Why can’t the elephants dance?

3 mins read


Constitutional upheaval of August 2019 resulting in withdrawal of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir threw the entire politics of the erstwhile state into disarray as the raison d’etre of mainstream local politics for decades was the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian constitution and the Indian state post accession. In one stroke on 5th August, 2019, all the local mainstream parties found themselves brought on the same pedestal.

And there was nothing they could do singly or collectively to stop the inevitable. Neither did they try to rally the people nor did the people appear willing to rally behind them or anybody else. But the parties did assemble under the Gupkar umbrella, PAGD (People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration) which now appears losing even the pretence after having lost the form not long after it had come into existence immediately after the upheaval.

The Gupkar alliance, right from the start, did not inspire much confidence among the informed sections in Jammu and Kashmir for several reasons. One that the same set of politicians had appeared clueless in the pre- August 2019 phase and overpowered now by the determination of the union government bolstered by the Parliamentary sanction.

However, local people, particularly in Kashmir valley, expected all of them to close ranks and make a common cause against what had befallen them and the people of Jammu and Kashmir after 69 years of closely guarded and protected special status.

But this was a chimera as a few leaders deserted the ensemble within days or months fueling suspicion about having been forced out due to pressure from the top. The two main parties stayed on but are now sparring for political space in the run up to the parliamentary elections and expectedly for seats in the assembly elections of the Union Territory which formulation they had rejected as humiliating and vowed never to contest till everything snatched was restored.

The climb down from the earlier exalted position can, on the basis of commonsense, be attributed to the pressure of the second and third rung leadership within each party who equate politics with profession and the activities of the new and competing parties who are trying to occupy part or whole of the political space if they get a walk over.

Lack of success of Gupkar alliance, primarily, has been  its inability to recalibrate and restructure the politics here to suit the new situation post August, 2019. Since the declared political objectives of the alliance parties were identical, union or continued political action in unison should have followed naturally.

But as of now, none of it seems to be happening and that is surely going to confuse the voters because if the parties, still in alliance, will not speak for each other, they are bound to speak against each other. And one does not have to be a visionary to see this inevitable happening.

The dominant narrative of the local parties in Jammu and Kashmir is that deep inside people of the erstwhile state are not happy with the August 2019 changes. The ruling party’s narrative has been that its actions in Jammu and Kashmir enjoy wide support across the country. In the face of this country wide support for the changes, it will be an uphill task for the local parties to muster support for ameliorative action by the centre unless they are able to demonstrate overwhelming support they claim for their narrative within Jammu and Kashmir.

For the centre to take them seriously it is important that they first obtain the mandate. But if the mandate is fractured as a result of their inability to come together, a historic opportunity would have been missed. Ironically, it is the support from rest of the country for the J&K narrative that will ultimately tilt the balance in favour of some form of restoration resembling pre August 2019 status.

An overwhelming mandate from the people of J&K for restoration as against a fractured mandate is absolutely necessary to win over the sympathy of rest of the country. It is neither easy nor less herculean. Necessarily, the elephants must dance and if they don’t, they will miss the step and people will ask, now and later,  why didn’t the elephants dance ?

There is no doubt that local parties and leaders are functioning under lot of pressure post 2019. They must get the credit for not instigating the public any time these five years post August 2019. The public has also shown great deal of maturity and patience. There is some amount of ‘move on’ or ‘let go’ mentality at work.

The Supreme Court judgement put paid to all hopes of restoration. Though disappointed, both the politicians and people exhibited good spirit. Any democratic  and responsive government must respect this matured behavior of a people who have previously shown signs of impatience with peaceful methods of protest.

It is therefore time to raise the morale of the people and take some confidence building initiatives before the assembly elections. Nothing would be more welcome than restoration of full statehood, already promised on the floor of the parliament and to be fulfilled, ideally and logically, before the next election to the same parliament. As of now there cannot be a better way to restore democracy and rebuild the confidence of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The country is already taking rapid strides for Viksit Bharat and towards becoming a developed country. Where as, other states in the country are marching ahead on the back of their democratically elected governments, it is only in Jammu and Kashmir among the states (though temporarily a UT) that this march is taking place without them. There is no good reason left for denying this opportunity to the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

(Khurshid Ahmed Ganai is a retired IAS officer of the erstwhile J&K cadre and a former Advisor to the Governor)

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