there is one thing that the incumbent chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir did which got the widest attention in India as well in the western capitals that is Omar Abdullah’s assertion that the unpopular and draconian law, AFSPA must be removed from some areas in the state. He may be doing it to make some political capital, but the fact also is that AFSPA is a law against which every political party from across the spectrum in the state as well as human rights groups all across have rallied. And, as many experts have explained, it is within the chief ministers executive powers to have the law removed from the areas he feels don’t need it in the government’s or the security establishments interest or views.
But, such is the powerlessness of the chief minister of Kashmir that Omar Abdullah had not just to translate his earlier declaration as his intention, but he felt the need to plead with almost the entire spectrum of Indian leadership, from the political establishment to the army, for saving his battered image from damaging further.
The way the AFSPA debate has fanned out and the way New Delhi and the army has responded makes it more than clear once again the when it comes to crucial decisions that have the potential of empowering or emboldening the local Kashmiri leadership, the power plays out from New Delhi. In the process however, the separatists of pro-freedom leadership, that has been calling more for demilitarization that just removal of AFSPA, must feel vindicated that elections that bring any political formation to power end up being a sham useful only as an argument or a debating point to reduce the pitch of what resistance politics is saying to the world.
If New Delhi and the army is not allowing Omar Abdullah to exercise the power that in the formal realm is legitimately his, the opposition argument assumes that much more legitimacy as well. In this manner, over the decades, the way New Delhi has disempowered the state’s chief minister also proves, at an argumentative level, the opposition stand that the chief minister of J&K has been nothing more than an administrative head who has no prerogative over the policy. In that sense governance for Kashmir is nothing more than management through the deployment of statecraft. The only thing that makes it a confident exercise may be the fact that the state has absolute security control in the state, once again a function of the army being in place. And, that is where the army establishment feels the space to override the political executive. Now, that is what the Indian establishment keeps complaining about Pakistan. For Kashmir, whether in India or in Pakistan, it is the army that calls the shots.