In a vibrant democracy such as ours, no government decision goes unchallenged. And so, the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, as well as the creation of two Union Territories out of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state on 5 August 2019, were no exception. While the local political parties, which had warned of serious consequences, have been immobilised and national parties have turned cautious in voicing their objections, an organisation named ‘Reconciliation, Relief and Rehabilitation’ headed by one Satish Mahaldar has demanded the restoration of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Let’s not get swayed by the fact that the organisation comprises Kashmiri ‘Pandits’, which itself is a highly ambiguous expression since the term used to indicate Shaivite Pancha Gouda Saraswat Brahmins of Kashmir. There is nothing wrong in identifying oneself with one or all of these features. But there are individuals and outfits who claim to be different and demand restoration of Article 370 to keep the rest of Indians out of Kashmir.
Thankfully, the vast majority of Hindus displaced from Kashmir do not agree with this viewpoint and steadfastly support the Narendra Modi government’s action.
The demand for the restoration of statehood of J&K is understandable, and Home Minister Amit Shah has promised to do it as soon as the situation in Kashmir becomes normal. But what is unreasonable is the demand to restore J&K’s special status as enumerated in Article 370.
The non-existing Kashmiriyat
The argument advanced by some lesser known outfits, ostensibly with political linkages and comprising only a few individuals, is totally untenable. To seek restoration of special status for the protection and furtherance of Kashmiriyat is neither logical nor backed by any historical support.
Kashmiriyat cannot be different and separate from Indianness common to all Indian citizens. It is not a religion or separate identity exclusive to the inhabitants of a state. Even if it was, it should be common to both Hindus and Muslims. The exodus of Hindus from Kashmir in the 1990s, when they were forced to leave their ancestral homes and haven’t been able to return home since, nailed the misconception of Kashmiriyat being a common identity to everyone in J&K.
There is very little doubt that a section of the political class had either played into the hands of inimical forces or had totally failed to contain the attacks on Kashmiri Hindus, attacks that were carried out with a clear plan of orchestrating a genocide. There is also no denying that the element of goodwill that existed between communities had long disappeared, leading to a state of chaos and political decay.
Three decades on, the return of Kashmiri Hindus to their homes and their resettlement with full dignity, honour and safety is a must, otherwise the whole purpose of abrogating Article 370 will be defeated. The situation in the Valley must become normal so that these families no longer have to live as displaced persons in their own country.
Point of no return
Most of the cases in the Supreme Court that challenge the constitutional validity of the Modi government’s decision, seek to maintain the exclusivity of J&K and deny its psychological, emotional and economic integration with the rest of India.
The attorney general representing the Centre has told the Supreme Court that “the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 has now become a fait accompli, leaving sole option to accept the change”. This submission clearly echoes the words of Prime Minister Modi. “Duniya bhar ke saarey dabao ke bawjood, inn faislon par hum qayam hain aur qayam rahengey (Despite pressure from all sides, we remain firm and will continue to remain firm on these decisions),” he had said while addressing the people in his constituency Varanasi
Given the resolve of PM Modi to firmly go ahead with his decisions ‘in the best interests of the nation’ and considering the BJP’s strength in Parliament, there is zero possibility of any drastic reversal of the August 2019 move.
Article 370 was brought in as a temporary provision to work as a procedural mechanism to extend the provisions of the Indian Constitution to the troubled state of J&K in the wake of Partition, military aggression by Pakistan and accession. But the provision began to be misused by political elements and under its cover, a number of hurdles were created in the implementation of the state government’s several measures. More than 130 laws, including the Right to Information (RTI), Right to Education (RTE), Prevention of Corruption, and laws related to SC/ST/OBC were kept out of the confines of the people of J&K, denying them their legitimate rights.
All this had grown to build against Article 370, which was like a wall between J&K and the rest of India, a near-unanimous support for its abrogation. With that wall now gone, it is possible now for any Indian citizen to settle in J&K and contribute towards its development. And so, there is no going back to how things were a year ago.
Job’s not done yet
The abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent strong actions have resulted in significant fall in terror-related activities. The number of local youth joining militancy has dropped by more than 40 per cent and terror-related incidents have gone down to 120 from 188, according to a news report in The Economic Times that cites ‘official data’. The abrogation has conveyed India’s message loud and clear across the border that enough is enough as far as our western neighbour’s shenanigans in J&K is concerned.
But there is still some work left to do. The Modi government must immediately attend to the pending issues such as providing employment, overall economic development, reviving the badly hit tourism and handicrafts industries, resettling millions of displaced Hindu families and, above all, building a political consensus so that political overtones do not derail the revival process and push J&K once again into an uncertain future when the statehood is restored.
The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.