The 4 pawns on the Chatarunga Board
*Rakesh K Kaul
J & K Secretariat in Srinagar
n the community portals there is genuine joy on the announcement that the Sangarsh Samiti, with the support of the Global KP community, was able to secure agreement with the J & K Governor’s office. This agreement essentially meets the demands of the KPs and is consistent with the rule of law. The Jammu movement has been rightly described as unprecedented and historic. It is important to note that the two greatest stories of the Indic civilization, namely the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are not about religious victories nor are they about foreign conquests, nor about empires or nation state ideologies. They are fundamentally about good and just governance, the rule of Dharma. It is this core unmet need that the common man in Jammu wanted and fought for. It was this injustice that the politicians were blind to and arrived at an understanding of only after loss of life and property.
How should the KPs manage the dividend from the Amarnath movement?
As a starting point it is important to understand that all mass movements in India have essentially morphed into electoral representations. This is how the democratic process in India incorporates social change and embeds permanently the consent of the governed. The same thing will happen in Jammu and will have enormous far reaching consequences for the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Today the State has 37 legislators from the Jammu division and 46 MLAs from the Kashmir division, with each legislator representing about 1.2 Lakhs voters. What is important is that for the first time there is a historic opportunity for a politically unified Jammu representation in the State Legislation while it is likely that the division of Kashmir will be fractured in its’ electoral representation. The implications for the constitution of the ruling coalition and the future governance in J&K are clear. Given that the elections, even if temporarily postponed, are not too far away it is imperative that the Global KP community focus on a single point agenda which is how it can be a key player in the electoral process that is imminent.
I would propose that the KP organizations reflect as to what steps it should take so that 4 seats can be added within the legislature for the KPs, given that our population is above 4 lakhs. Unlike the past where different political parties would co-opt a lone KP, who would be highly unresponsive to the needs of the community, is there an opportunity given the displaced status of the community to be able to vote directly for our own KP candidates, irrespective of our geographic distribution, similar to the situation prevailing with the Anglo Indians? If a feasible strategy is developed then it will require intense effort at the electoral commission level, at the minorities’ commission level, at the legal level, in discussions with the national parties in Delhi and in negotiations with the ground level parties in Jammu who are part of the Sangarsh Samiti. However, if we get this incorporated as an item in the election manifesto of the friendly parties then to maximize our leverage there will have to be a drive for maximum KP voter registration and participation and ensuring that those Jammu unity candidates who support our political rights are the ones who get the community vote. The time to strike is now because this situation has never presented itself before to us.
It may be time to augment the street and media focused efforts and move to electoral combat; from articulating end game solutions to executing the first foundational step. The Jammu based KP organizations need to reflect on this and come up with a game plan as to how they want to move forward and how best the global community can support them. The battle will not be easy but if the Jammu steering committee prepares a proper case statement, lays out the responsibilities for the execution of the plan and there is a unity of purpose and a collaborative effort, it can be done! The 4 legislature seats for KPs will be a necessary first step for achieving the longer term goals that KP’s have in order to fully secure their assets and rights. These representatives will be able to play a constructive bridging role in the divide that has occurred between the Valley Muslims and Jammu Hindus. Finally, they may also prove to be the missing pieces that can provide the right governance for J&K and ultimately its’ alignment with India. For now our call should be “No Election without Representation.” It is a call that will resonate with the Global civil society who now stands sensitized to the acute historical discrimination that has been practiced against the KPs.
Rakesh Kaul comes from a family which has a long and distinguished record of selfless KP community public service and cultural activities. His father's side was among the founders of Vishwa Bharati Institute for girls in Rainawari. His maternal grandfather in Karan Nagar was one of the founders of Sudhar Samiti besides being a world renowned writer of books on the great Kashmir Shaivite doctrine of Kundalini Yoga (www.GopiKrishna.US). Both his uncles from father's side and his maternal Grandfather were imprisoned during the Parameshwari protests. His father was active in Kashmir Samiti in Delhi. Rakesh served as a VP of KOA and is a lifetime member and started several chapters such as the one in Los Angeles and in Minneapolis. He led the highly successful national fund raising effort for KOA when the community suffered its displacement in 1989. He has been a founding member of IAKF and also served as a contributor to Miltsar magazine. Most recently he served as Co Chairman of The Arts of Kashmir Exhibition at the Asia Society in New York. With Dr. Sushma, his wife, they are both active supporters of Humanitarian programs targeted towards helping the internally displaced KPs in the Jammu camps. Rakesh has a passion for literature on Kashmir and has an extensive library that is open to any member of the community. Rakesh is committed to providing mentorship to young KP entrepreneurs and has served as an angel advisor to several KP led startups.
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