As per the decision the present day government took in the Parliament on 5 August 2019, the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, accorded under Article 370 of the Constitution of India, has ended. Article 35A, also, has ceased to exist. Consequently, Jammu and Kashmir will no longer be even a full-fledged state. The entire area has been divided into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir (with Assembly) and Ladakh (without Assembly). The government, which cut off the people of Kashmir through clampdowns on all kinds of communication channels and detained the political leadership in their houses, passed the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, 2019’ and Presidential Orders/Resolutions in the RajyaSabha and LokSabha. Since then, there has been a sharp debate all over the country about the content and the manner in which this decision has been arrived at by the government. Political leaders, activists, columnists, experts, intellectuals, along with the common public, are contributing to this debate using various forums, including conventional and social media.
The commentariat, intellectuals, leaders, even from opposition parties including the Congress, are trifurcated on this contentious issue: The first group comprises of supporters, who can very well be seen as being swept away in the tide of emotions and are not ready to hear anything countering the decision of government. In the second category come people who consider the verdict right but the manner in which it has been adopted as problematic. The third category is of those who consider both, the decision and the method, as wrong. In this article, some thoughts have been expressed keeping this category in mind. The people of this category have rightly condemned the government’s move on the basis of the Constitution of India and its democracy. But while doing so, they do not accept the fact that the Constitution and the democracy are in a shambles due to the neo-liberal policies of the last 30 years.
The BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) has had an agenda of abolishing Article 370, implementing Universal Civil Code, and building Ram Temple in place of Babri Masjid ever since the time of its inception as Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), founded in 1951. But due to the strength of the Constitution and the democracy, the party could not do it. In 1991, the Congress itself began to weaken the Constitution by introducing liberalization in the name of New Economic Policies. (Already, the work of dilution of the Constitutional provisions with respect to Jammu and Kashmir had been done by the Congress, for which more or less there was a national consensus. The spirit of the Instrument of Accession, a core document regarding the accession of J&K to India, had been violated by several Orders issued by the President of India since 1954. The qualities of democracy that emerged in the rest of India, could not flourish in Jammu and Kashmir. There was no Karunanidhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mayawati etc.,who was allowed to emerge.) As a result, market nationalism (bazarwadirashtrawad), based on market economy, replaced Indian nationalism, containing the values of the freedom movement and the Constitution of India. Simultaneously, the democracy, too, was diverted to the path of the market. Under the impact of neo-liberalism, politics in India, including that of the Congress and the identity based parties,was put on the path of swift degeneration. Senior Communist leader,JyotiBasu declared that capitalism is the only path to development. Amit Shah, while speaking in the LokSabha, stated the truth about the degeneration of the opposition, “… have faith in the NarendraModi government. Nothing negative will happen. All these (Opposition) people are telling you lies for their own politics. Don’t listen to them.” This message was addressed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
A dire need was felt to create a new alternative politics, after almost complete decline of the Congress and other political parties, including the players of identity politics. A serious contemplation and struggle all over India had been started for the same. But, particularly, progressive intellectuals did not allow that stream of alternative politics vis-a-vis neo-liberalism to flourish. They queued up behind Anna Hazare and ArvindKejriwal, who had come from the NGO world and were calling out for the elimination of corruption. It is a proven fact that the NGOs are an integral part of the neo-liberal regime, created to act as safety valves. Prakash Karat’s ‘Lenin’ Kejriwal came out promptly in total support of the government’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir. Such an atmosphere of political opportunism proved to be most suitable for the RSS/BJP. It collected all the remnants of degenerated politics and plunged into neo-liberalism by throwing away the so-called robe of tenacity, sacrifice, sacraments, high character etc. The RSS/BJP had to remove the Article 370 after getting the second consecutive term to power with a full majority. One could understand this truth by going through the various resolutions/manifestos passed by the RSS/BJP from time to time.
