As the five month long lockdown in Kashmir seems to have no light at the end of the tunnel, this article looks back right from the inception of the byzantine Article 370, and how revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has incapacitated the Valley, starting from its economy, and its people, imposing inhuman amounts of FIRs and pickups for no apparent reason by a cossetted Army.
Human Rights have been violated in a dexterous and sinister manner. Will this magnanimous decision taken by the current NDA Government put an end to the age old sensitivity, autonomy and dual citizenship prevailing in the Kashmir Valley , or will it make matters worse and finally prove to be a tinderbox for the existing government of India?
History of the Article 370
- Inception of the Article 370 – Maharaja Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1947, saw a ripe opportunity for keeping the Kashmiri status as the “Switzerland of India” during Indian Independence in ‘47. In an attempt to follow his ancestor’s trail- Gulab Singh and Ranvir Singh, who filled their treasury with handsome dividends during the Sikh war and the great Mutiny, Hari Singh made an attempt to sign a standstill agreement with Pakistan and India during 1947. The plan backfired when Pakistan signed on it, but India declined.
- Disambiguation on Nehru’s part – In 1947, the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru worked out the article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Nehru kept the Kashmir portfolio within himself and Abdullah, and kept Sardar Patel aloof from this legitimate function.
- Sheikh Abdullah’s conspiracy – Nehru was urged by Lord Mountbatten for taking the Kashmir issue to the United Nation, but Sheikh Abdullah pleaded with him not to out of sheer hatred toward the Maharaja and his growing ambition to rule the Valley. His cited reasons being that Pakistan would take away one-third of Kashmir Valley and a reference to the UN would mean a vote, which would ultimately lead to a rip in the fabric of unity. The biggest sinister aspect of this proposition was the partial autonomy of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, i.e, any changes to this provision could only be brought upon by the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.
- Nehru’s false promises – The promise Nehru made of article 370 being a temporary provision which would be eroded with time turned out to be a chimera for the first thing Sheikh Abdullah did was to abolish the Kashmiri monarchy and appoint himself as the Sadar-e-Riyasat, to be elected in the State Assembly. Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union with the approval of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly only in 1956.
- Political blame-game – Gopalaswamy Ayyangar was an IAS officer without a portfolio who was brought by Nehru to assist him in the Kashmiri portfolio for he had been the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir with Maharaja Hari Singh and Nehru claimed (to Sardar Patel) that Ayyangar had a sinuous knowledge of the Valley and hence was given a room to manoeuvre. He was the one who was asked by Nehru to plead before the Constituent Assembly, the case of article 370. Nehru kept Sardar Patel very supercilious with this case and Patel expressed his apprehension, which eventually turned the entire scenario into a grave blame-game.
- Fate of Article 370 in the Union Parliament – With the resignation of Sardar Patel, the magnanimous decision of unifying the two colleagues fell to Gandhiji’s onus but the records of Patel’s personal secretary reveals that Nehru had finalized the draft of article 370 with Sheikh Abdullah without notifying Patel. The overture brought by Gopalaswamy Ayyangar to the Constituent Assembly was shredded by the executive of the Congress Party.
Current Scenario in Kashmir- Consequences of the draconian decision
- Pilgrimages were called off– A few days before the article 370 was scraped off, all the pilgrims travelling to the Amarnath Yatra called off their trips, which led to a lot of rumours and speculations in the entire Valley, it was put to an end when on the 5th of August, Home Minister Amit Shah came in to the Union Parliament and put and end to all the hearsay, the people clearly understood that article 36A was going down, which granted the Kashmiris a special rights in matters of protection in State jobs, and acquisition of non-movable property rights, but it was to their utmost horror when Shah even abrogated article 370 wherein Kashmir had a special status and then was just mitigated to a Union Territory.
- Deployment of excessive troops– Kashmir, being a very sensitive territory was used to a large number of Indian military troops in the valley. Moreover, the geographical factor of Jammu and Kashmir regarding its international boundaries were subjected to a huge pressure of vulnerability, with the Siachen glaciers sandwiched between Chinese-administered Aksai Chin to the north-east flank of Kashmir, and the Shaksgam Valley toward the northern flank of Ladakh. To the north-western edge of Jammu and Kashmir, we have Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, in Gilgit and Baltistan; hence deployment of troops in Kashmir is a necessity, but things went down south when more than half a million troops were deployed in the valley right after the Union Parliament’s unilateral decision to pass the bill for abrogating articles 370 and 35A. As of October 31st, 2019, there were as many as 700,000 troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Human rights violation by Indian Army– A recent news article covered how a thirteen year old was clobbered under a military truck, while these incidents are sporadic in nature after the military lockdown, there have been innumerable affairs both before and after the abrogation of the article that the military has embezzled the powers bestowed onto them. The Armed Forces Special Provisions Act (AFSPA) which privileges a pampered and entitled army to control the “disturbance” of a place however they wish to. Long story short,the Indian state’s agent is licensed to kill any citizen on suspicion and get away without any trial. The Human Rights Violation in Kashmir is mentally taxing with blanketed communication lines for over five months, a pampered army detaining more than 2000 people without any credible FIRs, it is estimated that more than 13,000 boys lifted during this lockdown, securing of a so-called “curfew pass” which is technically a movement pass valid for 144 CRPC restrictions, and the most disturbing of all is the pervasive usage of pellet guns reflect the Indian Army’s popular “One Solution, Gun Solution” motto.
- Economic Standstill– As per industry experts’ estimates, Jammu and Kashmir has lost around $2.4billion in the five month long lockdown. Kashmiri economy mainly strived on tourists and pilgrims, and with the current military lockdown imposed, the footfalls have decreased till it became absolutely zero. Around 700,000 people supported their homes with the tourism industry, starting from high end hotel chains to small scale ancillary businesses, including the boatmen and their families have suffered a huge blow. With the tension rising in the valley, there has also been a shortage of skilled labour for around 400,000 migrants have left Jammu and Kashmir. Each and every sector in the Kashmiri economic system has bled. The sectors that were directly dependant on the internet like e-commerce and information technology had been crippled instantaneously with the Government shutting off internet and telecommunication systems in August, 2019. Another big chunk of their SGDP is constituted by horticulture, employing three million and more people, spread across 75,000 hectares of land and earns approximately Rs.65 million. The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India pledged to buy all of Kashmir’s apples at a competitive price, but it is alleged that they haven’t yet been paid, even after five months. The Jammu and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, which houses around 1,500 large business owners, traders, exporters took a direct hit because of a steep downfall in revenue earned. It capsized the entire economy during the peak tourist season.
Something that is forgotten very often is that Jammu and Kashmir is not a homogenous entity. Ladakh houses a culmination of Muslims and Buddhists while Jammu has a comparatively large number of Muslim inhabitants. Apart from these races, we also have the Bakarwals and Gujjars. It is absolutely detrimental to abrogate two articles without the consent of the State Government, which has the veto power and without having a proper parliamentary debate or dissent.
Article 370 being abrogated is a little difficult to digest because we have grown pretty used to the status quo of Kashmir, that the abrogation of this magnanimity shook our intellectual facilities. But it actually concocted a network of favouritism and red tapism fuelled by friends and nemeses alike. It has sustained among politicians, bureaucrats and media personnel a sort of an entitlement politics. This present model gave incentives to corruption, dirty politics and rent-seeking. We now have to wait and see if scrapping Article 370 would actually institutionalize a good spirit in governance and do away with separatist tendencies or if it makes matters worse.