The NC-Congress coalition, which has mastered the art of self-indulgence and self-praise, betraying a worst kind of hypocrisy and deceit, has been making much noise about the holding of cabinet meetings at a few selected and remote villages, projecting it as a move to take governance to the villagers doorstep.. There has been much ado about the second such meeting held at Machil in Kupwara district near the Line of Control, on Wednesday. This was the second of this kind of costly exercise since Omar Abdullah took over the reins of office over three and half years ago. The holding of such meetings in remote villages has been officially hailed as a way for the cabinet ministers and top brass of the administration to interact with the people and have personal assessment of the problems and requirements in the remote areas. The army of ministers and bureaucrats briefly travelled to the village concerned either by air or in a cavalcade of vehicles and the brief cabinet meeting followed by a public rally were held under tightest of security. Such tamashas cost the State exchequer, starved of funds for development and social services, huge amount. The only job performed by the cabinet was to approve a couple of transfers and posting of some senior police officers, a task that could have been easily accomplished by holding the cabinet meeting in the secretariat in Srinagar, thus saving huge amount, which could have been utilized for some productive purpose.
It was not officially stated as to why among hundreds of such remote and backward villages in the hilly state Machil was chosen for the cabinet meeting. Machil came to limelight internationally when in May 2010 three youth were killed in a cold-blooded manner by the Armed forces in a fake encounter. Though innocent civilians from Nadial village in Baramullah the deceased were shown as hard-core militants from Pakistan. Despite the involvement of senior army officers in this grave human rights abuse no independent inquiry has been held so far.
Neither the killers have been punished nor justice has been done to the families of the deceased. Instead of assuaging the hurt feelings of the people the State government rubbed salt on their wounds by choosing that village for a cabinet meeting and the chief minister and his government failing even to apologies to the people for the killings of the youth in the fake encounters.
There are some clear and loud messages from the bleeding fields of Machil. One that an independent and credible probe should be held in the fake encounter followed by the punishment to the killers and justice should be done to the families of those killed in a cold-blooded manner. Not only in this particular case but several other similar cases of grave human rights abuses including the presence of hundreds of unmarked graves in the remote areas of the Valley, should be thoroughly probed and steps should be taken to put an end to all such crimes against humanity. The second important message which the ruling elite has failed to understand so far is that the governance cannot reach the people at grass root level through such rituals as holding of cabinet meetings in few selected villages.
There are hundreds of such remote and backward villages in the State which have been left out of the process of development. The cabinet meetings can not be held at all such villages. The answer to such uneven development and exclusion of the vast majority from the democratic process is to ensure participatory democracy. A government which has abjectly failed so far even to empower the elected panchayats cannot befool the people by describing such misadventures as holding of cabinet meeting in one or the other village as a part of the process of democratic decentralization.
The all inclusive development is not possible under a highly centralized system of governance. What is needed is the equitable participation of all the people in governance and socio-economic development. Only empowerment of the people at grass root level through a democratically decentralized system of polity and governance can bring cheers in the lives of millions of people who have remained neglected and backward due to the prevalence of a highly centralized, arbitrary and corrupt system of governance.