Politics

Weaving The Carpet Of Naya Kashmir

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It’s been a year since the Indian parliament scrapped the special status given to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh under article 370 of the Indian constitution. The Bharatiya Janata Party since its formation (going way back to the Jana Sangh days) has had the removal of this controversial article from the Indian Constitution in their election manifesto.  You may call the move moral or immoral, constitutional or unconstitutional but no one can deny the fact that the decision taken was historic. The reason it can be considered historic is because this move not only had a huge impact over the Kashmiris, Ladakhis and Jammuites but also moulded the international relations that the Government of India shared with the outside world.

 The provisions of article 370 were very contentious as it almost allowed a legislative assembly of an Indian state to have same powers to that of the Indian Parliament and almost function as an independent country. It permitted the state of Jammu and Kashmir to have its own constitution, its own flag and so on. Since independence, lot of politics and debate has revolved around the existence of article 370 in the Indian constitution. Some called it as a thread that connected Kashmir with India while some called it evil that alienated Kashmir from India.

The Government of India has taken some major steps after the abrogation. These changes have a great impact over the economy, militancy and the social life of the people living in the union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Expecting that all the deeply rooted problems that exist in Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu should have been solved immediately after 5th August 2019 will be very foolish as these problems have existed since ages and abrogation of article 370 is just one of the ways initiated by the Government of India to solve the Kashmir issue.

A] IMPACT ON MILITANCY AND TERRORISM

Militancy and Terrorism is probably the most deeply rooted problem that exists in Jammu and Kashmir (especially South Kashmir). The phraze ‘Gar firdaus bar-e zamin ast, hameen asto, hameen asto, hameen asto’ is often used to describe the natural beauty of Kashmir which means if there is heaven on earth, its here, its here, its here. Militancy and Terrorism which has taken lives of countless Kashmiris has overshadowed the natural beauty of Kashmir. Justifying the abrogation of article 370, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the move will control militancy, separatist and terrorist activities in the state. Hands down, the abrogation of article 370 from the Indian constitution has to an extent controlled the militancy and terrorist activities in the state. For the first time since the emergence of militancy, a downward trend has been observed. Militancy has suffered a huge blow as the local recruitment has declined by 40%, terror activities have reduced by 53%, the number of security personnel losing their lives because of terrorism has declined by 66% and 75% less ammunition was fired in 2020[1]. Some big names from the terror and militancy industry like Riyaz Naikoo, Hyder, Qari Yasir, etc have been eliminated. Also the most prominent separatist group, the Huriyat Conference suffered a huge blow when Syed Ali Shah Geelani resigned. He has also refused to accept the highest civilian award of Pakistan[2]. Even the stone pelting incidents have reduced significantly from 944 in 2018 to only 211 in the first 6 months of 2020[3]. These numbers seem very positive and promising as it is a clear indication of the eradication of violence in the Kashmir Valley.

Pakistan has definitely reacted very strongly to the abrogation and has leveled up its game of increasing terror and militancy in Kashmir[4]. One thing which is worrying is that cross border infiltration has risen compared to 2019. 112 succeeded in entering Kashmir Valley till Aug 1, 2020, 101 had infiltrated during the same period in 2019. Also the number of local militants and terrorists that have been killed are way more than the number of Pakistani infiltrators and terrorists[5]. The Indian Army has no doubt been very successful in handling terrorism post abrogation however it needs to focus more on reducing infiltration from the neighboring terror state.

B] THE VALMIKIS, GORKHAS, LADAKHIS, HOMOSEXUALS, WOMEN FINALLY ENJOYING DIGNITY IN JAMMU KASHMIR AND LADAKH

We often forgot that although the northernmost state of our country had the name of only 2 prominent regions, along with Jammu and the Kashmir Valley, it also included the region of Ladakh. When the Government of India abrogated article 370, it also heard the longstanding needs of the Ladakhis i.e a demand to be separated from Kashmir and have its own Union Territory. Since 1949, the ladakhis were demanding for a separate Union Territory and no wonder people in Leh started to celebrate when the Modi government finally fulfilled their demand[6]. One of the main reasons why the Ladakhis wanted a separate UT was because they were completely neglected by the State government of Jammu and Kashmir. When the bifurcation of the state was announced, the people of Ladakh were so happy that they celebrated 15th August 2019 as their ‘first independence day’[7]. As pointed out by Mr. Jamyang Tsering Namgyal on the floor of the parliament (MP from Ladakh) very little funds were allocated for the development of Ladakh and Ladakhis were never treated with respect by the state administration. During the budget of 2020-21 for the UTs of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, ladakh received Rs. 5989 crs which was highest ever in the history[8].

