The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Now that a new government has assumed power in Jammu and Kashmir, the country is eagerly waiting to see how it deals with the problem of militancy in the state. Will the state witness a period of peace and reconstruction under the leadership of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed' Or will he prove to be no different from his predecessors'

It is important to remember that the people of the state did not just vote for a change in leadership. They have been hoping for a new beginning too. The decisions taken by the Congress-People’s Democratic Party government will soon determine whether they have made the right choice. Kashmir is now being ruled by a conglomerate of forces, which will have to prove it means well by honestly working for the welfare of the state. Kashmir does not need golf courses but dispensaries, schools, houses, jobs and, more than anything else, a political leadership that will be willing to listen to the grievances of the people and then address them.

The crux lies in how the alliance functions. So far the Congress has managed to keep its head, thanks to its president. Although it gained more votes in Jammu than in the valley, it had the good sense not to engineer defections from other parties, and thereby wreck the results. There is however no doubt that being a national party with 14 states under its control, the Congress, which has the chairmanship of the coordination committee, will have a major say in state affairs.

Common job

However, a common minium programme has already been drawn up and with it the roadblocks are likely to be fewer. But maybe it is not as simple as that. The new regime will have to tread carefully since even a small mistake could well be interpreted as a major blunder.

The common minimum programme of the coalition contains many of the electoral promises made by the PDP. The release of political prisoners will soften tempers and Sayeed, by letting off Yasin Malik and several others a few days ago, has already made a good start. One of the finest points in the agenda is the help assured by the Sayeed government to victims of militancy as well as to the families of separatists killed by security forces. However, while doing so, the government cannot afford to ignore the contribution of the security personnel in maintaining law and order. It will also have to resist the temptation of taking revenge on political opponents who have lost.

Defining heads

Pakistan is likely to pose the greatest challenge for the new government. The latter must acknowledge that it cannot fight Pakistan on its own and must cooperate with the Centre in doing so. Its success will depend on its effectiveness in dealing with militancy. Both the Centre and the state will have to ensure that there is no confrontation between the two. That will not be easy given that the two subscribe to different ideologies. The Centre must learn to adjust with the state government and the latter must know what will be good for the nation.

The people of Jammu were disappointed when the Congress agreed to accept Sayeed as chief minister. He must now make sure that their grievances are addressed. The idea that Jammu can never elect a chief minister to the state could have an adverse effect on the state’s unity. It may also give a fresh lease of life to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s proposal for a trifurcation of the state. Politicians should also get rid of the idea that a person born ten feet north of Banihal is less of a Kashmiri than someone born ten feet south of it. Or that only a person hailing from Kashmir can become its chief minister.

Sayeed has the ability to tide over the problems. For inspiration he needs to look at G.M. Sadiq, a man of great honesty, or Syed Mir Qasim, who paved the way for the return of Sheikh Abdullah. For Sayeed will be judged not only by his success in tackling militancy, but also on whether he will be able to provided a good and vigilant government to the people of the state.

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