Rasheeda Bhagat

Article 370 had to go, but dark clouds remain

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on August 13, 2019 Published on August 13, 2019

While the govt’s move was long coming, the concerns on the road taken in reorganising Jammu and Kashmir can’t be ignored

Whichever side of the political or ideological divide you might be — except for the minuscule minority that has shut its minds to reason — you will welcome the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. It is the collective failure of successive Indian governments, including those headed by the BJP, that in 72 years, the government failed to take remedial measures to render unnecessary a promise made to the people of Kashmir in the Instrument of Accession.

Its true that other States such as Nagaland and Assam have enjoyed special privileges too, but for obvious reasons, the ruling dispensation had to make this surgical cut first in the Muslim-majority Valley. Else, the crescendo of support wouldn’t have been this thunderous. As the Kashmir cauldron has been boiling, and the see-saw of peace and violent protests has played out over the years, the sentiment against Kashmiris in the rest of India has never been this negative in its intensity.

In comes Trump

The BJP’s manifesto was as clear as crystal in the run up to the 2019 polls — elect us to power and we will end the special provisions under Article 370 in J&K. A party that comes to power with such a brute majority as the BJP did this time, has to keep at least some of its promises.

But the undue haste and muscle-flexing with which it was done last week is shocking. The less said about the supine India media the better, but in the international media, there is the argument that US President Donald Trump triggered the government’s flash decision to reorganise J&K. Referring to the Donald Trump-Imran Khan meeting in the Oval office, which resulted in Trump’s fantastic claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested to him that he should mediate in Kashmir, and his effusive answer: “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” a Guardian commentator said: “Kashmir may provide conclusive, catastrophic proof… of his (Trump’s) ignorance of international affairs”.

The reasoning by independent Western media analysts that Trump’s cosying up to Khan as the US needs Pakistan’s help in dealing with the Taliban, spooked the Indian government to act speedily, is credible. The total lack of consultations and the manner in which this decision was taken after pushing additional military boots on the ground sends ominous signals. The Modi government cannot dismiss legitimate and well-articulated concerns that the midnight imprisonment of Kashmiri politicians and cutting off all forms of communications is bound to leave a huge blotch on India’s democracy.

The few voices coming out from Kashmir say that the government has turned the Valley into a huge prison. And despite the claims of peace and quiet, a BBC News video has surfaced showing the opposite — a protest by an estimated 10,000-strong crowd with Pakistan flags, chanting Azadi and screaming betrayal by India.

Resulting fallout

The charges made by Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah that over the years the massive economic packages given for J&K’s development have been misappropriated by “three families” cannot be denied. The abrogation of 370 too has to be defended, because it did impede integration of Kashmir into mainstream India. It cannot be denied that this special status did help Pakistan keep the cauldron boiling in the Valley.

But to right such a wrong, do we have to commit another, maybe more grievous, one? On the one hand Modi conveys his greetings to Kashmir’s Muslims on Id; but on the other, Kashmiris have to line up for 3-6 hours to make one call, which is given as a charity, from the personal mobile phones of government officials, three of which were converted into helplines. Isn’t this a mockery of the BJP patriarch AB Vajpayee’s dream of “winning the hearts and minds of Kashmiris?” And during that call to her son in Bengaluru, a mother had this cyptic message: “Please don’t come home for Id.”

On the positive fallout, the opportunity to buy land is bound to boost investment, but what kind of minds would talk in the same breath about the opportunity to “marry Kashmiri girls”. On social media pictures of Kashmiri girls have been posted with such demeaning messages. And the latest to shamelessly repeat this nonsense is Haryana Chief Minister Khattar. And that too, when the context was about saving and educating the girl child.

Also, depriving J&K of Statehood by making it a Union Territory, which the government says will be short-lived, is another blow and smacks of authoritarianism. Amidst this scenario the only hope is a magic wand that the government has to make things right for Kashmir and win over its people. Like the magician pulling out a rabbit from his hat…

Published on August 13, 2019
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