National Conference’s (NC) boycott of upcoming Panchayat elections has put a big question mark on these elections. NC is the biggest and the oldest political party and its position, whatever way, on crucial issues like elections cannot be disregarded. National Conference President Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday announced the boycott of elections by his party in protest against the lackadaisical approach by the government in protecting the Article 35-A in the Supreme Court. This has forced the other parties too to make a rethinking on their stand on Panchayat elections. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) call for holding all-party meeting to decide about the elections should be viewed against this backdrop. The PDP has, in essence, sought postponing the elections as the situation was not ripe for any such political venture. Much to the eyes and understanding of even a lay man, Kashmir is passing through a dangerous phase of turmoil. Holding of panchayat elections would only but add fuel to the fire. Militants have vowed to punish any or every person participating in the elections. These threats cannot be dismissed without giving any thought. The government should re-read the situation in its right perspective. Last week when militants kidnapped over a dozen kin of policemen, they trod beyond a point to prove their claim. They made it known to everybody they had the power and prowess to make their point. Militants have threatened to put acid in the eyes of those who contested the panchayat elections in Kashmir. One must ignore the latest warning of militants in which they said “we don’t have jails and sub-jails to lodge the culprits in. We will go for on-spot action”.
Panchayat and local bodies’ members, in virtual sense, are unprotected common people. They are vulnerable to all threats and risks. It does need to have mobs of armed men to harass or harm them. Even a single odd armed person is powered enough to scare away dozens of such people. Government has to blame itself for making such provocations. In 2011, Hizbul Mujahideen said that they would disturb the panchayat election as a Panchayat member did not need to take oath of Indian constitution. That saw a large number of people participating in the elections. After the conclusion of elections, government declared the peaceful conduct of panchayat polls as victory against militants. It was a straight provocation to militants, who later forced many a Panchayat members to resign. On occasions it appears that the government has developed vested interest in keeping the pot boil. Kashmir is yet to recover completely from the unrest that swept the valley after Burhan Wani’s killing. Government should have learnt lesson from the anger people expressed during polling for Srinagar parliamentary seat when just around 2% voters turned out to cast their votes amid heightened tension. The government appeared so helpless that it had to put off the election for Anatnag parliamentary seat indefinitely. The seat is still vacant and government does not muster courage to hold elections there notwithstanding the fact that parliamentary candidates and campaigners do have full protection cover from the government. Panchayat members and sarpanchs, as against this, do not have any security cover. They are left to mend for themselves. That makes them easy targets. Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh is reported to have said that the government was aware of the threat and a strategy has been devised to hold elections peacefully. But it is not a case of a day or two. Panchayat members would be vulnerable to threats permanently and round the clock. It could be said with great convenience that government is simply befooling the people and exposing them to dangers of insecurity deliberately. The state administration should take a dispassionate view of the situation, devoid of political undertones. That, by not holding the elections, the state government would lose over Rs.4000 crores specified by the central government for panchayat elections is no justification. Not, money, but human lives matter the most.
With BJP and its Hindutva allies’ pitch for raising Ram Temple at Babri Mosque site, India is limping back to 1990s situation when Hindu extremist brigades attacked the 500-year old mosque to make ground for Ram temple. Though the case is in the Supreme Court but the BJP, through media and other public media has launched a huge campaign to attract the attention for the temple building. As the BJP leaders are pushing for a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya through legislation, the Bajrang Dal is all set to recruit 25,000 volunteers for a movement to be launched in Ayodhya. Bholendra, the secretary of Awadh region in the VHP said, “The Bajrang Dal will be recruiting 25,000 volunteers by December 18 and events are already being organised in 100 locations in the Awadh region. These volunteers will be ready to march to Ayodhya anytime for Ram mandir construction on the orders of the top saints.” The BJP and its allies led by senior Hindutwa leaders L K Advani, Umma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi conducted a similar march in 1992 that resulted in the demolition of the mosque. The demolition of the mosque was followed by a bloody campaign against Muslims across many states, mostly in Maharshtra where 3000 Muslims were massacred by Hindu extremists. Media’s unconditional and unprofessional support to the Hindu extremists can be understood from the fact that the opponents of the move are openly questioned on the issue of their faith. The Hindutva brigade has no respect for the court as is evident from their din on the mosque-temple dispute. They have already refused to accept the Supreme Court decision on Sabarimala issue. This is the brute display of the majoritarian mindset undermining the rule of law—a dangerous edge that the country is being pushed to.
