SOURCE: THE PRINT
The District Development Council elections were held for the first time and peacefully in Jammu and Kashmir. The voter turnout was healthy and the verdict on expected lines. This showcased two things. First, that the elections were free and fair, and second, that people welcomed empowerment at the grassroots level. It will lead to decentralisation of power and benefit citizens.
This was possible only because Article 370 was amended by the Narendra Modi government. Its good effects will show in the long term. Panchayat elections held a couple of years earlier and the DDC elections now have taken the political process to the grassroots. The next step has to be the kickstart of the political process at the state level, as soon as the situation permits.
What is the way forward to move towards state elections in Jammu and Kashmir? Terrorist violence has been fairly under control during the year gone by. The incidences of mob violence and stone pelting have also been very little, compared to earlier times. Despite the dilution of Article 370 or the detention of political leaders, there has seen comparatively lesser spilling of anger onto the streets.
The numbers of terrorists operating in the Valley are in the region of a couple of hundred, compared to thousands in the nineties. They are also poorly trained, if at all. The strong anti-infiltration grid along the Line of Control (LoC) does not allow militants to exfiltrate to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to be trained in terrorist camps. They have started relying on the use of social media as a force multiplier for mobilisation as well as radicalisation of youth. This is information warfare. The battle is shifting to the mind-space of the youth, rather than the jungles and mountains only. Our approach must also change accordingly.
First, we must recognise this change to digital recruitment and focus on information warfare by itself seriously, and not as an adjunct of kinetic operations.
Recently, the Army has been conducting a spate of cultural and sporting activities. The response from the youth has been overwhelmingly positive. It shows that youth anywhere have similar aspirations. Of late, a few popular fast food chains have set up shop in Srinagar, and the response again proves that the youth desire change. They want freedom for growth and azadi from violence. An Indian-owned Abu Dhabi-based company called LuLu has already made public its plans to set up food processing units in Jammu and Kashmir. This will result in creating more jobs as well as entrepreneurship. The Centre is making efforts to increase such investments. None less than Prime Minister Modi himself has been pitching for foreign investment in J&K. Private sector involvement is the way to go, rather than state-sponsored largesse, which gets corrupted or, at best, is inefficiently utilised. Kashmiri handicraft and other such specialties are waiting for organised outlets in India and abroad.
The state needs to build a narrative around the positives. The other side, the Deep State, has built a narrative on hate, on negativity. They’ve radicalised the youth, by preying on the fears of people, made false promises, whether it’s to do with jannat and hoors or better days in Pakistan or azadi. A national narrative should be created around the positives that are tangible — jobs, opportunities, industry, good administration, grassroots empowerment, recreational outlets like sports and cultural enrichment.