August 2020 News
A Kashmiri's View Of One Year Of Article 370 Being Revoked4 August 2020
Srinagar: It was the most tense and uncertain night of our life. Troops were in every nook and cranny to impose a tough curfew. Before midnight, a complete communication blockade was enforced. Mobile phones, the internet and even landlines were snapped. Ahead of that historic August 5 decision, all the security measures were in place to quell any public revolt. A massive troop buildup, contingency orders, the evacuation of non-locals, tourists and Amarnath pilgrims - for us locals, these were ominous signs. The worst fear was that the centre would do away with Article 35A which defined special privileges for permanent residents of J&K in the areas of jobs and land rights. No one had thought that it may well be the end of J&K state, its Constitution and Article 370. One year on, there is no fear of losing anything - because there is nothing left to lose. The burden of special status is gone. August 5 last year redefined everything for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370, which enshrined the relationship between J&K state and the union of India for last 70 years is gone. Only time will tell if the BJP government has done the right thing with its abrogation. Did this fully integrate Kashmir with the rest of India or it has further widened the gap, both politically and constitutionally? There are multiple petitions before the Supreme Court to decide on the constitutional validity of the giant move. The economy, education, social and political structures have crumbled. My children have not been to school for the last one year. But just weeks after the abrogation of Article 370, in August last year, the government declared that schools had reopened. Similar claims were made in every aspect of governance and the situation on the ground. Anything contrary to the view of government has been declared as fake news or anti-national, according to a new media policy. An already beleaguered media has been forced into complete submission. Talking about Article 370 and the J&K state constitution in Kashmir has been made 'offensive'. It borders sedition. After the outbreak of militancy in 1990, all those who believed in the constitution and defended J&K's accession with the union of India became the target of militants. For 29 years, hundreds of political workers were killed for being members of mainstream parties which swore by the constitution and Article 370. In a role reversal, on August 5 last year, all the these believers in the constitution were arrested and jailed by the central government. Many of them are still under house detention. A state was removed from the map. Its constitution, which declared entire J&K, including Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as an integral part of India was scrapped. It was because of this constitutional provision that 25 seats were kept vacant for PoK in the state legislature. The BJP delivered on its ideological promise but officially, its decision was linked to development - or the absence of it - in J&K. It was touted as a historic decision which will fully integrate Kashmir, end corruption, militancy and all other ills that outsiders attribute to Kashmir. A few weeks after the abrogation of 370, the governor of the erstwhile state announced a major employment package. Mr Satya Pal Malik declared that 50,000 jobs in the J&K administration would be given to the youth of J&K over the next three months. He also unveiled the government's development plan, which according to Mr Malik, would usher in such an era of prosperity and development that people in other parts of Kashmir (PoK) would start demanding that they too be merged with the union territory of J&K. A year later, the promised thousands of jobs have not materialised. In fact, J&K is facing one of its worst-ever unemployment crises. According to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), more than 4 lakh people have lost their jobs in Kashmir after August 5. The economy has suffered a loss of 40,000 crores. There is a complete disconnect between the predominantly non-local administration and local people. In a place which had the lowest individual debt ratio in the country, businesses are turning into Non-Performing Assets. The owner of a deluxe houseboat at Dal Lake tells me that he doesn't have money to pay the school fee of his children or electricity dues. The houseboat has remained shut for the last one year and he has not earned a single penny since August 5. J&K has come a long way in the last 70 years under its special constitutional arrangement. In 1945, our per capita income was just Rs 11 and the literacy rate less than 7 percent. Despite a 30-year-long turmoil, geographical disadvantage and no industry, the per capita income has reached over Rs 90,000. The 2011 census shows a literacy rate is 67%. The social indicators, health, human development index, poverty rate, life expectancy, infant morality, etc have been far better than in many states including Gujarat. But this all has no meaning when ideological objectives override everything else. After the arrest of leaders including three former Chief Ministers, leaders of the ruling regime often talked about how happy the people of Kashmir are about these arrests and that no one has shed a tear for the incarcerated leaders. This is partly true! No one was anguished over the detention and marginalisation of leaders. Not even their own party cadre protested against the arrests. Today, no one is sure where these leaders will eventually settle ideologically. Some have already made peace with Delhi by limiting their demands on the restoration of statehood and by hyphenating it with the restoration of 4G. The August 5 decision has ramifications on the border situation as well. Many believe, the situation along LAC in Ladakh is linked to the abrogation of J&K special status and dismembering J&K into two Union Territories. The imposition of the two-day curfew in Kashmir in the wake of the first anniversary explains the confidence of the government in how successful its 'historic' decision has been.