Recently, government of India has abrogated article 370 of the constitution that gave special power to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated the state into two union territories, namely Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The move has been passed by both houses of the parliament of India.
The while the government believes that abrogation of article 370 may eliminate terrorism, bring in prosperity in the state and help in integration of people from the state with rest of India.
Critics of the government which include activists, a few political parties in opposition, people in the Kashmir valley and our neighbor Pakistan are up in arms. Many question legality and constitutionality of the approach. Some argue that stake holders in the state were not consulted. Some raised disputed nature of the Jammu and Kashmir state. A many others questioned government for shutting down communicaiton system in the state, more so prior to important festival of Eid.
I think the decision to removed article 370 is good for the following reasons :
- Kashmir has a long history. Muslims and Islam came to the valley hardly six hundred years before. The valley used to be a center of Hinduism and Buddhism in the first millenium. Kalhan’s Rajtarangini depicts a history of Kashmir. Mention of the region is also there in the epic Mahabharata. Yet most discussions on Kashmir centers around the Kashmir valley, that is dominated by muslims and islam.
- Kashmir valley alone is not the state: The state of Jammu and Kashmir conists of three parts. Muslim majority Kashmir valley, Hindu majority Jammu region, Buddhist majority Leh and Muslim majority Kargil. As per report that has emerged in the media that people in Jammu and Leh are not really unhappy. Many are actually celebrating. People in the Kashmir valley are most unhappy, according to media reports. People in Kargil are also unhappy. For whatever reason, whenever media highlights the plight and discomfort in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it revolves around the people of the valley.
- Predominantly Majoritarian and Ignores Plurality : Many political parties and human rights activists scream that India under prime minister Modi is becoming a majoritarian state. A state that is undermining plurality and diversity of India. Many criticise government for initiating National Register of Citizens to weed out non Indians in Assam. While demography is severely affected in Assam due to migration, in Jammu and Kashmir state, Kashmir Valley is 95% muslim, Jammu is 55% Hindu, Let is 65% Buddhist and Kargil is 60% Muslim. The same critics advocate article 370 for muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir despite the following facts:
- As it stands today, outsiders cannot settle in the state. More so if the settlers are non muslims. In recent past, the state gave refuge of Rohingya muslims from Myanmar.
- Many non muslim citizens, who settled in the state after partition of India in 1947, do not have voting rights in 2019. At the same time, Dr. Man Mohan Singh and Mr. I K Gujral who settled in the neighboring Punjab state after 1947, went on to become prime ministers of India.
- A woman marrying a man from outside the state forfeits her right to ancestral property. Her children also lose their inheritance
- People from Valmiki community, who were brought to J&K to work as Safai Karamcharis in 1957 are not allowed to get any J&K govt job other than Safai Karamchari.
- Lack of Accountability and Transparency: Activists who are fighting center for its effort to dilute Right to Information (RTI), are conspicuously silent about non application of the act in the state of Jammu and Kahmir. Central fund contributes to fifty percent of Kashmir states revenue. But center has no power to audit how the central fund is being spent. Neither does anyone else get any information through RTI. It is alleged that Kashmir valley which is the nerve center of political power, gets lions share of central revenue. Also, since power is controlled by two families, people close to the families are major beneficiaries of financial largesse at the expense of common people. It is estimated that per captial central government spends almost three times as much as any other state in India. Yet, in terms of literacy rate the state is less than national average. Unemployment rate is almost twice as that of national average.
- Lack of Internal Consultation: It has often been argued that government of India did not consult stake holders of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is important to ponder politicians that are direct beneficiaries of money and power as a result of article 370, will they give it up voluntarily? Most likely not.
At the same time government is hoping that a new leadership may emerge in Kashmir, as and when election happens, from grass root levels. The fact that recent elections to panchayat did not see any violence, and the fact that government is empowering panchayats to undertake ground level development work by transferring funds, there may be hope after all. I think, prime minister Modi and present home minister Shah may have better understanding of grass root level reality. Given their prediction of parliament election, against all dooms day prediction by experts, I think we may be surprised when next election of state assemby takes place.
- Kashmir Reorganisation is an Indian Internal Issue: Many have argued that bifurcation of the state is illegal and unconstitutional. A lot of protest to this effect has come from Pakistan. To the extent, Pakistan has threatened to go to war with India on Kashmir. One should not however forget that, Pakistan has converted Gilgit Baltistan a part of disputed Kashmir into a province of Pakistan. Through disputed territories of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, China and Pakistan are building road that links Gwador in the south to Xinxiang in the north. So this crocodile tears about Indian action within its own border is somewhat surprising.
- Kashmir has an Internal Security Dimension: There is a lot of criticism about government’s decision to clamp down on internet and telephone. Government has also detained leaders of two mainstream political parties. In a state, where mainstream politicians openly eulogise terrorists and raise slogans like “long live Pakistan”, internet and phones are used as an instrument to foment trouble and spread a false propaganda. More so because children and youth have been radicalised to throw stones at Indian security forces. As recently as Feb, 2019, a youth had blown himself up by ramming his explosive laden car against a convoy of paramilitary force. Forty soliders lost their lives. Common sense suggest curtailing accss of these facilities, though inconvenient in this day and age, will save lives.
The most dictatorial of all formations, the left in its various shades and the islamists, are crying hoarse about loss of liberty in Kashmir. Left in its various incarnations in Russia and China has butchered people in cold blood. Left, in its various shades, believes Indian democracy is fraud. Constitution must be overhauled. Power should come to masses. Yet they kill the same mass that have a different view point. Now that ultra left has been relegated to forests of India, their urban over ground members have formed alliance with a different ideology of secession – that is Kashmiri militants. If needed, if they have not already done so, left will form alliance with Naga, Mizo, and any other party that wants to secede from India. Read Arundhati Roy, she has said in so many words India is occupying Kashmir, North East, Tribal dominated central India and many other places.
About islamists less said is better.We have the example of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the list goes on, these people do not tolerate democracy, do not respect womens rights, and the same people are trying to consolidate in Kashmir. An alliance between left that does not believe in Indian constitution and islamists that believe in creating a Caliphate in Kashmir and in India is emerging.
- Kashmir has an External Security Dimension :Kashmir has an external security dimension for India as well. Pakistan has tried to acquire it by force in 1947, 1965 and 1999.
- It has emerged that American President Bill Clinton had exerted a lot of pressure, albeit unsuccessfully, on late prime minister of India, Narasimha Rao to give up Kashmir valley to Pakistan.
- Of late, another president of America, Donald Trump, has shown his interest to mediate in Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. Experts guess, this offer was in exchange to secure Pakistan’s support in securing a solution to Afghan problem that would help America withdraw its troops.
- Given two major economic and military powers of the world, US and China, have their eye on the Kashmir, the current move by Indian Prime Minister may be considered a politically astute.
Finally, it may be simplistic to assume all problems in the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be solved soon. There will be concerted attempt to alter the scenario and bring back old system. It will be upto people how they react to the new system and it will be upto the government to win trust of people. I think if government can deliver on prosperity and developemnt in the state, the border between Indian and Pakistan occupied Kashmir may disappear. I think this may be a cause of worry for Pakistan.
The present post is written in response to an Indispire prompt. More posts in response to the prompt may be found here.