The recent decision by the Government of India of scrapping of Article 370, which provided special status to J&K state marked a decisive shift in the Kashmir policy of India. The previous term of the govt. had no clear policy when it came to this issue as it was more like a directionless reaction based approach. This yielded no result and the soldiers continued to pay the pyrrhic cost and towards the end of the term, government had to go back on their iron hand policy and started consultations with the various stakeholders. Ultimately, creating a bigger mess of what it was.
It changed in the current term of the government, at least as of now. This step shows the direction which the GoI will be taking to tackle the issue from where there is no going back. For starters, we have a direction whether right or wrong, that is being currently debated by the various groups.
One group considers this as an attack on one particular community and is accusing the government of enforcing a majority – dominated agenda. It is being seen as a way to curb the special powers and protection being given to the state under the controversial article to penetrate inside the state. There is a logic behind supporting the article, that when you have a baby who is at the disadvantage compared to his/her siblings, the baby needs special care, attention and few exceptions.
Another group sees all this as appeasement politics to hold on to their forte. I remember a conversation with one of my co-fellow regarding the celebration of women’s day where I said that we all stand for gender equality but the purpose of such a thing gets defeated, the moment we celebrate gender specific day. Can the same logic be used in this context as well? If we wish to make Kashmir a peaceful and progressing state, first we have to treat it with the same set of rules with no special powers to convert it into just another normal state.
Few groups consider terrorism from Pakistan as root cause of problems while others blame the miscalculated steps taken by previous governments. Like 370, declaring cease-fire creating Pakistan-occupied Kashmir etc. Stopping terrorism will never solve the Kashmir issue or the abrogation of such articles will not do any kind of magic to bring normalcy back to the state. What matters most is the path ahead. The solution to the fundamental problems of J&K lies with the people of the state. The goal should be to gain the confidence of the locals and offer what the GoI can deliver.
There are 3 other states – Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat bordering Pakistan and I think there is not even 1 single Indian state where terror modules are not being operated or sleeper cells are not present. Every state has sizable number of population of every community but what makes the difference is the trust people pose in the governments and agencies are able to neutralize the threats.
And this perception is so strong that sometimes intelligence fails and blasts take place, citizens continue to pose faith in them. Then, why is only J&K suffering? We cannot change our neighbors and waiting till the time Pakistan/China will stop exporting/supporting terror is the most preposterous policy government can move ahead with. In Punjab, they failed to instigate the citizens using the Khalistani movement and took help of drugs to kill our youth. The bottom line is that the neighbors will continue to find some way or the other to target our fellow Indians, the smart way is to make our people competent enough to tackle that. These days Kashmiris are blamed and termed to be anti-nationals because they protest and don’t oblige to fall in line. One incident which made me understand their perspective.
It was 2nd year of my college in Delhi University. An uproar was created by the DUSU of that time as the philosophy society of Ramjas College invited Umar Khalid of JNU as guest speaker. The situation got worsened and ultimately BSF was given the charge to handle the situation. The curfew was enforced in the North Campus of DU. The curfew was lifted after the duration of 3 days. A sense of fear instilled in the heart of students, no one was willing to move out. Dissent started to brew among the students against the police, forces and the administration. So, imagine if a 3-day experience of a police state horrified us so much, can we blame the residents of the state who are living in such conditions for decades? Hence, dissent, unrest and discontent grows. Also, thinking that all this can be pacified by taking few steps then, god bless those people.
One thing that needs to be realized is that the problem is not of Kashmiri pandits v/s Maulanas. The problem remains solvable only till it remains non-communal. It’s about the Kashmiris. Abrogation of the article is just another hit and trial approach adopted by the government, just like previous regimes based on their ideological principles. We tried an approach for many years, it’s effectiveness is debated and should be discussed. Now, the new regime wants to try something different. We all have to wait for the results. But things again come back to the same point of winning their confidence. Now, the administration needs to engage them with lot more patience and this approach of connecting will determine the faith of the Kashmir policy of the GoI. Hope, the intentions are genuine of the people who took this major policy decision.
Note: The views expressed here belong solely to the author and the fellowship does not endorse it; but sincerely upholds the right of multiple voices to surface in matters of the country.
*** Feature image courtesy Amar Ujala