The decision of August 5, 2019 to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 was a lightning strike against the basic structure of Constitution of India and must not be seen in isolation. It is a beginning of a process of assaulting the basis of federal structure . The events which followed the August 5 decision across the country have made it amply clear about the real intentions of this Hinduvta+ authoritarian regime. Two years down the line, the claims of the government regarding fighting terrorism , corruption and promoting development have only belied the government’s hollow claims.
The only thing the revocation of Article 370 has achieved so far is a complete abrogation of democracy in J&K and unconscionable suppression of freedom and democratic rights. Indiscriminate use of draconian laws like UAPA, Public Safety Act etc has made the lives of the people particularly the youth miserable. Kashmir has suffered a lot on the economic front during these two years. While the country has seen two lockdowns since 2020, Kashmir continues to be under security crackdown right from August 2019. Economy of J&K has virtually collapsed as tourism, trade and other vital sectors were badly hit in the last two years. Core sectors of our economy agriculture and Horticulture have suffered huge losses , the Handicrafts got devastated.
The BJP government has been flaunting that revocation of Article 370 has ushered a “Naya Kashmir”. But the fact remains that whatever has been achieved through the long struggles of the people is being destroyed now . People ask the BJP where has investment, jobs and development gone which it had promised abrogation of Article 370 will bring? Is corruption any less and is governance any better? Has any significant imitative been taken to bring back the Kashmiri pandits back to their homes? The fact remains that not a single claim stands the test of scrutiny. Indiscriminate arrests gagging of media and forced silence have become a norm in BJP’s “Naya Kashmir.”
The Home Minister’s statement made recently in the parliament regarding restoration of Statehood at an appropriate time after normalcy is restored has exposed the tall claims of the government regarding restoring peace in the region. The government has to be asked to explain what “appropriate” time means?
Prime Minister’s meeting with J&K leaders on 24th June first time after 5th August 2019 , though welcome ,has failed to generate any hope among the people . There has not been any concrete assurance on any issue raised by the participants. Neither any concrete confidence building measure, like considering the release of detainees languishing in jails in and outside the region and putting a stop to harassment of the people under one pretext or the other has been taken so far.
No serious effort is expected to be undertaken to address the massive unrest and deepened alienation of the people by this government. Only follow up after PM,s meeting was the visit of the Delimitation Commission to both the regions of the Jammu & Kashmir.
In 2002, J&K Assembly had amended the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and put a freeze on delimitation till 2026. The decision was in line with the pan-India freeze on delimitation till the first census after 2026. Both the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and the Supreme Court had upheld the decision of freeze on delimitation. Despite all this the Union Government got Reorganization Act passed and initiated the process of Delimitation in J&K by constituting Delimitation Commission. The people in Kashmir have serious apprehensions and widely believe that this exercise will further downgrade them.
Government employees are being terminated without being given a chance to defend themselves. It is quite arbitrary. Instead of creating new employment opportunities, the government is on a spree to downsize government departments under different pretexts. Similarly, people are not even allowed to protest over their livelihood issues pertaining to day-to-day life.
After August 2019, the confidence level of the people has touched the ground now. The confidence of the people can’t be restored through suppression and denial of democratic rights.. Release of political prisoners, ensuring protection of land and job rights to the people can create an environment of hope. Restoration of full statehood is a prerequisite for initiation of any credible political process in J&k.
It needs to reiterated that at the time of the partition in 1947 people of Jammu and Kashmir opted to become part of secular India rather than Muslim Pakistan on the promises of building a pluralist, secular India in which they were to have a special status and maximum autonomy. Those promises were guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and in the Constitution of J&K itself. But unfortunately over the decades, these constitutional guarantees were gradually eroded and now abrogated resulting in massive alienation among people of J&K, thus providing opportunity to those who have been desperately trying to undermine the relationship of J&K with union of India. This process of denial of legitimate constitutional and democratic rights of the people of J&K have to be reversed . For that all the secular democratic forces have to raise their voice unitedly in support of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.