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A year after revoking Article 370: Widening gap or gradual integration of Jammu & Kashmir

The abolition has resulted in rebuilding the connections of Kashmiris with the rest of the country.

Bijetri Pathak

On August 5, 2019, the relationship of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India was altered. The constitutional guarantee of special status granted under Article 370 and 35A was revoked and the state was bifurcated into Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. From the very first day of its integration into Indian Union, Jammu and Kashmir had remained a burning and emotive issue. The special powers attached to Article 370 included provisions for a separate constitution, flag, new nomenclature for Chief Minister, non-enforcement of most of the Union laws in the state etc. Many people had recognised the given special status to Jammu and Kashmir as "constitutionally recognised separatism". Thus, the abrogation of Article 370 was the first major step towards rectifying the historical wrongs and making people of J&K join national mainstream in true sense.

There are debates that the sudden revoking of the article is against the federal character of the state of India. But if one delves into the constitutional practices one can conclude that Indian constitution is quasi federal in nature and Article 3 of the Indian constitution tilts the balance in favour of a strong Centre. Parliament can make the changes mentioned in Article 3 without the consent of the federal state. For the development of the state and integrating the crown of India (Jammu and Kashmir) with the rest of India, the abrogation of Article 370 was a necessary step. But this step was not courteously accepted throughout the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the abrogation, there is an uneasy calm in the region. The spike in violence and terrorism at that point of time has brought into sharp focus the evolving security paradigm in the Kashmir and to an extent of Chenab Valley. The appearance of new militant outfits such as 'The Resistance Front' signals Pakistan's effort to up the ante in the region, and give the violence a veneer of a secular and indigenous movement. The most important challenge for the government at that point of time was to address the sense of alienation and despondency felt by the major population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

A year has passed since. Debates regarding the merits and the demerits of the abrogation of the article are still on. The abolition has resulted in rebuilding the connections of Kashmiris with the rest of the country. After more than 70 years of Independence, the Government of India has opened its arms to welcome the people of Jammu and Kashmir within its fold. The acceptance has affected much with regard to the well-being of the people and also encouraged the socio-economic development of the region. The rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits, refugees from West Pakistan have been given domicile rights along with financial assistance and an initiation of a massive recruitment in the local government maintaining the new reservation policies can be noticed at the end of one year of abrogation.

There has been a significant decrease in the number of youth joining the militancy. Terror related activities have also come down significantly. There were only 188 terror-related incidences recorded in Kashmir valley from January 1 till July 15, 2019. This number came down to 120 in 2020 as per the Ministry of Home Affairs report. Moreover, 136 terrorists were eliminated during this period. More than three lakh Jammu and Kashmir government employees are now getting benefits under the 7th Central Pay Commission. The anti-corruption bureau of India has unearthed several large-scale financial scams in Jammu and Kashmir in this period of one year. There has also been the increase in the minority scholarships.

Therefore, despite rejection in the first place, the revoking of special status has benefited the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The most common criticism against the government move is a moral argument. It is claimed that the harsh security crackdown in Kashmir was unjust and immoral. The constant imposition of curfew questions the confidence of the government in how successful the attempt is. This kind of curtailment of civil liberties and communications is unacceptable in a modern democracy. But these steps come in the context of a land that has seen 30 years of terrorism and ethnic cleansing. The concerns of public order and public safety are always paramount. So, trying to pre-empt large-scale violence is not immoral; rather, it is the duty of a responsible government. The government simply cannot allow jihadis to have free run to incite mob violence.

Abrogation of Article 370 was truly a difficult decision and by taking such a firm decision, the government sent a strong message to pro-autonomy groups and secessionists both within and outside the country. A year after the abrogation, there are marked improvements across different sectors related to human development and security. There are voices of support from the valley for the bold move by the government. A change cannot happen overnight. Therefore, it can be concluded that just a few initial steps towards integrating Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country has been walked through during the span of a year.

(Bijetri Pathak is an Intern with Academics of Nation. She is doing Masters from Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University, Kolkata.)



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