Kashmir, wake up, it’s a new morning
The Presidential order revoking Article 370 gave India an unprecedented leadership and a degree of autonomy over Kashmir, without any consent from the People in the Valley.
In 2003, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s pragmatic narrative on Kashmir, “Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat (Inclusive of Kashmiri Values, Humanity and Democracy) became a “foundation for every force of reciliation in the state”. A broad section of separatists today still remembers Vajpayee as someone who deeply felt from his heart what should be done to make Kashmir a bigger part of India.
In contrast, yesterday, the whole Nation reverberated in sync with a centralized sympathy, but we did miss out on an empathy. Can the process of how it’s done be blamed for that?
On 25th July Indian Ministry of Affairs ordered for deployment of 10000 paramilitaries and troops in the state. Government alerted the officials and ordered them to stock food and water. Soon the annual pilgrimage “Amarnath Yatra” was cancelled. This rang a bell in hearts of all Kashmiris. Government tried to rebuke the situation pointing out threats from Jaish-e-Muhammad, planning to attack the procession. A profound confusion and fear tore through the valley.
Similar gaslighting attempts is not something that Kashmiris are not accustomed to. Over the years such incidents of instigating pseudo terror have been tried a many time and even failed.
On the morning of 5th August, curfew was announced. Section 144 crPC was declared that shut down phone and internet modes of communication to the outside world. Once again Kashmir was closed down, like many a times in the past. My Kashmiri friends in Bangalore called me, hoping to get out of their traumatic experiences of trying to contact their families. I was as hopeless as the whole Nation, clueless about how the events are unfolding in the Valley, behind that Iron Curtain.
President Ram Nath Kovind issued a presidential order under Article 370 (1). The notification used the phrase “with the concurrence of the Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir”. This allowed the Government to bypass the fact that Kashmir has no State Legislature, and entitled the Governor who is administering the state under President’s Rule to speak for the Valley. Subsequently a few clauses were added to Article 367, or “interpretations” that deemed all references to the State Government shall mean the Governor. Most importantly Article 370(3) was amended which read “Constituent Assembly” shall be revered as “Legislative Assembly of the State.” And, as there is no Constituent Assembly, the State Assembly will take charge. Is amending Article 367 Constitutional? There is a still tinge of doubt on that.
The Leaders of the State were detained and subsequently put under house arrest. With no internal communication or consultation, the Governor now speaks for all the people in the Valley.
That sounds scary? It sure does.
In a spectacular fit of time, India now speaks for the lips of every Kashmiris that move in the Valley. I will pretend I can hear You, even though your whispers will perhaps never reach me. We just established the fact that Article 370, was a mere bridge that had stopped all developments in Kashmir, and Now, we Care for You.
But do we?
Scrapping Article 35A allows me to acquire a land now, and thus make Kashmir an “Occupational Territory”, but does that promise concrete developments that we have promised Kashmir decades back? To remind you, we still can’t acquire land in Dubai or Himachal Pradesh. Or as a thought experiment, it that another way of ethnic cleansing?
6th August at the Parliament, BJP MP say, “Jawaharlal Nehru forced Article 370 on India.” Why does everything get so political when we try to tear through a solution on humanitarian grounds? Maybe, Kashmir is to us, what Palestine is to Israel.
Article 370 had to go. And the Government did it.
This bold move holds strong potential to build a better India, that I will leave it to your Optimism. The Cons are validated by the innate practicality we all live in. It’s a difficult thing to theorize and visualize both at the same time, and they will differ. Shed the thought, “Kashmir is not Ours.” We need to understand their voices, respect their dignity to win over the beautiful valley of Dreams.
The art of consent that Vajpayee had reminded us of, molded to our Nationalist Ideologies, Kashmiriyat and Insaniyat stands tall, His Jamhooriyat seems crumbling.
Souptik Datta is a student, a photojournalist, and a storyteller, who believes in bringing truth to people through new media, often in long form. He is interested in issues related to human rights, politics and the environment. When not working or studying, he likes solo-traveling.