Year after Abrogation of Article 370 what the State has Achieved!
Bashir Assad

It is one year since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution which conferred special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir within the Union of India. Seemingly the annulling of the Article 370 is a fate accompli not only because the Supreme Court of India where the revocation has been challenged is unlikely to revoke the decision of the Indian Parliament but essentially because of the factors - political, strategic and diplomatic. And elaboration on these factors will certainly provide an answer to the question being echoed from several quarters about what the Indian state has achieved one year down the road given the fact that the security scenario has further deteriorated both on borders and in the hinterland and that that alienation in Kashmir still persists.

It does seem so statistically because terrorism related incidents are going on unabated and new recruits are joining the terrorist ranks on. In absence of any scientific assessment of the ground realities, one cannot contest the claims of the alienation very confidently. Presumably the people still have not come to the terms with the new realities. Then the legitimate question is what has changed on ground in Kashmir after one year of abrogation of Article 370. Well, we need to look at the developments from four different angles. Only then we could find an answer to the question.

One: It is certainly not encouraging when we take into account the overall security scenario post 370 abrogation. Terrorist related incidents have seen a spurt post August 5, 2019 and so also the new recruitments in the militant ranks. The argument put forth by the government at the time of abrogation of the special status or soon after the decision, as such needs a relook. The statistics suggest that it might have only been a political statement. The spurt was anticipated as the abrogation of the special status rather the integration of Jammu and Kashmir actually handed over a reason to Pakistani handlers of the terrorists to give fresh impetus to the terrorist activities in Kashmir. Locally, a good number of youth angered by the decision of revocation of article 370 joined the militant ranks. Pakistan and Pakistani Diaspora along with few Kashmir merchants played it to the hilt in the streets of Europe that Kashmir will erupt and India will be squarely responsible for this.

Pakistan’s leadership along with its religious allies very vehemently argued that India has annexed Kashmir unconstitutionally. The decision somehow relieved Pakistan to an extent from the growing pressure of the Financial Action Task Force. And Pakistan launched new terrorist outfits and revived some old ones in Kashmir. The result is there for all of us to see. During the recent past we have seen that security forces recover only pistols from the encounter sites which suggest that the new boys who have joined militant ranks during last one year or so are poorly armed. They don’t have sophisticated weapons unlike their foreign counterparts who are always heavily armed. Still the trend to join the militant ranks continues though it has declined since last one or two months. However, 250 to 300 militants are waiting at the launching pads on the other side of LoC ready to sneak in. the alarming rise in cease fire violation on LoC and International border by Pakistani rangers are simply aimed at pushing more and more terrorists in Kashmir. So the argument that terrorism will end after doing away with the special status is a wishful thinking far from the ground reality.

The analysis of the ground situation, however, should not and cannot be limited to the security scenario alone. There are other deciding factors which we need to take into consideration while counting failures or successes post 370 abrogation. There is significant strategic, diplomatic and political anecdote which could determine what the Indian state has achieved. And it is certainly encouraging from Indian perspective.

For the first time since last 30 years the secessionist narrative in Kashmir has been pushed to the margins. It is no more occupying the central space. People attribute it to the crackdown on separatists and their subsidiaries in the business and civil society which is partially true. The fact is there is disenchantment among the larger silent majority with the separatists and separatism. In certain cases the people are breaking the silence and questioning the separatists. Even people have started asking questions to the sacrosanct Geelani which was never the case before. Geelani resignation from the chairmanship of his faction of so called Hurriyat Conference has a lot to do with the public anger directed towards him besides other factors already discussed or revealed by the media. It merits a mention here that in 2010 this writer wrote in a vernacular that as and when Kashmiris introspect, they would certainly dig out Geelani from his grave only to throw him in Jehlum River.

The August decision has provoked the intellect in Kashmir. Geelani is under public scanner so are others. The same people who would kill and get killed on Geelani’s directions are asking him very uncomfortable questions. But unfortunately he is suffering from dementia. There are still people in various walks of life trying to build on “state atrocities” but there are hardly any takers within Kashmir.

Separatism merchants in the diaspora are at their best to perform on international forums. But locally the culture of making separatists accountable and answerable is gradually gaining the momentum. Epitomes of indoctrination and intoxication in religious and political camps are silent for the twin fears of state machinery and public wrath. This is indeed the biggest achievement of the state post 370 abrogation in Kashmir.

Third; at the diplomatic levels the cat is finally out of bag. The biggest fear was about how the international community would behave if Article 370 is touched upon. However, the international players have not been much enthusiastic about it. The only thing which somehow caught the attention of the international players was the human rights plight particularly the crackdown on political leadership. If at all India faced questions from international players it was about the so called lockdown and crackdown on the political leadership particularly three former chief ministers. International players by and large remained silent on the decision of the Indian parliament regarding the abrogation of the special status, as such. Pakistan could not even move a resolution in the Security Council because it could not get the signatures of the requisite number of member countries. Only Turkey and Malaysia came out openly in support of Pakistan.

China having its own strategic interests in the region continues to provoke India here and there but after it enacted the National Security Law about Hong Kong it has at least fallen silent on Kashmir. Rest of the world largely remained mute over the developments in India. Western media of course tried hard to mobilize the public opinion around the “human rights plight” in Kashmir. However, it too has fatigued now. This was the big relief for the Indian state and of course a big achievement too.

Last but not least Kashmir politics is undergoing a transformation from confrontationist to the one based on reconciliation and rethinking. The old horses in Kashmir politics too have mended their ways. A new breed of politically ambitious people is emerging from the debris talking in direct and unambiguous language. Though the governments both in the UT and at centre have so for been mute over the emergence of this new breed of politically ambitious youth, the conviction and determination to take head of exploitative class in this breed is laudable. The government and bureaucrats should treat such people with sensitivity and not humiliate them. It should also be noted that the new political conscious youth are also being trolled and threatened by the Diaspora merchants of separatism and people from across the border. Still they keep going. This is encouraging.

To conclude, as anticipated terrorists will continue to challenge the law and order machinery, however, at the same time a lot has changed in Kashmir since August 5, 2019. What is discouraging is the quality of governance. The UT administration should be able to provide a hassle free and corruption free governance to the people of the UT. This should be the immediate concern of the government at the centre to reinvigorate the public delivery system in the UT.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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