'Broken Promises' and Politics of Hate': Is Political Autonomy The Way Forward For J&K?
The so-called reorganisation of
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has thrown the region into an era of prolonged
political unrest and uncertainty. After Narendra Modi's rise to power in 2014
and the Bharatiya Janata Party's subsequent entry into the state's ruling politics,
have proved highly disastrous. The anger, alienation and unrest has only been
exacerbated after the abrogation of J&K's special status.
With restrictions and the
communication gag still in place, a sharp communal polarisation has been
created between Jammu and Kashmir, and within Jammu.
While routine life in Kashmir
remains completely choked at the hands of the state apparatus, the BJP
governments of Maharashtra and Karnataka, along with some corporate owner from
Gujarat are already proposing to buy state land in Kashmir from the
Governor-run administration. With this, the desire for the people of Kashmir
has been completely replaced by the desire for the territory they inhabit.
This will only vitiate the
atmosphere further. Common Kashmiris' livelihoods are in danger, with rural
Kashmir especially petrified by the scrapping of all land laws of the state.
They fear that the popular land reforms undertaken during the 1950s-the bedrock
of the existence of Kashmiri peasantry-are threatened. There is also an anxiety
that this anger will be expressed in violent form since all democratic space
has been squeezed out. This could well give rise to a new militancy which can
potentially bring even more misery to the besieged state.
Notwithstanding the gloomy
conditions, people in the Valley are yearning for peace and resolution to the
political issue. The working class and the peasantry, who are the most
repressed classes in Kashmir, desperately need this so that they can aspire for
better conditions. It is for the ruling dispensation to make this desire come
Any government should listen to
citizens and ameliorate suffering instead of imposing a muscular policy as the
current BJP-led government at the Centre is doing. Chauvinistic Right-wing
politicians, bellicose TV journalists and analysts who are vilifying Kashmiris
as "terrorists" need to answer how those who trusted Indian democracy turned
into "terrorists" after the 2014 national elections.
In 2002, 2008 and 2014, it was
the same people who rushed to the polling booths to vote. They have now been
battered and bruised through military repression. Why, in those years, did
Pakistan fail to provoke these people, as the BJP and the National Security
Adivser Ajit Doval now frequently allege. Why is Pakistan now succeeding in
creating wide disorder, as the BJP alleges, while it turns a blind eye to its
own decisions-not just in Kashmir but all of India?
Through its politics of hate,
the BJP has ceded ground to fundamentalists and is pushing disenchanted Kashmiris
into their lap. It has also deceitfully linked Kashmir to its spiteful and
divisive brand of politics in the rest of India. It is again the BJP which has
consistently presents the idea of India though its disparaging brand of
nationalism and politics of hate. It also validates the viewpoint of those
pro-Pakistan secessionists) who stand for the two-nation theory. However, it
appears right now that the most ardent adherent of this theory in Kashmir is
the BJP itself: Its muscular, jingoistic and communal policy on Kashmir is
New Delhi has almost always been
indifferent to the political issue of Kashmir; delivering its people only
broken promises. There is a genuine aspiration for political autonomy in the
region and that has also been guaranteed by the Constitution. Greater political
autonomy to J&K as a state is still an idea with relevance because people
here aspire for a change in the status quo.
Barring some sections there is
also a recognition that the future falls within the premise of democracy and
republicanism, but with safeguards for their distinct political identity.
Given the exceptional
circumstances of 1947, today's troubled geo-strategic circumstances, and the
wide discontentment of the people of J&K towards the Indian state, only a middle
ground can provide a durable solution. That, inevitably, is the restoration of
greater autonomy and unified statehood to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
In this phase of turmoil for
Kashmir and Kashmiris, it is pertinent to address the essential political
question of Kashmir, for the dignity and security of Kashmiris is attached to
it. Iron fist policies, communal and chauvinistic approaches of any central
dispensation will not work.
The issue needs comprehensive
redressal, beginning with outlining the historical root causes of this problem
which are precisely the broken republican promises and constant snatching of
the political aspirations ever since the accession of the state with the union
of India in the complex circumstances of 1947. The democratic and progressive
circles in the rest of India need to stand up and make their voices stronger
Republican and democratic
guarantees had brought Kashmir closer to India and to a rejection of the
two-nation theory. These promises have not been fulfilled or trampled upon
successively, leading ultimately to this state of terrible siege, misery and
suffering for the people of the state. There is also a need for all
stakeholders to shun extreme and rigid positions and find common middle ground
to consider the genuine political aspirations of all involved.
Solutions like the UN
Resolutions and the scrapping of Article 370, both of which have the potential
to create problems in terms of communal polarisation and increased political
repression, need to be abhorred. Dignified solutions can be found by taking
into account the genuine political aspirations of the people and keeping in
view the diverse, plural and secular identity of the state without taking
recourse to a redrawing of geographical contours.
That begins by immediately
revoking the so-called State Reorganisation Act. But first, there has to be an
acknowledgement that the state of J&K acceded to India (and did not merge)
in the most unique circumstances based on certain constitutional guarantees.
Those constitutional promises have not been fulfilled and instead the state's
special status has been completely eroded. Political autonomy was promised to
Kashmiris by the architects of the Indian nation and the Constitution. It is
time to make good on it.
Basharat Shameem is a
blogger and writer based in Kashmir. The views are personal.