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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 36, New Delhi, August 22, 2020

Abrogation Of Article 370 Came at a High Cost | Zulafqar Ahmed

Friday 21 August 2020


On August 5 last year, when Narendra Modi led Bhartiya Janta party (BJP) government stripped off special status of the erstwhile State of J and K. It was done on the pretext of development, good governance, and peace. It was argued that abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A will open the floodgates for development and prosperity. The former State was bifurcated into two federally administrated Union Territories. Nearly all mainstream leaders and dissenters were arrested after the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. It is estimated that nearly 7,000 people were arrested in Kashmir. All important means of communication were cut off; people of the erstwhile State are still deprived of the high-speed internet. This causes lots of suffering to the people. On the pretext of durable peace and development, civil liberties and rights of the people were crushed.

A year has passed since the abrogation of Article 370 but nothing has changed on the ground. In fact, anxieties, miseries, and sufferings of the people have augmented. People of Kashmir are feeling that they have been betrayed and cheated, their pride and identity have been ripped off. Now, the fear of settler colonialism is haunting the people of the erstwhile State which is being strengthened in the form of new Domicile laws (this allows people outside the State to become residents of Jammu and Kashmir).

The abrogation of Article 370 came up after paying the high price in the form of the disappearance of mainstream politics. A new kind of separatism has taken shape in the minds and hearts of the youth of the erstwhile State. Experts are of the opinion that the silence of the people of Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 is quite dangerous similar to the volcano which is about to explode. The key players of the State, NC and PDP, have lost their legitimacy because they have betrayed, cheated, and sold out fake promises for their vested interests. The former Chief Minister of the state Mehbooba Mufti, has reiterated that their utmost priority is to safeguard the special status of the state. Ironically, she made an alliance with those whose priority was to strip off the special status of the state. The NC’s father-son duo had said that after the abrogation of article 370, no further political development is acceptable until, both, Statehood and Article 370 is restored. Surprisingly, Omar Abdullah recently said that he will not contest elections till the time J&K remains a Union Territory. He deliberatively ignored the demand of restoration of special status. The new players like, (Apni Party & Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference) that have recently entered into the political arena don’t have much credibility because they are being taunted as ‘B’ teams of BJP. Recently, veteran separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani resigned from the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Now, the moot question is: which political alternative is left for New Delhi whom they could turn to for political engagement.

The most disgusting part of abrogation of Article 370 was that the people of State were locked up without any communication, whereas the rest of the country was rejoicing this decision of the BJP Government. The intelligentsia who either spoke or wrote something against this decision was only worried about the tampering of the ‘Indian Constitution’ or ‘cooperative federalism’. In the flow of these narratives, miseries and sufferings of the common masses of Jammu & Kashmir were being ignored.

A false narrative which was concocted by the BJP Government that Article 370 is stumbling block in the path of development of Kashmir stands today as totally untrue. According to the latest figures of the Jammu and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JKCCI) overall losses are estimated to be around Rs.40,000 crore. The Report of the Civil Rights Group Forum of Human Rights of Jammu & Kashmir, in the last four months of lockdown, Industries in the State lost Rs.17,878.18 crore, while 5 lakh jobs were lost in the last one year. The number of violent incidents has also increased after the abrogation of Article 370. The J&K Coalition of Civil Society, a human rights body, estimated that so far in this year, 157 militants have been killed of which only 17 were foreigners. Total deaths of local militants have been reported as 88% in security operations compared to 79% in 2019. These figures show the continued trend in local recruitment of militants in the last one year. Briefly, almost every sector of development got affected with the elongated lockdown; be it, trade, industry, tourism, and education etc.

The abrogation of Article 370 demystified one long standing myth that Kashmir is a ‘developmental issue’ rather than a ‘political issue’. If Kashmir had been a developmental issue then it would have been resolved earlier. So, it is better for New Delhi to acknowledge Kashmir as a political issue that could be resolved only through dialogues and discussions.

Zulafqar Ahmed is Research Scholar (PhD) at the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University. Email-ahmedzulafqar78[a]

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