Take courage in both hands and abolish Article 370

The terror attack on CRPF convoy at Pulwama has evoked tremendous shock and anger in India. Demands have been raised by sections in public that India ought to declare war against Pakistan or at the least a second surgical strike be carried out immediately.

The feelings and urgency expressed in these demands are understandable. It however betrays lack of understanding of the Kashmir situation, which in turn has been inextricably interwoven with a series of policy blunders commencing from the time India took up the issue at UNSC in 1948 though she could at that time potentially liberate the whole of the princely state of Kashmir.

All of us need to understand that a disguised war is already going on in J&K, particularly in the Valley. Pakistan is conducting this war by using its ‘fifth column’ in India against the Indian state and the Indian army., while it keeps its own army intact. Hundreds of soldiers and several misguided civilians acting as terrorists have lost lives in this ongoing conflict. It suits Pakistan’s professed policy of inflicting a thousand cuts and bleed the Indian state with the least cost to itself. Its fifth columnists are working in India at four tiers – terrorists at the front, ideologues of separatism above them, sections of politicians playing the role of double agents, and a tribe of vocal intellectuals justifying terrorist action in the name of alienation and finding common cause with the deceitful politicians and ideologues of the separatists.

MODUS OPERANDI OF THE CLANDESTINE WAR

Typically, in J&K, the political classes who have sympathy for the separatists work silently to take the people emotionally as much away from India as possible. But, when unable to manage the consequences of own actions, they depend on the services of Indian army for protecting the border. Unfortunately, while fighting the enemy in the LOC, the army gets exposed to terror attack from behind by the terrorist cadres. who, in turn, are parts of or sheltered by sections of the civil society. Worse, the army is prevented from neutralising these terrorist cadres by misguided  stone pelting young men. Army action against the latter is also opposed by both the political class and the intellectuals citing the theory of ‘alienation’ and ‘human rights’. In a nutshell, the whole spectrum of the fifth column has created an impossible situation for the army to operate in a professional manner in the state. It is high time that everyone interested in Indian nation understands that the behaviour of the civilians needs to be changed, if the army has to defend the border, let alone carry out a strike in enemy territory.

WAYS TO INTEGRATE THE CIVILIANS OF THE VALLEY TO MAINSTREAM

India has acted for long and in various ways to win over the civilians of the Valley to her mainstream through measures such as Art 370, Art 35A, huge budgetary allocations, infrastructure development, opening up institutes of higher learning, liberal scholarship to students, giving them priority in the matter of central government employment, and so on. Nothing has succeeded. To add to the problem, the doctrine of ‘alienation’ has kept encouraging such newer inventions but ended up in creating sense of ‘entitlements’ in them. The fact of the matter is, the seven decades plus alienation of Kashmiris from Indian mainstream was actually caused by Art 370. Instead of helping in their integration with India it facilitated extensive and unhindered indoctrination of a large chunk of civilian population in the Valley in religious fanaticism and separatism by the network of Pakistani fifth columnists at the bidding of their masters across the border.

The  sensible remedy that remains to be tried  to solve the Kashmir problem is to sever their link with such vicious ideologies and bring them, through a well-willed and assertive move into the mainstream Indian political system of democracy and secularism. This will require opening up of the state of J&K, especially the Valley for settlement to ordinary people loyal to the country from rest of India. The well-meaning people of the Valley who have been misled or gagged by the terrorists for last seven decades may then gather courage and come out of the malicious influence of the fifth column.

CLARITY OF PURPOSE

At the same time India needs to have a serious self-introspection at this juncture. It must give an honest answer to a couple of questions: ‘Do we really want to recover the Pakistan occupied Kashmir?’. ‘If so, what is the plan?’. No doubt there is a crying need to complete this important unfinished task. Pakistan has nearly proved itself a failed state. The plight of people in Pak-held Kashmir is pathetic. The demography there has been changed forcibly. Indigenous people are facing hard time due to both lack of development and exploitation by the powerful outsiders from mainland Pakistan. Religious fanaticism and anti-Indianism are the only means used to hold sway over these helpless poor people.

