By Tavoos Hassan Bhat
I arrived in Srinagar on the 3rd of August to spend my annual vacation with my family based in Kashmir. Two days after I arrived government suddenly announced bifurcation of the state, revocation of article 370 and turning Kashmir into a union territory. With this decision Mobile phones, internet and all other forms of communications were cut immediately to stop people from coming out of their homes to protest against the government decision. Thousands of people were and are currently detained in night raids and send to persons outside Kashmir as local prison could not take any more people. Rest of the valley has been turned into an open-air person. Crackdown on communication is also affecting emergency medical care.
The news has been taken as a shock, betrayal and humiliation by people of the state as a decision about their future was taken without their consent and without the involvement of their representatives who were themselves detained. Although corporate Indian media has been repeating government narrative by portraying the situation as normal as if Kashmiris are happy with the decision. Common Kashmiri people are feeling a deep sense of fear and consider it is a calculated move to change the demographic character of the state. People feel under the cover of jobs corporations will be soon invited to take their lands and later on Kashmir will be settled and settler colonies established finally making ethnic Kashmiris a minority in their own land. Kashmiris also believe that stripping Kashmir of its special status is part of BJP/ RSS ongoing efforts who see Kashmir as an unruly, Muslim-dominated area that needed to be brought to heels.
Coming to general Indian masses BJP government sold three points, one state of Jammu and Kashmir is an underdeveloped state and bifurcation, removal of article 370 and union territory status will lead to development. However, facts say the opposite. Economic and health indicators of Jammu and Kashmir are better than most of the Indian states and &K stood eighth in terms of poverty rate (10.35)% The national average was 21.92%. Gujarat its 16.63%, Maharashtra it’s 17.35% and in union territory like Chandigarh21.81 %. In 2017, Jammu and Kashmir’s Human Development Index (HDI) was 0.68, higher than even States like Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Second, it will lead to a decrease in militancy however past research on conflicts show that more you alienate people the conflict will get more complicated and militancy will increase. Third, it will lead to investment and job creation however this the argument also seems hollow as there was already provision created in law that outsiders can take land on lease for 99 years and invest in Jammu and Kashmir, however security scenario has deterred most of the business establishments to invest in Kashmir and will continue so unless there is peace and security weather 370 is there or no.
An ordinary Kashmiri feel a sense of betrayal and regrets the decision was taken by their grandfather’s generation in 1947 to agree on Instrument of Accession and side with secular India of Gandhi and Nehru. When the instrument of Accession was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, he signed off on only three subjects, defence, external affairs and communications and Jammu and Kashmir state was promised that their own constituent Assembly would draft their own constitution in the form of article 370. With time article 370 was eroded and on 5th August Article 370 was scrapped but also the state was divided and made into a union territory. By doing so the government at first place has went against its own constitution (not taken consent of state assembly) and then installed a sense of fear in other states that if we can bifurcate Kashmir and change it into union territory without the consent of the state we can do it to other states so putting the federal structure of India in danger.
The decision seems to have been taken in haste like “NoteBandi” and only coming time will show the real ramification it will have on Kashmir conflict. As usual India and Pakistan are satisfying their egos but unfortunately it is the people of Kashmir who have suffered the most. An ordinary Kashmiri is looking up to ordinary Indians and Indian Civil society which has until remained mostly silent to put pressure on the government so that Kashmiris are treated with humanity and those in power need to be reminded that empires have come and gone however humanity should survive.