Tackling new complexities in J & K
Whither J & K? For once, I shall not be able to give a straight answer to this question. This is because Kashmir is caught in a web of several uncertainties in the absence of honest professional assessment of ground realities of the complexities in the Valley and beyond. All that we hear occasionally are selective official pronouncements bordering on the brighter side of developments. To say this is not to question Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s sincerity and gigantic efforts to mobilize global opinion against terrorism and in favour of the abrogation of Articles 371 and 35 A of the Constitution. No wonder, robust views were expressed in a joint statement issued by India and Germany in New Delhi on November 1. It called for a halt to “cross-border terrorism” and asked all countries to ensure that their territory is not “used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries”.
We are aware of the fact that India’s sole problem is Pakistan’s sponsored years of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. The Valley’s Muslim majority is not an issue. India stands for secularism, nationalism and the unity of the nation. Article 370 of the Constitution was meant to be a temporary provision. But, unfortunately, the blindfolded political interests of certain groups have projected this to be a permanent provision for Kashmir’s “special status”. On the basis of “special status”, Kashmir separatists, Pakistani rulers, diplomats and perverted intellectuals raise unnecessary questions about the accession of J & K to the mainstream of the nation. It, however, must be reiterated that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir was carried out on the same pattern as other princely states acceded to India. Later, because of Sheikh Abdullah, and successive ruling operators, everything got wrapped in the vote bank and the politics of appeasement. The non-BJP governments are equally to blame for lack of courage for the abrogation of Article 370.
It may be recalled that Dr B R Ambedkar had cautioned Jawaharlal Nehru about Article 370 on the plea that it can create difficulties in full integration of the State with India. I fail to understand why Nehru should have ignored Dr Ambedkar’s warning. We have already paid a heavy price for this and few other blunders of Nehru in tackling the Kashmir problem.
It may be recalled that following Pakistan’s tribal attack along with its soldiers in Mufti in Kashmir in September 1947, General Thinmayya was for the advance of the Indian Army till the entire territory was retaken but Nehru was to improve his image as a peacemaker in view of the Asian Relations Conference he had called.
The Modi government has done well to pick up the courage to abrogate Article 370. But Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have their own selective angularities on J & K. We will have to wait a while to know the shape of things in the Valley. As it is, their narrations do not seem to give a correct picture of complex ground realities in Kashmir. In the absence of free and open communication pipelines, everything seems to be reduced to a guessing game.
The BJP-led NDA rulers would do well to take seriously German Chancellor Angela Markel’s reported observation that “the situation for the people on ground, as of now, is not good for the long-term. This certainly has to change”. This is saying a lot. I expect PM Modi to take her remark seriously and take corrective measures in Kashmir urgently.
In fact, the BJP government at the Centre should review its policies and put a halt to the state of drift in the Valley. What is required is the flow of liberal opinion and ideas which are very much part of our democratic tradition. In this context, I wish to raise certain issues in the context of inequality in the State on grounds of religion, resident status, and rights of underprivileged sections of society. We can take the necessary correctives since we have already discarded the provisions of Articles 370, and rightly so.
Looking back, even demographics of Jammu and Kashmir have changed on account of the occupation of almost one third of the territory by Pakistan called PoK, then by the Chinese occupation of Aksai Chin, and ceding of Sakshgam by Islamabad to Beijing. It is for New Delhi to have a close look at demographic issues. These are not issues for political rhetoric or redrawing of maps. These are policy matters which require action on the ground.
Here it must be pointed out, as underlined by a study by Cross Mark Global Research & Development Services that Article 370 was “unjustly tilted in favour of the Muslim population of Kashmir, whereas it neglects the aspirations “of Shia Muslims in other parts of J & K, as well as of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists”. I am sure Ladakh as a Union Territory will take care of the Buddhists’ interests.
As for PoK, Pakistan’s one-point agenda is to change its demographic profile by large scale migration of its Punjabi population into these areas. It is a pity that our Kashmiri leaders have overlooked these basic facts.
I must say Kashmiris have everything to gain by strengthening the secular fabric of India. This should ensure the return of Kashmiri Pandits whose exodus took place in the wake of militancy in J & K. We have also to take note of the Sino-Pak axis and their Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through the middle of the disputed territory.
The time has indeed come for the Indian authorities to have an objective assessment of the Kashmir situation and change some of old policies and priorities. They have to open up the Valley and lift the restrictions on freedom of expression, ensure proper information flow, free movement and interaction of the people within their areas with their leaders. More than 90 days have passed, but there are still no signs of “normalcy” the government has been talking about.
It is often glibly stated that the people of the Valley are alienated. But how? No one knows. Ved Marwah, the DG of Delhi Police and advisor to Governor Jagmohan, once said that it was “political and administrative mismanagement that led to the alienation of the people of the Valley. Of course, the starting of the political process is a complex and complicated task in today’s terrorist-infested atmosphere. The fear of the gun has virtually silenced the saner elements among the Kashmiris. This vicious trap has to be broken.
It is through the democratic process and giving legitimate power to the people at the grassroots that could set in a much-awaited new order in the Valley. Equally important is the restoration of two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as two full-fledged states. Over to PM Modi.