The new domicile law introduced by the central government has been a blessing for the Dalits, Gorkhas, West Pakistan Refugees and Valmikis that were treated as ‘second class citizens’ in the state. The Valmikis that were transported from Gurdaspur and Amritsar to Kashmir in 1957 after the sweepers association went on a strike were promised of Kashmiri citizenship by Sheikh Abdullah (ex PM of Jammu and Kashmir). However this promise was never fulfilled. In spite of receiving adequate education, the children who belonged to the Valmiki community couldn’t take up government jobs and were forced to follow the profession of their parents i.e of performing janitorial work. The 11,000 Gorkhas that have been living in Kashmir since ages were denied domicile certificate which means even they couldn’t enjoy the benefits a normal Kashmiri did. The domicile law will give diginity to 2 lakh people that have been residing in Kashmir since 1950s and no terms it changes the demography of the state.

The Supreme court in its landmark judgement of Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. v. Union of India[9] held that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was unconstitutional in so far as it criminalized consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex. But since Jammu and Kashmir followed the Ranbir Penal Code and not Indian Penal Code, homosexuality was still a crime in the state of Jammu and Kashmir[10]. With the abrogation of Article 370, Indian Penal Code now applies in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and thus homosexuality has been decriminalized in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as well. Also after the abrogation of article 370, the women of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh can enjoy equal rights to that of men[11]. Since Article 35A is now void along with Article 370, the women of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh have equal property rights and this is great for especially those who got married to someone who wasn’t a resident of that state. Along with equal property rights, the muslim kashmiri women now have greater access to justice as the law that criminalized Triple Talaq [Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019[12]] is now applicable in the UTs of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh[13].

C] ECONOMICAL AND INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN JAMMU KASHMIR AND LADAKH POST ABROGATION

When it comes to economy, there is no denying fact that the current government doesn’t enjoy much praise and laurels. Absence of big MNCs and industries, the economy of Jammu and Kashmir is heavily depended upon agricultural activities and tourism. Tourism has suffered a major blow after the abrogation. Heavy militarization and lockdown hit the tourism sector very badly. The number of tourists that visited Kashmir between August 2019-Decemer 2019 was only around 43,000 which are very less in comparison with the tourists that visited Kashmir during the same period in 2018[14]. The Government did launch a ‘Back to Valley’ campaign to revive tourism in the valley but the outbreak of Wuhan Coronavirus shattered all their plans and campaigns. Some good news comes from the agriculture, horticulture and sericulture sector. As per the reports of Ministry of Home Affairs[15], the agriculture operations are going on smoothly in the valley. During FY 2019-20 (upto January, 2020), 18.34 lakh MTs of fresh fruit (apples) have been dispatched. For the horticultural sector, the government extended its Market Intervention Schemes (MIS) launched by the Government of India in September 2019 and for the first time, 15769.38 MTs of apples valued at Rs. 70.45 crores have been procured up to 28th January 2020, directly from the growers in Kashmir valley. Exports of handicrafts worth Rs. 688 crore have been made during first three quarters of FY 2019-2020. For the startups, it has been a bad year. Over 100 startups have lost their business due to unprecedented communication blackout[16]. Non availability of 4G network, companies have lost access to markets outside Jammu and Kashmir and are facing disruptions in digital payments[17]. However the government is slowly restoring 4G network in the UT after 2 districts finally receiving complete 4G access[18].

However the recent investments made or have been promised by the Government of India which can create innumerable job opportunities for the unemployed youth. Naming few, the government has decided to set up 3 Bamboo Technology Parks in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir which will have a great impact over the agarbatti production[19]. Development package for horticulture in Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh has been extended by 3 years and it is expected that this will generate an estimated 44 lakh mandays of employment[20]. Considering that the kashmiri economy is heavily dependent upon primary activities, this is a welcomed step. For boosting tourism in Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh the government has chalked down various plans. 7 projects worth Rs. 594 crore have been sanctioned under Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD Schemes[21]. Tourism industry can flourish if there is better infrastructure and connectivity. Six bridges of strategic importance have been built in Jammu and Kashmir[22], under the UDAN scheme the government plans to build 11 new airports in Jammu Kashmir and Ladkah[23], to improve electric connectivity 6 projects worth Rs. 270 crs started in Srinagar[24] and for ladakh the government has invested Rs. 50,000 crores to build a solar grid project[25]. Also plans to build metro services in Jammu and Srinagar have been made[26] and approved.

Imparting good quality education and initiating skill development programs is also very important to increase employment. 9 medical colleges, 2 AIIMS have been sanctioned[27] in the UT of Jammu Kashmir and for the UT of Ladakh, the Central University has been built and a National Skill Training Institute will be set up. But one can’t ignore the hardships the students have faced due to 4G ban in the UT of Jammu Kashmir.