A comparison between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad brings the asymmetry of development in sharp relief. That the twin opium of religion and anti-Indianism are inadequate to bring happiness to people and win their loyalty were evidenced by the secession of its eastern half resulting in the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971  and growing alienation in large sections of people in Baluchistan, Sind and NWFP. It’s a pity that while people in the PoK are reportedly unhappy and disillusioned, the Pakistan’s fifth column in India are trying to mislead people of the Valley in the name of religion. As a matter of fact today both the Kashmiris in PoK and the misguided people in the Valley are truly in need of help. This broader objective also needs to be kept in view while choosing a course of action.  Full integration of Kashmir into India holds the key. This again compels attention to Art 370.

THREAT OF SABOTAGE

On the basis of today’s scenario, recovering PoK for India seems to be a formidable challenge. It is true that in the normal course India ought to have completed or at least be fighting the unfinished battle of integration of Kashmir in Skardu, Gilgit, and Muzaffarabad. Facts on ground are: Pakistan has managed to ignite, with the help of its fifth column, a raging fire deep inside the state of J&K. Reports of civilian pro-Pak activists raising flags of Pakistan and ISIS in parts of J&K including state capital Srinagar hit headlines from time to time. If India is even a wee bit serious about recovering the PoK and the Indian army fighting a decisive war towards that end, India has to, first of all, ensure that there are no treacherous attacks against them from behind by terrorists harboured by sections of Valley civilians.

ENABLING CONDITIONS

The comprehensive remedy to tackle these terror attacks is clearly to be on the offensive and take the war to Pakistan held Kashmir. The very first condition for that to happen is to align the civilian people of the entire province to Indian state and army. This is less challenging than it seems as Jammu and Ladakh (which put together account for more than two-third area of the J&K state under Indian control) favour full integration with rest of India. They are a source of strength to the Indian army. The only opposition comes from the Valley (under the vicious grip of the separatist politicians) which has been protesting any attempt to abolish Art 370.

Strategically by spreading the ideology of religious fanaticism and leveraging its fifth column in India, Pakistan has been trying hard to posit a hardly 70 lakhs people (of the valley) against the will of 122 crore to prevent their physical and ideological merger with rest of India. The nationalist voices within the civilian population in the valley have been suppressed by the elaborate army of the fifth columnists. India owes a sacred duty to the people of J&K to liberate them from the vicious ideology of fanaticism. The Pulwama attack ought to fast track the task of mainstreaming people of the valley. The time has arrived to accomplish this unfinished task through abolition of Art 370 without further procrastination.

VALIDITY OF THE OBJECTION

The protagonists of ‘status quo’ cite legal and moral grounds to oppose abolition of Art 370. As regards the ‘first’, it may be argued that the Article was mounted on unsuspecting people of India projecting it as a temporary provision. Considering the assurance given by the then PM Nehru, it was surmised that the Article would be self-annihilating i.e., it would erode over time after bringing about J&K’s complete integration with India. It was almost a betrayal that the J&K constituent Assembly had wound up without recommending its abrogation.

If the goal of integration envisaged by the Article has not happened after seven decades, and on the contrary it has taken people of the Valley farther away from rest of India, there must be something basically wrong with its very concept. Second, the moral argument about preserving the unique identity and heritage of Kashmiri people is unfounded. In India, people have constitutional right to move and settle in any part of the country. That has never endangered but created respect for the preservation of unique culture and heritage of every ethnicity, and all of them co-exist in a great splendorous assortment.

On the contrary, the manner in which the Valley civilians had, driven by religious fanaticism, persecuted and thrown away large numbers of Pundits, their millennium old fellow Kashmiris in 1990s, deprives them of any legitimacy for citing this as a ground to preserve Art 370. Further, if this argument is to hold good, the valley politicians do not have moral right to rule, as they have done for decades, over Jammu and Ladakh where majority population, on the basis of religion and or ethnically, are drastically different than the Valley,

NEED FOR WELL THOUGHT OUT ACTION

Indian policy makers must therefore look at the incidents such as Uri, Pulwama, or any other holistically and objectively.  Kashmir poses a grave challenge and calls for strength of character and courage to meet it. Continuous buck passing, empty words even if fiery, endless rationalisation of political opportunism, yielding to the pressures of the glib fifth column, etc.  will take the country nowhere. There will be sudden rise in patriotism, media will cry at the top of their voices, but the emotions will settle down in one or two weeks. The political parties will go back in search of votes and the fifth column intellectuals will resume their theory of dialogues with separatists and Pakistan as the ‘only solution’. Some of the mass media may even begin shedding tears for the slain terrorist projecting him as another victim of ‘alienation’. Pakistan would only smile and prepare for the next big attack using its agents in the state!

