The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Light in the dark

Sir — By participating in the electoral process, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have reaffirmed their faith in India and in its democratic setup (“NC ahead, Delhi holds crown”, Dec 29). This fact underscores the inherent strength of the Indian democracy. Though the nation’s leaders have let down the republic periodically, the people of this country have always demonstrated far greater resilience and responsibility when it came to solving problems. The elections in J&K were conducted efficiently by the Election Commission, and ordinary people came out to vote in large numbers, thereby giving a fitting reply to both Pakistan and the separatists. The large turnout delivered a body blow to Pakistan’s claim that Kashmiris are unwilling to be a part of India. Similarly, the secessionists’ call for a boycott was also rebuffed.

The fractured mandate is a lesson for local politicians as well. It is time they rose above petty politics and worked to meet the aspirations of the people. The polls undoubtedly bolstered Indian democracy and its secular fabric. The Manmohan Singh government deserves praise for managing to hold free-and-fair polls despite the threat of separatist violence and the heightened tension following the Amarnath land controversy.

Yours faithfully,
Bichu Muttathara, Pune

Sir —Who would have expected that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir, coming close in the heels of the Mumbai attack and Amarnath land row, would pass off peacefully? The demand by militants to reject the elections was ignored by the people who braved inclement weather to come out and vote. The success of these elections raises some important questions. What import do the polls have for the separatist leaders and their followers who had set the valley alight after the Amarnath controversy? Why did people who had taken to Muzaffarabad’s streets demanding azadi a while ago line up in front of the polling booths? Perhaps Kashmiris now prefer good governance to azadi, having lost out on years of peace and prosperity. It may even be that the people of the state are coming around to realize that they are as ‘free’ in this land as every other Indian.

Yours faithfully,
Mookhi Amir Ali, Mumbai

Sir — The people of Jammu and Kashmir have firmly snubbed the militants by voting in a popular government. However, as has been the trend in recent times, no single party has an absolute majority to rule the state. This is not a healthy trend, as it may lead to instability in the longer run. The antics of the People’s Democratic Party over the Amarnath land transfer are still fresh in collective memory. Despite initial bickerings, the National Conference and the Congress appear to have arrived at a settlement about forming the government. Constitutional propriety demands that the single largest party should be given the chance to form a government, but politicians have often flouted the norm for their own interests. Jammu and Kashmir is an extremely sensitive state. All the gains of the elections will be undone if politicians give in to their baser instincts and ignore the demands of the people.

Yours faithfully,
Ambar Mallick, Calcutta

Sir — The elections in Jammu and Kashmir can be described as a ‘vote for peace’. The citizens must celebrate the outcome as the triumph of democracy over the power of the gun. Equally heartening is the fact that the state will get Omar Abdullah as its new chief minister. A young and dynamic politician, Abdullah junior should now look at ways to take his step on to the path of progress. That way, he will be able to fulfil the people’s wishes. The new chief minister’s primary task would be to safeguard the lives of the people who have voted him to power. Not just the people of the state, but also the entire nation and the world are hoping for a sea-change Kashmir. Hopefully, Omar Abdullah will not disappoint in this regard.

Yours faithfully,
Narayan B. Iyer, Mumbai

Sir — The emergence of a thirdgeneration political leader from an illustrious Kashmiri family as the chief minister of a troubled state signifies the strength of core values such as the freedom of ideas and peaceful co-existence. Unfortunately, most international newspapers chose to ignore the development in Jammu and Kashmir. Even after 60 years of independence, the only time India hits international headlines is during terror attacks. Shouldn’t the ministry of external affairs use its diplomatic ties to change international perception?

The Indian State’s greatest achievement is that it has managed to govern an extremely complex and diverse society with reasonable success. But for too long, India has been a victim of its own reticence: we as a people are seldom keen on talking about our country’s accomplishments. It is time our political and bureaucratic institutions took measures to tell the world of India’s unique strengths and its achievements. That would certainly be better than waiting for the rest of the world to write about India at its own convenience.

Yours faithfully,
Monideepa Tarafdar, Toledo, US

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