Much to the thrill of the BJP, the media, more particularly TV news channels, are following the Hindutva agenda quite religiously. The Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute is a subject of prime time discussion of almost all news channels—both Hindi and English—on daily or alternate basis ever since assembly elections for five states were announced. It goes without saying that Ram Temple is a political slogan for the BJP to garner support in elections. It is the Ram Temple movement that saw BJP’s rise to power in 90s. However, the slogan had lost steam since its expulsion from power in 2004. It is for this fact that the party fought 2014 general elections on development and corruption issues. But having utterly failed on its promises of development and freeing country from the corruption, the BJP has fallen back upon the Ram Temple mantra. The BJP foot soldiers in the media are questioning publicly the faith of the people who dare to question the Hindutva forces. This new-found aggressiveness is to the fore unmistakably, a typical reminder that in the uocoming general elections the emotive issues would be exploited to the fullest extent by the Hindu extremist brigade. Last month, RSS chief Moham Bhagwat, at the customary Vijayadashmi address at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, came out with a newly invented demand urging the Narendra Modi government to bring in a law for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site which is under litigation for long. It reflected a new line of going over the head of the apex court to reach out to the Hindus regardless of what the court may rule. “Mandir Wahien Banega” is the latest slogan of the party. Many a keen observers believe that by linking faith with the “Mandir Wahien Banega” slogan, the BJP-led Ram campaign is aimed at influencing the Supreme Court as well where Hindu judges are hearing the case. This is merely an election game which the people should understand. The sane elements need to join together to save the country from sacrificing it at the altar of power politics.
World diabetes day and Kashmir
Like all other parts of the globe, world diabetes day was celebrated in Jammu and Kashmir too on Wednesday, last. Different awareness programmes, seminars and functions were organized on the day by the health departments, SKIMS and other related institutions in the valley. But most of these functions were held in the capital Srinagar only where people in large numbers participated. But the way the deadly disease is catching up the people across the state, the campaign should have been more broad-based, comprehensive and more-focused, particularly in rural areas. Though no proper survey has been conducted to find out the magnitude of the dangerous disease, medicos believe that almost eight percent of the population is presently suffering from diabetes while 24% others lie in the risk zone vulnerable to falling prey to the deadly disease. The most disturbing fact is that youngsters are more prone to diabetes. Diabetes is worldwide disease. While type 1diabetes cannot be prevented, the type 2 variant is indeed preventable if the right lifestyle options are adopted. Diabetes, known as a ‘lifestyle disease’, is spreading its tentacles dangerously across Jammu and Kashmir. The lives of thousands of people have already got seriously affected by this disease. If greater efforts are not undertaken to control the ailment, we may have to confront another health epidemic. Doctors and health experts have warned of the outbreak of this pandemic disease if not confronted well in time.
Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activity have all contributed to an increase in diabetes cases. The same factors are at work in Kashmir and national health authorities need to consider ways and means to prevent the spread of the ailment here. What is worse here that more than 50% diabetic patients are not aware that they are suffering from diabetes? They come to know about the disease only when other organs of their boy get affected by the disease. Women and children are more prone to this disease. There is need to sensitize the women also because the disease could easily transfer to the child. Though, at present, there is no direct cure for diabetes, the thrust should be on stabilizing blood sugar levels. For this there is need for a comprehensive awareness campaign to aware people so that they can take care of themselves. Diabetes is a non-communicable disease, the state needs to launch awareness campaigns to identify the risk factors that can lead to the ailment. Experts note a healthy lifestyle is essential in preventing diabetes; healthy eating and physical activity are particularly highlighted. Experts have also called for regular screening of blood sugar levels to check for any signs of trouble. With a lazy lifestyle and traditional dietary habits, it is essential to immediately start addressing the dangers posed by diabetes and other ailments linked to unhealthy lifestyles. If we look at the size of food in Kashmir including wazwaan, we have the habit of taking heavy and high caloric diets with zero physical activity. We use a lot of cooking oil and we take a lot of carbohydrates like wheat products, rice and then we do not adhere to an active lifestyle. Besides we have been using machines for farming, cars to travel, TV to entertain ourselves replacing old traditional methods of compulsory exercise. The habit of exercise (a way to burn calories), is very less as the culture has not developed here yet. Add processed foods to it, it is sure lead to diabetes in children. Rather than wait for a full-blown epidemic, it would be wise for the state and health practitioners to help spread awareness about the benefits of eating healthier and staying fit amongst all age groups, especially youngsters drawn to junk food.
The state health department and primary institutions of medical health should take all these things into consideration and launch a massive awareness campaign all through the year to tackle this deadly disease.
Uncertainty over government formation
Uncertainty looms large on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. Though some circles claim that a new government of hotchpotch coalition is likely to be installed in the state any time by the end of October, there is no definite word on as who would lead the government. The speculations about the new government had strengthened after hints by dropped by some aspirants of chief ministerial post. However, the latest from the BJP point-man is that there is no possibility of government formation and the Governor’s rule will continue. Ram Madhav was recently in Srinagar and his latest statement is deemed as BJP’s failure to get required support for the government it wanted to install in Jammu and Kashmir. There are many a claimants/ aspirants of the chief minister’s post. Altaf Bukhari of PDP and Sajjad Lone of Peoples’ Conference (from Kashmir) are deemed as ‘front runners’. A section of PDP legislators are ready to break away from the party but they want their own party man to be the chief minister with Altaf Bukhari as their choice. BJP, however, is silently acting on a plan to get its own man installed as the chief minister.
Minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Jitendra Raina is the BJP favourite. A BJP (Hindu) chief minister in a Muslim-majority state would be a big boost for the party ahead of next year’s general elections. For having failed to keep its election promises made in 2014, BJP is looking for some emotional issue to woo back the Indian voter. While five PDP MLAs who have rebelled against Mahbooba Mufti publicly are not averse to any chief minister from BJP, other “rebel” MLAs from the valley, however, have serious reservations. They believe that supporting BJP’s agenda of Hindu chief minister would cost them heavily. That is making the formation of the new government a difficult proposition. In disagreement between the BJP and PDP (rebel), the two-member party chief Sajjad Lone perceives a chance for himself. Sajjad’s dream of becoming the chief minister is for two reasons. First, no PDP or BJP MLA wants to go back to the electorate for fresh elections. Second, Governor’s rule for prolonged period too is not an option before New Delhi. In such a scenario, in his estimation, there is enough chance for him to emerge as alternate choice.
He is reported to have held meetings with several PDP MLAs and sought their help. Knowledgeable sources however reveal that BJP is not too keen to see Sajjad Lone as chief minister. But being their most trusted ally, the BJP leadership has told him that if he could manage support and get the required numbers, the party would support him. A strong lobby in the party believes that it would give rise to many questions for the party at national level. They say that ahead of next year’s general elections the BJP cannot afford any messy situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “If the state needed a chief minister from the valley only why Mahbooba was toppled then and the state was plunged into serious crisis” is a question that would be posed to the BJP even by its own cadres. BJP cadres think that there is a chance for their party to pitch for its own chief minister. But where are the numbers and wherefrom these will come is something that the party leaders have no answers. Mahbooba Mufti had, some time back, accused New Delhi of using NIA for breaking her party. That gives one the sense that BJP is working on influencing PDP legislators to get the required support.
Ram Madhav’s latest assertions that Governor’s rule will continue makes one to understand that BJP’s game-plan has seemingly gone to smithereens.
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