D] FACTORS THAT HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED

The government has ignored some issues which need to be addressed immediately. On a daily basis we hear news of local panchayat or BJP leaders being killed or abducted by terrorists in Kashmir[28]. Although the voting turnout was completely amazing in the first block development council election held with 98% voting turnout[29], the violent activities committed by the terrorists on local leaders is a major hurdle to restore normalcy and grass root democracy especially in the Kashmir Valley. The local leaders need to be given enough security. Also a demand is being made by the Ladakhis to include Ladakh in the 6th schedule of the constitution[30]. 6th Schedule of the constitution declares certain areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram as tribal areas considering their unique culture, ethnicity and topography. Ladakh being a high alitutude dessert with low oxygen levels and unique identity and language is an ecologically and culturally very sensitive. It becomes very important to preserve its unique identity of Ladakh by including it in the 6th Schedule. Few protests have been observed in Leh and the government should really pay heed to these protests if it wants to take the Ladakhis into confidence. Similarly, Ladakh’s Bodi language should be recognized as one of the official languages.

People of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have suffered since ages. They have been trapped under the clutches of poverty, unemployment, terrorism, militancy. People are tired. They wish to have a normal life like others. Abrogation of article 370 was one step taken by the government to end their suffering as it was a big hurdle to initiate development activities in the state. A long way full of challenges and problems lies ahead. The government should deliver whatever they have promised till now. The government has to weave a beautiful carpet of Naya Kashmir with love, affection and consideration towards the locals of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

– Manav Asrani

Writer, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata


[1] https://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2020/aug/02/kashmir-incidents-of-violence-by-terrorists-down-infiltration-on-the-rise-2177875.html

[2] https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/world/jk-separatist-leader-syed-ali-shah-geelani-rejects-pakistans-highest-civilian-award-5732761.html

[3] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/sharp-decline-in-stone-pelting-incidents-in-j-k-since-aug-5-2019-officials-1705771-2020-07-29

[4] Ibid 1

[5] https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/pakistan-virtual-terrorism-jammu-kashmir-decline-in-terror-related-violence-security-forces

[6] https://zeenews.india.com/india/dream-fulfilled-a-year-of-development-and-progress-in-union-territory-of-ladakh-2300541.html

[7] https://www.livemint.com/news/india/ladakh-celebrates-1st-independence-day-after-being-declared-ut-1565875091148.html

[8] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/allocation-for-jammu-and-kashmir-at-rs-30757-cr-ladakh-at-rs-5958-cr-for-fy21/articleshow/73835579.cms

[9] AIR 2018 SC 4321

[10] https://www.news18.com/news/india/sunday-feature-still-waiting-for-its-377-moment-kashmirs-lgbt-community-hopes-in-the-shadows-1872117.html

[11] https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/kashmir-article-370-women-cheer-equal-property-rights-1577637-2019-08-06

[12] http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2019/209473.pdf

[13] http://www.ipcs.org/comm_select.php?articleNo=5639

[14] https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/article-370-abrogation-kashmir-tourism-sector-hit-over-144500-jobs-affected-after-centres-move-4869471.html

[15] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1601843

[16] https://www.livemint.com/mint-lounge/features/dystopia-vs-development-the-kashmir-paradox-11571377960811.html

[17] https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/jk-one-year-later-not-quite-a-success-part-ii/

[18] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/4g-mobile-internet-services-restored-in-2-districts-in-j-k-on-trial-basis/articleshow/77577208.cms

[19] https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/3-bamboo-technology-parks-to-be-set-up-in-uts-of-j-k-ladakh-119103101536_1.html

[20] https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/cabinet-approves-3-years-extension-revision-of-pm-s-development-package-for-horticulture-in-j-k-ladakh-119121101247_1.html#:~:text=Prime%20Minister’s%20special%20package%20for,up%20to%20March%2031%2C%202019

[21] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1601915

[22] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rajnath-singh-inaugurates-six-bridges-in-j-k/article32029228.ece

[23] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/travel/destinations/11-airports-in-jammu-and-kashmir-2-in-ladakh-to-come-under-udan-scheme/as72402099.cms

[24] https://www.thekashmirmonitor.net/new-power-projects-worth-rs-270-cr-underway-in-srinagar/

[25] https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/significance-of-rs-50000-crore-solar-grid-project-in-leh-ladakh/487675

[26] https://www.metrorailnews.in/state-approves-light-metro-rail-system-in-jammu-and-srinagar/

[27] https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/news/story/9-medical-colleges-2-aiims-sanctioned-for-jammu-and-kashmir-jitendra-singh-1646321-2020-02-14

[28] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/fear-grips-bjp-leaders-in-kashmir-after-5-partymen-killed-in-less-than-a-month-1710125-2020-08-11

[29] https://www.news18.com/news/politics/more-than-98-voting-recorded-in-jammu-and-kashmirs-first-block-development-council-polls-2361597.html

[30] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/after-the-ut-tag-ladakh-residents-seek-constitutional-safeguards/articleshow/74568531.cms?from=mdr

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