As Narendra Modi’s government embarks on its third term, the debate surrounding the recent election process and its results in the world’s largest democracy continues. While the success of the BJP in these elections is noteworthy, several challenging aspects of Indian democracy have emerged, raising concerns about the future political landscape and the integrity of democratic values.

One of the most contentious issues is the presence of representatives in the Lok Sabha who face serious terrorism charges. For instance, Amrit Pal Singh, a 31-year-old Sikh from Punjab and the leader of Waris Punjab De, has positioned himself as the heir to Bhindranwale. Despite facing terrorism trials, Singh has managed to secure a seat in the Lok Sabha, leading to questions about the judicial and legal processes that allow him to participate in parliamentary sessions. Singh’s charismatic leadership and oratory skills have garnered him significant support, but his presence in the Lok Sabha underscores a disturbing trend.

Similarly, Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, a prominent figure in Kashmiri politics, has won a Lok Sabha seat by defeating the former Chief Minister of IIOJK, Sheikh Omar Abdullah, by a significant margin. Rasheed’s victory highlights the complex and often volatile political landscape of IIOJK, where historical grievances and aspirations for autonomy play a significant role. Another controversial figure, Sarbjit Singh Khalsa, the son of Indira Gandhi’s assassin, has also been elected to the Lok Sabha.

While being related to a criminal is not a crime, the popularity of individuals associated with heinous acts raises critical questions about the values and principles upheld in Indian politics.

The election of such figures highlights a deeper societal issue. If individuals who take the law into their own hands and commit acts of violence are celebrated as heroes or leaders, it perpetuates a cycle of violence and glorification of criminal acts. This cycle can only be broken if there is a clear and principled stance against coercion and violence. Until such an approach is strengthened, the region will continue to produce leaders who gain popularity through violent means, undermining the very foundations of democracy and non-violence. This dilemma of non-violence and popularity is a significant challenge for Indian democracy, where the sanctity of human dignity and the rule of law must be upheld to prevent the normalization of violence as a means to political power.

Furthermore, Modi’s participation in International Yoga Day at Dal Lake, where he engaged in yoga with the local populace, symbolizes a concerted effort to integrate IIOJK into the national mainstream. The return of sports events, bustling bazaars, markets, and reopened cinema halls signal a different change in the region, reflecting the dedication of the BJP government over the past decade.  However, despite these development initiatives, the BJP did not secure any seats in IIOJK or Punjab in the recent 2024 elections. This electoral setback suggests a disconnect between the BJP leadership and the local populace, particularly in regions with a history of extremism and violence. The BJP needs to understand the reasons behind the continued sympathy for extremists and work towards bridging this gap.

The question arises: why could not the local leadership of IIOJK and Punjab stand with the BJP despite the development work? The answer may lie in the deep-rooted historical and socio-political contexts that continue to influence voter sentiments.

To move forward, the BJP must engage in genuine dialogue with the local leadership and communities in these regions. Addressing their concerns and aspirations with empathy and understanding is crucial. The party must also reaffirm its commitment to non-violence and democratic principles, ensuring that those who seek to disrupt peace and harmony through violence are not glorified or given political legitimacy. The path to sustainable peace and development in these regions lies in fostering a culture of non-violence, inclusivity, and respect for the rule of the UN.

As the Modi government begins its third term, it faces significant challenges in balancing development initiatives with the need to address the root causes of extremism and violence. The presence of controversial figures in the Lok Sabha underscores the need for a principled approach to non-violence and human dignity. Moving forward, the BJP must strive to connect with the local leadership and populace in regions like IIOJK and Punjab, ensuring that the lessons of humanity, democracy, and non-violence are not just taught but also practiced and embraced by all. Only through such efforts can India continue to uphold its democratic values and pave the way for a peaceful and prosperous future.

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