An year post abrogation of Article 370 (and 35A). What India has achieved?

It has been one year since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution which conferred a special status to the erstwhile status of Jammu & Kashmir within the Union of India. It seems that the annulling of the Article 370 is a fate accompli not only because the Supreme
Court of India (where the revocation has been challenged) is quite unlikely to revoke the decision but essentially because of the political, strategic and diplomatic equations involved. And elaboration on these factors will certainly provide an answer to the question about what the Indian government has achieved one year down the road given the fact that the security scenario has further deteriorated both on borders and in the hinterland and that that alienation in valley persists.

Statistically, the terrorism related incidents are going on unabated and new young recruits are continuing to join the ranks. In absence of any scientific assessment of the ground realities, one cannot contest the claims of the alienation very confidently. Presumably the people still have not come to the terms with the new realities. Then the legitimate question is what has changed on ground in Jammu & Kashmir after one year of abrogation of Article 370? Lets put the question under the lens to find out the answer.

It is not very encouraging from the security point of view. Terrorism did not come down post the abrogation rather shown a little hike post 5th. August 2019. New terror recruits are also on. The government responded that the spurt was anticipated as Pakistan would up the ante post
abrogation lighting up sentiments of the Kashmiri youth with their false propaganda. Moreover, Pakistan and Pakistani Diaspora along with few Kashmiri merchants played it to the hilt in the streets of US and Europe that Kashmir will erupt and India will be squarely responsible for this.

The Indian security forces did responded the militancy with an iron hand. The news about terrorist encounters find its’ place almost every other day in the Indian media. So much so, that life expectancy of a terrorist local commander (and his group) reduced to weeks (if not days) in
the valley. However, Pakistan’s relentless support of militancy in the Valley continues to be a headache for the Indian security establishment. Pakistan, using PoK as a terror launch platform to India, still training the Kashmiri youth to induct in its’ jehadi agenda, has 200-300 armed terrorist posted in the Pakistani launchpads in and around the LoC waiting to be infiltrated as and when suitable.

In the diplomatic and international arena, the news is no cheerful. In the last five months, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has met two times for closed-door meetings on the situation in Kashmir. The US Congress has passed two house resolutions on Kashmir, condemning New Delhi’s decision. The House resolution No. 745 that was introduced in the House of Representatives last year by Indian-American representative Pramila Jayapal has gained 36 co-sponsors, 34 of whom belong to the Democratic Party and two, Republicans. This increased focus on the situation in Kashmir (from the UNSC and the US, in particular) has forced New Delhi to invite foreign diplomats and lawmakers to the Kashmir Valley on ‘fact-finding’ trips. The first one was in October 2019, when the government invited a group of European Union lawmakers to the Valley. Those who came represented some of the EU’s far-right political parties like France’s Rassemblement, Poland’s Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, the UK’s Brexit Party, Gemany’s Alternative für Deutschland, Italy’s Lega Nord Party, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and Spain’s VOX.

As international criticism mounted, the second group of foreign diplomats including the Ambassadors and High Commissioners to India of 15 nations were taken on an official visit to Jammu and Kashmir. They included diplomats from the US, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Fiji,
Maldives, Norway, the Philippines, Morocco, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana and Togo. The diplomats of the European Union skipped the visit and insisted on meeting the detained political leaders[a] on another date.

Life in Kashmir is slowly and steadily limping towards normalcy. However, the Valley stands in the midst of an uneasy calm that may explode at the slightest provocation from across the border. Core sectors of the economy of J&K have witnessed a steep decline after the abrogation of Article 370. Due to the communications blockade, curfews, and militant threats, in the past six months alone, the economy of Kashmir lost INR 178.78 billion and more than 90,000 jobs in the sectors of handicraft, tourism and information technology has been affected.
The continuing internet blockade has severely affected college and university students. College students and research scholars, for instance, have not been able to fill the online forms for competitive exams, scholarship grants and research papers.

Today, the annulment of Article 370 has made common Kashmiris lose their trust on the pro-establishment political class of Kashmir. The residents feel that, with this move, New Delhi has labelled all common Kashmiris as separatists. The general thought is that they are now living in a
‘colony’ and are being denied of their basic rights which was promised during the accession back in 1947. They accuse New Delhi of abusing the Constitution of India and its democratic ethos, and neglecting Kashmiri sentiments. Under the uneasy calm and the facade of normalcy that has returned to the Valley, the situation is simmering. Pakistan can use the resulting deep sense of alienation to serve its ends just the way they did after the rigged elections of 1987. Both the Kashmiris as well as New Delhi must introspect to forge a reciprocal relationship. Political gimmickry, and the rigid policies of New Delhi will only be counterproductive and further escalate the conflict in the coming months. For their part, Kashmiris need to rethink their integration with the rest of India rather than continue with their isolationism.

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