmir Valley breathes easy. The administration has uprooted ills in the system and has upped accountability levels. Now, if public interaction were to be raised, the governance could blend people, police and policy…
KASHMIR, in the present ‘now’, is breathing easy.
The breeze is calm and peaceful. Life feels normal, after ages of unrest. The level of
violence has gone down to almost zero andthere has been not a single law and order
problem in the last six months or so. The tourist influx is breaking previous records and people,by and large, are busy in their normal activities. The police and civil administration are not only proactive but preemptive too, ensuring complete normalcy in the Valley. The focus is more on developmental activities, sports, revival of cultural traditions and yes, LG Manoj Sinha is particularly keen on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Overall, Kashmir seems to be on a highway to growth, finally.
Accountability, across the board
There is a general consciousness regarding repercussions if there were a lack in performance of duty. The officers in the police department holding important positions like that of district SSPs and above are more than clear that they will lose posting and position in case of any law and order problem or untoward incident of the scale of innocent civilian killing within their operational jurisdiction. This clearly reflects on how the officers are being held accountable for their actions, which was not the case earlier. We can say that favourtism has been, to a certain extent, uprooted from the administrative circles. The overall assessment is favourable but a single incident could hurt these initiatives, as much sensitivity is involved as far as Kashmir is concerned, because we have many in and outside Kashmir who do not lose an opportunity to present a shady picture to the outside world. So it is a tightrope walk for the government, which is precisely why LG Manoj Sinha is very guarded in articulating the overall situation.
This, however, is not the first time and perhaps could not be the last time that violence has
gone down to almost zero level. We have seen many phases of Kashmir turmoil and to be
honest, the situation has never been permanent. We have witnessed calm and peace earlier also when the level of violence had considerably gone down and even the
number of active terrorists was lesser than what we have today. The only difference which is obvious is that the administration now is fully in control of the levers of power and there is uniformity in the actions of the administrative apparatus. Earlier, because of the dominance of the separatist discourse, the administrative units were working at cross purposes. What is however, unhealthy and certainly unsolicited is the limited interaction of the administrators with the general public.
Public input and interaction – a big must
In this scenario, public input is most essential for correct decision-making.
Though there are specified sections in every government department for feedback and public input, but interaction is something very pivotal to read the minds and formulate opinions. The grievance cells are working phenomenally and according to Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir (UT) Arun Kumar Mehta, 75% of the people are satisfied with the deliverance of the administration. But again, the problem is that people talk specifically about their individual problems, mostly related with essential services, so we cannot claim that there is public input in policy framing or decision-making processes of the government. As hinted, it’s just one-way flow of information. This kind of administrative setup is appropriate, viable and feasible for regions and states where you do not face threat to your security and stability from a foreign country; where you have no cross border terrorism; where you don’t face the problem of narcotic terrorism; where you have no borders and hence no chance of smuggling of narcotics and weapons; and above all, where
your adversary has not intruded physically or through mind space.
In a region like Kashmir, you can check and contain internal disturbances, you can ensure
there is no law and order issue, you can put in place an efficient mechanism to address public grievances, but you cannot stop your enemy from creating trouble while sitting far away from your administrative and geographical domain.
Pakistan has unleashed a campaign of disinformation about Kashmir all across the world. It has its moles, groups, individuals, extensions spread all over the world who are
into the disinformation campaign consistently and persistently. So Kashmir is somehow
unique even after the annulment of the unique Constitutional position it enjoyed for 73 years within the union of India. We can do away with the Constitutional uniqueness but geographical, political, strategic uniqueness of the Kashmir region cannot be wished away. It sounds confusing, but we have been arguing all along, that the narratives and discourse have the potential to twist the thought processes and that is why action of a petty government servant like a patwari is looked upon through a different prison. Every action of the local administration is perceived as a national project and has, as such, far-bearing implications on the overall discourse on Kashmir. Under such circumstances, it has been observed that a greater public interaction enriches your thought processes and provides an opportunity for course-correction as and when required. That public interaction is somehow missing. And that, precisely, is the space where more work could be done to complete the road to evolution.