The ongoing Panchayat polls in J&K which were held after a decade(last one was in 2001) has been a success with around 80 percent of people exercising their franchise, exceeding the polling percentage in the 2008 Assembly polls which was estimated to be around 60 percent. The valley people have defied the diktat of Islamic separatists who have always resorted to a murderous assault on democratic processes.
Asha Jee, a Kashmiri Pandit woman won the Panchayat elections from north Kashmir’s Wussan Village in Baramulla district, becoming the first KP woman to win a Panchayat election. The population of the village is around 1,000 of which just 11 are KPs. Asha Jee defeated her lone rival candidate Sarwa Begum by 11 votes. Asha Jee, a mother of two, is basically from Doda district (Jammu Divison) and married Radha Krishan Bhat in 1984. Asha’s elder son, Suresh Kumar, works as a constable in the Jammu & Kashmir police while her younger son, Ashok, helps his father in their grocery store.
Without undermining the encouraging implication associated with the electoral victory of a member belonging to a brutalized religious minority in the Panchayat elections, the post-victory narration has been slightly over the top A minority candidate winning hardly changes deep rooted nature of internal problems of Kashmir valley. Some sections are portraying this victory as a huge transformation in the valley and it is being depicted as a move towards ‘normalcy’. However the Projection of this victory as a testimony to communal harmony and brotherhood in the entire valley would be naive. Some sections are even audaciously taking this victory as conducive situation for return of Pandits. The viloent protests spearheaded by the Islamists in 2008 over temporary allotment of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and the summer unrest of 2010 can’t be ignored.
Since 1990, Kashmiri Pandits have been completely marginalized in the political arena of the Kashmir valley. From the last two decades, Kashmiri Pandit votes are scattered. Pandits are unable to cast their votes as they are living in exile at different places in India. And now the situation is that Kashmiri Pandits don’t even know who the elected representatives from their constituencies are whether MLA, MLC or MP.
Kashmiri Pandits who once controlled the destiny of this country have suddenly gone into political oblivion. No political party has thought of giving representation to the intellectual community of Kashmiri Pandits. There used to be Kashmiri Pandits in the parliament – Shiv Narayan Fotedar, Shyam Lal Saraf, Tirath Ram Amla, DP Dhar, and Makhan Lal Fotedar. In present times, there is none. Kashmiri Pandits have been marginalised in the political affairs of the valley also. There was time when Pandits have had their share in the political affairs of the J&K State. At one point of time, Prime Minster of Jammu & Kashmir was Kashmiri Pandit, Ram Chandra Kak. And today there is no minister from Pandit community, not even Pandit MLA in the state government. Political empowerment of Kashmiri Pandits is necessary for bringing the change on ground. As Kashmiri Pandits are living in exile, they would need more representation in Parliament/Assembly now so that their plight can be focused. Mere win by a Pandit woman in Panchayat Election is not a big deal.
Also, elections have never illustrated the clear picture of prevalent scenario in valley though no doubt people have participated in huge numbers in recent times. It would be utterly naive to take this one victory by minority as signs of change in the entire Kashmir valley. It is a welcome step that majority population of Wussan village elected a candidate irrespective of the religion. But generalizing this trend through the valley may not be appropriate. Congratulations to brave Pandit woman for winning the election and applauds to the people of Wussan village. But don’t make a big fuss over this win!
(Follow Varad Varenya on Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/VaradVarenya)
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