Opponents of the new law on J&K are rightly talking about a frightening future. However, the people of J&K are experiencing a part of that frightening future right now, getting imprisoned in their homes being one of its many manifestations. The seeds of the present were sowed in 1991. It would not have happened if the Intelligentsia of India had convinced the people that the New Economic Policies are anti-constitution and anti-democracy, that a dreadful future awaits them. The crucial/central problem of our times is that the intelligentsia will not stand against the neo-liberal policies even after this decision of the government. However, from now onwards, all constitutional safeguards provided to hill and north-eastern states and marginal communities, including tribals, would be scrapped on a fast pace to facilitate the corporate control over resources. This adherence to capitalist/consumerist model of development would further erode the federal character of the Constitution in the name of new India – strong India – one India. No safeguards enshrined in the Constitution, meant for states’ rights and citizens’ rights, would be honoured in this venture. In such a situation, it seems that the constitutional India would wither away in near future.
The Home Minister Amit Shah, while speaking in the Parliament, has shown false hopes of development to the Kashmiri people, as if Article 370 was the only hurdle. The intelligentsia shares the same vision of development. Those, who always talk of opposing the capitalist model, as per the experience till now, do this for funding and various types of national/international awards provided by the agencies of the neo-liberal establishment. The continuation of their programmes and the awards being in their names is their ulterior motive. Amit Shah knows that Hindus of Jammu region are not forbidden to buy movable and immovable property in the valley. But nothing like this has happened in the last 70 years. It is hardly possible that the Kashmiri Pandits, displaced from the valley, would return after this decision. In case some of them return, they will not opt for business there. Later, Amit Shah can say that foreign investment will be invited in the valley on large scales. He, in his speech, has expressed the possibility of big tourism companies coming to the valley. That is, marketist nationalism will also reach fast in the valley and Ladakh. The permission for such foreign investments might have already been taken from the US president Donald Trump! The decision on J&K was as dramatic as demonetisation. The Home Minister said that Article 370 is responsible for corruption, poverty, terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir!
A large number of people in the country believed that RSS/BJP would make LK Advani president of India, since he was suddenly pushed out of the prime minister’s race. They felt that if elders were not respected in the ‘pariwar’ (family), then where would they be respected? But this was not done. One can realize now that Advanimight not have agreed to the decision and the method adopted by the government.
Alongside Jammu and Kashmir are Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan. Hindu-Muslims within the country and India-Pakistan on the border – this all-time saga would remain an enduring dose for marketist nationalism. Otherwise, India has 20 thousand square kilometres of land under the occupation of China,and the Resolution to take it back had been passed by the Parliament just after the Indo-China war in 1962. With this decision, it has also been decided that Pakistan can do whatever it wants to do with the PoK. Before this decision, there were 24 vacant seats for the representatives of Pak Occupied Kashmir in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. The idea being that they would be filled when PoK is merged with India. Everyone knows that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is also in the international court. This decision will resonate there too. Maybe the government has agreed to accept any condition of America to calm the matter there!
In the light of this development, the people of Kashmir should also directly question the role of the separatists in the valley. They have an equal role, with the government, in demolishing democracy in the state. If they believe that their forefathers chose to live in secular India instead of theocratic Pakistan, then the divide of Hindu-Muslim has to be bridged in the coming decades. The separatists and terrorists want to preserve this divide and thus help the communalist elements in the polity and the society. The role of the Hindu citizens of Jammu region of the state would be important in this venture. It can be hoped that they will play this role positively. It is true that the RSS/BJP senior leaders, from Shyama Prasad Mookerjee to MurliManohar Joshi, have been marching to Srinagar with their agenda. But the Gandhians, including Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) have made no less efforts to help and sympathize with the Kashmiri people.
The people of Kashmir have to understand that not only they, but the rest of the country’s people were also not taken into confidence for this decision. It is reported that even some ministers of the government were not aware. They do not need to get excited and angry. They can create a new leadership and politics, for which democracy is the only way. They have to understand that the autonomy of the entire nation is at stake. They will have to reconcile their struggle with the struggle of the people of the country fighting against neo-imperialism. The next phase of the struggle, in Gandhi’s country, should be civil disobedience, based on non-violence and satyagraha, in which citizens of the entire state should participate.
(Writer, a former fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, teaches Hindi in Delhi University)