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HomeOpinionNo, Modi’s Kashmir policy isn’t new. He’s only continuing what Nehru started...

No, Modi’s Kashmir policy isn’t new. He’s only continuing what Nehru started in the 1950s

The ‘integration’ process has less to do with winning the trust of Kashmiris and more to do with finishing the nationalist project.

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“[Today] constitutionally, legally and morally, Kashmir [has] become an integral part of India,” declared Kashmir’s Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad in April 1954 while speaking at a rally in Bombay. India was just about to promulgate the first Presidential Order under Article 370, giving the Centre wide range of powers in Jammu and Kashmir. The mood was celebratory and newspapers published bold headlines touting Kashmir’s “integration” into India. Entry of Indian citizens into Kashmir was relaxed generating talk of boost in tourism and development of Kashmir’s economy.

This week, the BJP government under PM Narendra Modi promulgated the last Presidential Order under Article 370, abrogating the article itself. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been split into two union territories. Once again, the country is celebrating Kashmir’s “integration” into India and promises of Kashmir’s economic development abound.

The similarity between these two events, 65 years apart, is no coincidence.

Also read: Savarkar wanted one god, one nation, one goal. Modi has fulfilled his dream with Kashmir move

Integrating Kashmir for over six decades

Modi government has taken the line that its Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 has somehow undone “a historic wrong” (presumably committed by Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors). In fact, there is a through-line from Nehru’s Kashmir policy to Modi’s. The government’s steps this week should be seen as culmination of a strategy that previous governments have been employing since the 1950s. India has been “integrating” Kashmir for over six decades, by steadily eroding its autonomy and taking greater direct control of its governance structure. These moves have almost always been justified as attempts to solve the state’s intractable problems. Yet, after decades of pursuing this strategy, it is unclear what has been “solved” so far.

Now finally, in our quest for that integration, we have embraced the state so tightly that it has split into two territories that are not even states anymore. This is not to say that the current move is business as usual. In fact, its consequences are going to be far-reaching for Kashmir and India as a whole.

It will likely undermine mainstream Kashmiri leadership; further alienate Kashmiri people; give a new propaganda tool to the militants; and offer diplomatic ammunition to Pakistan. Moreover, the unprecedented conversion of the state into two union territories is going to put a question mark over India’s federalism for decades to come. Above all, the nation must now confront the morality of denying the people of the state their democratic voice. Surely, a crucial part of “integrating” Kashmir must be integrating Kashmiris into our democratic system.

Against this cost, what can be gained by this move?

As journalist B.G. Verghese once asked, “If Article 370 vests the people of Kashmir with a certain sense of identity and autonomy within the ambit of federal relations how is India diminished or endangered in any way?” In other words, how was the article hurting Indian national interest, specifically? After all, there has been practically nothing “special” about Kashmir’s “special status” for decades.

If nothing else, the fact that the Modi government could suddenly put the state’s former chief ministers under house arrest without any cause, shows how little autonomy the state truly enjoys. As for the oft-repeated argument of allowing land ownership for non-Kashmiris, given the volatility in the state, it is self-evident that investors are unlikely to rush in.

Also read: By scrapping Article 370, Modi is going for a failed European model of nation building

Eroding Kashmir‘s autonomy, one Presidential Order at a time

Even today, when Indian history is constantly manipulated, corrupted and turned on its head, the current narrative surrounding Article 370 must stand out as an exceptional instance of nation-wide self-delusion. The myth is that the article has allowed Kashmir to enjoy some sort of extraordinary autonomy for all these years.

In fact, New Delhi began eroding the state’s “special status” almost as soon as it was granted. Five years after the article was passed, the first Presidential Order was issued in 1954 to give more power to the Centre in Kashmir. This order was only possible because Kashmir’s previous Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah had been put behind bars the year before, generating enormous discontent in the state. Thereafter followed a steady series of Presidential Orders, each giving more power to New Delhi. Although technically the Centre couldn’t promulgate such orders since they needed to be accepted by the state’s Constituent Assembly, which was dissolved in 1957, New Delhi found a legal workaround.

Integration’s slow march was always rationalised as an attempt to endear Kashmiris to India. It was argued that since the lack of economic development was alienating them, financial integration was necessary; since election malpractices disillusioned them, Election Commission and other agencies needed to be brought in; since state’s maladministration and corruption was disaffecting them, state government needed to be put in greater check by the Centre. Yet, throughout this process, while New Delhi continued to gain greater control of the state, the people of the state kept drifting away.

Also read: Data doesn’t support Amit Shah’s claim that Article 370 deprived J&K of development

Meanwhile, from the 1960s a steady drumbeat calling for a complete abrogation of Article 370 continued in the backdrop. It was endorsed by different politicians at different times, including those from the Congress, the Jan Sangh, the Janata Party and later the BJP. Their aggressive stance betrayed the real reason behind the call for “integration”. The process has less to do with winning the trust of Kashmiris and more to do with Indian identity. At its core, it has been about finishing the nationalist project. It is a completist obsession to see the nation actualised in a very particular way. Kashmir’s complete absorption could satisfy that hunger within Indian nationalism.

