Anaahat Naad

The Unmade Sound

Posts Tagged ‘Democracy

Looking down the barrel

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The recent killings of the Panchayat members in the Kashmir valley are a matter of serious concern. The killings have struck fear among the grassroot level representatives of Jammu and Kashmir. On September 23, 2012, a deputy Sarpanch named Mohammad Shafi Teli of Nowpora village in Kreeri area of Baramulla district was killed by terrorists. In the same district, militants had gunned down Ghulam Mohammad Yatoo, Sarpanch of Palhalan village, on September 10, 2012. The terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujaheedin (HM), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) have been issuing threats to the Panches for the past several months asking them to resign. [Source: http://bit.ly/RGNzW5 ]

J&K state has 4,128 Panchayats, with 29,719 Panches and 4,130 Sarpanches. [Source: http://bit.ly/QPZQ7F ]. And after 33 years, the Panchayat elections were held in all the constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir from April 13 to June 27, 2011. Around 80% of people turned out to vote. Due to terrorist threats, the Panchayat elections held in 2001 were not conducted in Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara districts of Jammu & Kashmir.

The 2011 elections were held at a time when the state was recovering from the summer unrest of 2010 in which more than 100 Kashmiris died. [Source: http://bit.ly/gNu4Kc | http://bit.ly/jFp3bz ] Despite the threats by terrorists and boycott call by separatists, people participated in large numbers in the democratic process. In fact, the voter turnout of the Panchayat elections exceeded that of the 2008 state assembly polls which was around 60%. The high voter turnout implies that the people believe in democratic and Constitutional process and are willing to participate in the process. The people’s participation in the Constitutional process needs to be appreciated.

The government projected the massive participation in the Panchayat elections as a triumph of democracy over the gun, but delayed the empowerment of the Panchayats. The J&K state government has not implemented the 73rd amendment of the Indian Constitution which grants power to the Panchayats. For the last year and a half, the Panchayats have been demanding more power for local governance. The implementation of the governance at grassroot level will undermine the support for the separatist forces.

“Panches have resigned not only because of the threats but also due to lag in the empowerment of Panchayati Raj institutions politically as well as economically. About 700 Panches have resigned through advertisements in local newspapers but the government claims around 50 resignations only. We voluntarily chose to become part of democracy but the government never honoured our commitment. Why should we play with our lives?” says Shafiq Mir – convenor of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference. “The 73rd amendment of the Indian Constitution should be implemented which legally empowers the Panchayats. Rahul Gandhi has supported our demand and ensured that appropriate measures concerning the security will be taken”. Mir headed the delegation of 10 Sarpanches who recently met Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi and informed him about the threat to their lives.

J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has assured that the Panches will be provided security. But despite the assurances by Chief Minister, the Panchayat members continue to resign through advertisements in local newspapers. It shows how deep the threat perception runs among the people. Omar Abdullah and his government intend to reduce the footprints of security forces in the Kashmir valley. Omar Abdullah is also insisting on revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some districts of the J&K State. At the same time, the state government has failed to protect the lives of these innocent Panches. The killings are a failure on the part of the state government which harps on “normalcy” in Jammu & Kashmir.

Panches represent democracy at the grassroot level. They have been elected by the people to solve local issues and grievances. Their killings are an attempt to thwart Indian democracy at the grassroots. Those who are trying to destabilise the grassroot level democracy in the valley must be given a strong befitting reply. These terror forces are trying to instil fear in the minds of the people who want to be part of the democratic process and have faith in the institutions of the state. A clear-cut message of zero-tolerance towards terrorism should go both from the state as well as the Central government.

At the village level, defence committees should be formed to keep an eye on unusual activities. At least the government should provide security to the Panchayat members in sensitive areas, if not to all. The government should also consider giving arms to the Panches for self-defence.

Panchayati Raj institutions symbolise the Indian democracy in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state needs to take all possible measures to protect the symbols of democracy. We cannot afford to provide terrorists with another opportunity to debilitate the democracy at the ground level anymore.

(Originally published in Newslaundry)

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Written by Varad Sharma

October 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Youth in Politics: Need of the Hour

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India is the largest democracy in the world. At present, around 46% of our nation’s population comprises of youth. Youth is full of energy and enthusiasm. Youth can do wonders. The power of Indian Youth is well acknowledged by sociologists, political analysts and commentators, economists etc.

Every young individual should be conscious politically. Young people should take active participation in our nation’s politics at every level especially grass-root. A common perception about ‘politics’ is something related to wrongful activities; even the usage of word ‘politics’ has something to do with negation. Generally that’s the reason of indifference towards ‘politics’. This attitude needs to be changed. ‘Politics’ means power; power to work for the betterment of the society, power for empowering the people, power to eradicate the evils of the society.

Usually, in India, the elected representatives (whether an MLA or a MP) are senior/aged individuals who cannot look after their constituencies very well due to one reason or the other. So there arises need of youth people in politics. It does not mean that senior ones should retire but they should always be there for the help of young ones. They should be like ‘Guru Dronacharya of Mahabharata’. Our nation should develop fast if we hand over the command to youth. If there are some wrong things happening in our system, it is our duty to clean up the mess so that we can make better future for ourselves and also for upcoming generations. Only complaining about the system prevalent in India is not the way. We are part of the system, so it is our duty to resolve the problems of our society. We, the youth of India, should fight against the unfair system by entering in the system. Youth has the ability to lead our nation.

Wish more people would pay attention to their country’s politics than films on it. Even the most educated proudly proclaim they are ‘not interested in politics’. It means that they are not interested in having rights or duties and in effect, being civilised. It means they are not interested in the prosperity of their nation.

The apathy towards politics amounts to saying that what happens to the country is not my business. It amounts to abdicating responsibility which leads to saying ‘politics’ is bad and politicians are bad. We are so holy and pure that we want to stay away, as if politics and governance are going to be any good by the abdication of responsibility for it. But the same people keep complaining about governance and politics.      

We have to be in the system to fight against the system. I quote father of the nation- “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Let us hope with the advent of 2011, more and more youth will take interest in politics if they are curious for change. Otherwise it will be presumed that they are satisfied with the prevalent system.

Written by Varad Sharma

January 1, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Posted in India, Politics

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