TACTICS Vs. STRATEGY

Therefore, India must take a call on the Kashmir issue as a whole. Individual incidents, even though horrendous, must not allow the country to lose sight of the bigger picture and long-term goal though every possible measure need to be taken with great urgency to prevent any more terror attacks in Indian side of the LOC. At the same time, she must also realize that a war is already on which Pakistan is fighting with India without India realising it, on terms and conditions that are best suited to Pakistan’s best interests. Too many precious lives of security forces have been lost in Kashmir needlessly, the social and monetary costs of which are immeasurable.

The Indian fifth column of Pakistan has been able to set up an entrapment for the Indian soldiers and the procession of death goes on endlessly. To defang this pack of vile intriguers and put a stop to any more loss of precious lives and simultaneously to be able to pursue the broader objective of regaining PoK, the first condition is to purge the Valley of anti-national elements. It is amply evident that populating the Valley with ordinary Indians loyal to the country from rest of India are concomitant to this exercise.

If India is serious about her mission, strategy must come before tactics. Carrying out strikes in enemy territory may be of limited use, when the home turf keeps generating terror strike against our own army. If the numerous instances of stone pelting against the security forces reflect the expanse of the Pakistani influence on Valley’s civil population, Pulwama attack represent its viciousness. Surgical strike is good as a tactic, but not an enduring solution to the Kashmir problem.

The event of Pulwama coming after UrI has proved this. As a matter of fact, demolishing  Art 370 would be part of a well thought strategy that can send chill down the spine of Pakistan & its fifth column in India, and put an early halt to the ongoing terror strikes in J&K. On the top of these, it would provide the quintessential platform from where the attempts to regain the Pakistan held Kashmir can be launched.

TIME IS OF ESSENCE

There is need for hurry to take this initiative. The evil influence of the separatist ideology has already spread far and wide.  Adil Ahmad Dar of Jaish-e-Muhammad is the latest in a chain which included young terrorist leader like Burhan Wani.  The Pulwama incident sent more ominous signs. Such an attack certainly needed preparation of long period and that would be impossible without knowledge of  the civil society. Further, this kind of Fidayeen strike using IED loaded vehicle, launched for the first time in the state, has raised the risk threshold considerably higher for future. Any repetitions of this terror technique would throw up an altogether new challenge to our security forces.

Last but not the least the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan also heightens the terror risk in J&K coming through POK. There is need for all round vigil by the wider civil society to pre-empt them. As of now, this seems possible by expeditiously bringing about changes in the attitude of the demography in the Valley.

TASK ON HAND

Amidst blood and tears, Pulwama terror strike has presented an opportunity to the ruling regime to exhort all parties to unite and abolish the Art 370. Every kind of political initiative over last seven decades to resolve Kashmir issue has failed. The ruling party in the Centre itself made a highly risky political experiment, which arguably deteriorated the situation in the state to a new low, as the recent incident epitomises. Finally, from the funeral pyres of the 44 martyrs a broad clear consensus has begun to emerge amongst right-thinking people across India in favour of abolishing the root cause of alienation of Kashmiri people i.e., this Article 370.

There may be opposition from some political parties though. The regional political parties of J&K may lead this camp. However, they have proved themselves to be incorrigibly selfish and acting  to the detriment of the people of the state all the time. At the national level, some parties which thrive on the politics of ‘dividing’ people on the basis of religion and caste, may also try to hinder. The intellectuals who patronises these forces would offer them shield. In normal times, it is  impossible to overcome the coalition of these malicious forces. Pulwama incident, by raising the public consciousness to a dizzy height, has brought these forces under severe pressure and  has finally given a historical chance to the ruling regime to rescue the state of J&K, by abolishing this divisive instrument.

The ruling regime must not dither but take courage in both hands and immediately summon joint session of the Parliament for this purpose. If it can get the bill passed, India would take a quantum jump towards solving the Kashmir problem. In the event the bill falls through for want of adequate support, it can still turn the General Election 2019 as a Referendum on the Abolition of Article 370 and get a massive mandate. That would help it to carry out the unfinished task in its next term. A billion plus people have become impatient with the Kashmir policy that has been bleeding India by inflicting a thousand cut on her body. But trying to evade from the historic responsibility may only diminish people’s confidence in its ability to defend the best interests of the country.

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