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Towards a New Dawn in Kashmir

After winning over 300 seats in the May 2019 general elections, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of India abrogated Article 370 of the Indian constitutionon 5 August 2019 annulling the special status to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir ( J&K).

A year has passed since then and the trends available from the ground need to be analysed to predict the nature of changes appearing on the horizon.

For one thing, the government’s decision to bifurcate the state and separate out the Ladakh region was received with most enthusiastic welcome in Ladakh. It was interesting to note that the member of parliament from Leh, Jamyang Tsering, commended the government for taking this step and said that it was a longstanding demand from the people of Ladakh who were struggling to get their developmental aspirations met under the administrative structure put in place through Art 370 in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

As regards the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the response from the separatists was predictably unfavourable. Given the fact that the overall political and security situation in the erstwhile state was vitiated by sponsored terrorism from across the border, there was a need to take adequate counter-terrorist and security measures to ensure peace and stable administration in the newly formed UT of J&K. The following table suggests that the incidents of terrorism has not gone up as much as pessimists and critics would have had us believe.

The people of Kashmir were disgusted with the corruption in the governance system as was the case under the government enabled by the Art 370. The local political leadership had made a fetish of the article and its provisions and kept the people misinformed about the cost of non-integration or halfintegration with India. They wove false notions of autonomy and separateness around J&K’s status as a state with a separate constitution and separate flag and insisted on perpetuation of such a condition. The local leaders filled their coffers and established a system of patronage and nepotism and cleverly put the onus of responsibility of efficient and effective governance on New Delhi. This resulted in a perverse system of representative governance in the name of democracy where the local leaders fed on manufactured popular disaffection towards New Delhi, and deemed it necessary to constantly widen the gulf between New Delhi and the people in the valley. They forgot that Art 370 was a temporary provision which had to go one day.

The current BJP-led government blew their cover by abrogating the article and in a fit of frustration they criticised the move and predicted doomsday in Kashmir immediately after the reorganisation of the state. However, lot of water has flown down the Jhelum and Chenab during the last one year and there is little sympathy for such leadership in J&K.

The issue of terrorism is a function of cumulative popular frustration with misgovernance by a self-obsessed local leadership. Sooner or later, the people will get to see the benefits of joining the Indian mainstream as another important federating state (province) of India enjoying equal autonomy privileges like other states of India. Many

Kashmiris would like to be part of such kind of a close-network of states where provincial autonomy is guaranteed in a manner that unthreatens the unity and integrity of India at one level and brings unprecedented prosperity to the people of Kashmir at another.

The developmental outcomes of the current administration are sure to convince the people of Kashmir about the sincerity of the government in implementing its new policy in J&K. The sinister influence of forces from across the border is expected to wane once the people wholeheartedly shun violence, participate in democratic process and vote into power a new crop of people who would place the interests of the people above their own narrow selfish interests. On the anniversary of the momentous decision made by the government, it is hoped that the people of Kashmir will make pragmatic choices for their future and usher in a new dawn for themselves and India.

The author is a freelance writer from Kashmir, now based in New Delhi.

By Syed Muzammil Butt