For the last few months, there has been a palpable anger in Kashmir. This anger defines a new phase of insecurity in the valley.
It follows a series of assertions about setting up something new in Kashmir – some say separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits, others say Sainik Colonies, some talk about provisions for non-locals in the new industrial policy, and others talk about spaces being created for those who do not have housing facilities.
The colony has become a buzzword in the new discourse that is being shaped mainly by separatists, who were in a disarray and have regrouped under a new but unnamed banner. Whosoever is behind these “new plans” in Delhi has given them a reason to get united. But at the same time, it is interesting to note that now the separatists are fighting to protect Article 370 and resisting the moves that they believe are aimed at changing the demography of Jammu and Kashmir.
This state of insecurity in Kashmir has been an inalienable part of its political psyche since 1947. The perceived threat to change the political and social status of the territory has loomed large all through nearly seven decades, and that has resulted in the current, rather long, phase of strife in the state that began in 1990.
Continuous efforts by the Congress to ensure the state’s complete integration at its own will and conditions defied the concept of larger federation that would accommodate divergent views and respect people’s aspirations. They even had double standards in treating Kashmir and Tamil Nadu as sub-national identities. Imposing governments of its own choice and disrespecting institutions of democracy in the state became the hallmark of its policies. From 1947 to 1987, Kashmiris reposed faith in the democratic system despite being wooed by the powers outside to do something different. Even in 1975, when Kashmir’s tallest leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah entered into an “unproductive” and rather humiliating Accord, Kashmiris stood by him.
Today when Kashmir is going through a critical process of self-introspection, it needs a larger space to think. But that is not happening. Institutions of various hues are being pushed against the wall, their spaces are being shrunk and an atmosphere of suffocation is being created.
The Congress had put the last nail in this coffin of mistrust by hanging Afzal Guru in 2013. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Delhi did nothing different. In fact, it became more brazen in telling the people that “Kashmir has to be conquered”. The way these plans are being unfolded, it seems that New Delhi does not want peace and stability in Kashmir.
In 2015, when Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed joined hands with BJP amid strong reservations from his own supporters, it was expected that new bridges would be built. That did not happen. The way Mufti was made uncomfortable, leading to his unpopularity, BJP showed that it had miserably failed to comprehend Kashmir. The Agenda of Alliance that was worked between the two coalition partners—PDP and BJP- remained just a pamphlet as its spirit was defied.
Soon after the BJP came to power in Delhi in May 2014, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office and MP from Udhampur Dr Jitendra Singh announced that the process of the repeal of Article 370 had begun.
Omar Abdullah, who was still the chief minister, reacted strongly on Twitter. “Wow, that was a quick beginning. Not sure who is talking. Mark my words & save this tweet – long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Art 370 will still exist. Art 370 is the ONLY constitutional link between J&K & rest of India.”
The separatists too vowed to fight against the move.
New Delhi might have succeeded in reducing the level of debate from “Azadi” to Article 370, but it has not helped in any way in addressing the discontent and alienation. Kashmir has seen a new breed of militants, almost all of them local, and the way people have been joining funerals of the slain militants also defines a new situation in Kashmir.
Insecurity among Kashmiris is genuinely grounded in the past, and only a future-oriented thinking can do away with it.
The author is a veteran journalist from Srinagar, and the editor-in-chief of The Rising Kashmir