Time for peace in Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) had been in focus for a long time now. Violent extremism in this state is thriving for over 30 years now. Worst years were 1990s and early 2000s when the number of fatalities touched a few thousands each year. Failure of the Indian state to contain this violence is very obvious. Unfortunately, these were the same years where political situation in India was also very volatile – we had 7 different Prime Ministers in a span of just 10 years. This fluidic political environment resulted in lack of political will and intent to resolve complex issues in Kashmir. And even after political climate stabilized in early 2000s, it was still too late to bring about any material difference to the situation in Kashmir.

Were pre-1989 days any better?

Yes, the pre-1989 days were much better than the later situation in Kashmir and in one very significant way – violence was much less. There was political discontent before and after 1989. The same families which ruled Kashmir before 1989 managed to do the same after 1989 as well. Elected governments did very little to address the discontent among people and this continued unabated. Elected governments were dismissed by central governments on many occasions. But the really key thing that still made it a workable situation was the absence of extremist violence. So, yes, it will be good to take the situation to pre-1989 days and then work on building a governance model that does justice to the aspirations of Kashmiris.

How about Article 370 removal?

I personally do not have direct insights into what Article 370 has done and the benefits from removing it. But a law like this that gives land rights to specific section of Indians is bound to be counter productive. Yes, it was required during the initial stages of post-1947 years when the country was going through integration challenges. But once we are through with that phase, such laws must be changed.

Indian Parliament keeps bringing amendments to older laws or scrapping them altogether as they are not deemed apt for the current India. And when Parliament does not scrap some laws, we are the ones who protest. For example, Section 124A (law on sedition) was added to the India Penal Code way back in year 1870!! Lokamanya Tilak was charged for sedition by the British in 1890 and the same sedition law has been used consistently by all Indian governments till date. Don’t we all wish such laws are removed since they are obsolete in current context?

A country as diverse as India needs specific measures that ensure this diversity becomes our strength, not our weakness. Democracies thrive on fundamental principles, two of which are:

  1. Right to vote
  2. Property rights

If these two principles are not protected, equality among citizens is not possible. Article 370 hence had to go.

How effective were the opposing voices of this move?

Unfortunately, we have now become a nation with no sensible Opposition. It is not just political opposition, but even people from other fields are biased and one sided. Government’s push to remove Article 370 could be challenged at various levels:

  1. Article 370 is not in favor of Kashmir, hence is being removed
  2. Removal of 370 happened when J&K state was under Governor’s rule
  3. Post removal of 370, severe restrictions were put on J&K citizens
  4. Various political and separatist leaders were put under house arrest
  5. Union territory means loss of political identity for J&K

Now, any sensible Opposition voice could have addressed these 5 separately. Unfortunately, the whole spectrum of opposing voices (politicians, media, academics, etc) completely avoided the very crux of the Government move – #1 Is Article 370 good or bad? Instead, they started debating #2, #3, #4 and #5 – but these other things have been happening for past 30 years, are temporary in nature and will ease up in few weeks. If these opposing voices cannot comment on #1, then they do not have any valid points to oppose.

Will the Government succeed in bringing peace back to Kashmir?

When I was hearing the announcement in Parliament on removal of Article 370, a new sense of hope started to come up. But there was also a fear since I had a similar excitement when the Prime Minister made that demonitisation speech in November 2016. And we all saw how badly the post-announcement period was handled in case of demonitisation.

One difference (a HUGE one at that) between then and now is Amit Shah. Lets all hope he and his team has planned every details of the post-370 situation in J&K well. If the Government can handle the security situation for next 2 months and then follow it up with small, but definitive measures to ensure development and social justice, we can all hope that peace will be back in Kashmir.

And this time, lets hope that peace will be permanent.

** Feature image courtesy – https://www.ndtv.com

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