Abrogation of Article 370 was as sentimental and irrational an issue for some in the rest of India as it was for Kashmir. They felt that it was only by negating Kashmiri identity that Indian identity can be realised. For them, the “integration” is not yet complete, and likely never will be.

The author is a researcher at the Centre for Policy Research. Views are personal.

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  1. 1. If it doesn’t make any difference then why not all the states are regulated with same constitution & rule.
    2. If Nehru was working in it how to abolish 370 then he has all the capacity to drop it.
    3. Why congress ppl are making hue & cry on this act of Modi.

  2. That ,this author is a researcher in a Centre for Policy Research says something about quality of our Research institutes. All his arguments are based on a very narrow premise of Kashmir valley. He totally disregards Jammu and Ladakh with India and Gilgit and Kashmir under Pakistan. All these regions have an identity of their own. The problem on Indian side has been that Kashmir valley has been allowed to dictate its narrative. There are other narratives too. Pakistan has totally submerged through federal control narratives of its side of Kashmir. While on Indian side, the centre has been busy imposing Kashmir valley narrative over Jammu and Ladakh via its lackeys in Kashmir.
    Research Institutes should be able to look into issues deeply. To keep scholars with a single dimensional views based on their ideological moorings is like spreading virus into mainstream.

    • You Are Absolutely Right!! Indian Research Institutes Lack Quality Research!! However Foreign Funding Of These Institutes For Anti India Propaganda and/or & Leftist’s Hindu Bias Shouldn’t Be Ruled Out!!

  3. the author is scared to say he doesnot like the abrogation of 370,thats why goes around beating the bush.The so called special status was meant only to prevent Indian govt from taking any punitive action for all the misdeeds committed by the state govt. .

  4. The author’s argument is vague at best. This line of thinking is speculative as it does not consider needs of people of Ladakh and complete lack of development in the old state of J&K. The existence of article-370 posed a big issue of only two families controlled the fate of Kashmiris till now. Author has ignored the fact that Central government was responsible for defense of the state and had to address militancy issues due to dishonest and corrupt state government of J&K. This kind of baseless, imaginary, flimsy argument suites pseudo intellectuals, narcissists starving for recognition within their fake and delusional confines.

  5. People like this author are the kind of losers living in dreamland that have framed policy in this country. The mainstream parties could not even bring 5% of the voters to the polling booth for loksabha and we are supposed to ttrat them as the big representatives of the state. The truth is that separatist fellows like Geelani have been dominating politics of kashmir, even the assembly elections see grater participation only after their blessing. The only way to dent this is by removing patronage networks, building new leadership and creating demographic space. This is not a job for weak willed people. It will take national commitment for half a century, our blood and possibly of our sons and daughters to get this done.

  6. I can’t understand the real point of view here. If the author is trying to say win hearts of a small set of people that consider they are a notch above at the expense of others, that’s a dangerous line and I am glad this sort of thinking is not pervasive. And this sort of narrow myopic view is precisely the problem of this line of thinking that gives no credence to pragmatic needs.

  7. The article gives a vague idea of winning the trust of kashmiris. What is winning trust ? People of Kashmir are always with India, it is the vultures and dynasts who have exploited them and invented new problems including terrorism with the help of Pakistan and its ISI. 370 is a temporary provision and somehow this temporary provision became permanent for over 70 years and grand old party at the helm of affairs at centre allowed it to continue for reasons best known to them. It is a great job done with pin point accuracy . 370 and 35A were illegal and had to go.

  8. One cannot argue with faith or ideology, emotion raised to a pitch beyond what reason can comprehend. With India exercising so much domination and control over the state, since before I was born, as the column explains, unclear what more needed to be demonstrated or established. As time goes by, what will become clear is that these constitutional changes have not in fact magically resolved the external and internal dimensions of the problem. Nothing has changed on the ground. In fact, the situation may have become even more complex or intractable.

    • What is that problem? I don’t understand what do you mean India exercising domination? Whats so special about Kashmir? We are all the same people. What’s the real situation that has not changed? We have all migrated across the country and Country men freely move from one to another and embrace each other. It’s fancy to think libertarian thinking without realising ones duties.

    • Ashok, Ask Pakistan, Islam/Muslims & Christians About Faith!! Their Religious Philosophy Of “My God Only God” Isn’t Exactly Conducive To Peaceful co-existence!!

      Hindus On The Other Hand, Carve Dr. Abdul Kalam, A Muslim’s Statue In A Temple!! This Is Unbelievable Hindu Acceptance Of Others!!

      Can Muslims & Christians Do The Same For Hindus??!!

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