On 5th August 2019, PM Narendra Modi led BJP Government, through special Presidential orders made Article 370 inoperable and revoked the special status of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). It also did away with Article 35A, which gave J&K Government rights, to decide who is a permanent resident. Further, the state was bifurcated into two union territories- Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. This, without any doubt, was one of the most daring acts of using Parliament to fulfil the party’s oldest agenda (and satisfy core voters) and address one of the fundamental problems bothering this country. And rightly it was hailed as a visionary step! And Modi’s stature, which was already competing with Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s, was now rising to match Nehru’s.
It was expected that along with the development of the state, this will help the Indian Government erase the biggest blot on its administration record – Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus! Or to rephrase, Hindus who were hounded and chased out of their homes in 1990, will be returning to ancestral homes. But, nothing of that sort happened. Exiled Hindus are still very much there, where they were before 5th Aug 2019. And what’s worse, they have no plan to go back. Instead, we have the Ex-CM, Farooq Abdullah rudely reminding us that Kashmiris would not mind being ruled by Chinese. Perhaps, an indication, that an average Kashmiri is even more alienated than he was before 5th Aug 2019.
Government, on its part, has been trying to woo Pandits back to the valley through rehabilitation and economic packages. But to no avail. There seem to be no takers for these. So, what went wrong? Was the expectation, that abrogation of 370, will create conditions which will facilitate Hindus return, itself misplaced? Or Hindus themselves not interested in rehabilitating the home and hearth they claim to love so much? Or something else?
To get to the nub of the problem, pause for a moment, dig deep and reflect before passing on any judgements. Why did Hindus flee? For better career opportunities? Or it was the lure of big-time money, which took them to as distant places as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat? What does it take to understand, it was the hostile neighbourhood and mortal fear which forced them to abandon their habitats! Then why is the Government offering jobs and financial allurements? What has the Government done to quell the Jihadi hostilities on the ground?
I am sure the current Government is fully aware that there are two major dimensions to the Kashmir problem – Political/Constitutional and Demographic/Social. Abrogation of 370 only addressed the Constitutional dimension. But the needle hasn’t moved even an inch demographically. Simply put, the social conditions on the ground, which led to Pandit Exodus have not changed, if not worsened. However, can’t blame this current dispensation, as these conditions are not their making.
Those conditions were the result of the initial power struggle between Congress and National Conference (NC) in the first half of the eighties and illicit connivance between the two, in the second half. At the turn of the decade, JKLF was the de facto leader of Kashmiri Muslims and it successfully sowed the poisonous seeds of Jihad in Kashmir. Jihad, which gives the faithful the right to lay their hands on whatever the infidels (Kafir) have. Hindus were going to have a taste of Jihad very soon.
In January 1990, warnings were flashed from mosque loudspeakers, targeting Pandits. In clear terms they were given the devils alternative – either convert to Islam or get killed or leave. Pandits who were hopelessly outnumbered had no choice but to dump their belongings and leave immediately with loved ones. Three decades have passed, but justice seems far away. Now we have a strong Government, in its second term, which is committed publicly to restore Pandits their homes and pride, but it seems incapable of making this happen.
So, was abrogating 370 an error? Only played for BJP/RSS’ Far-Right Hindutva gallery? Is it not going to be helpful to facilitate Pandit’s return? Let’s examine.
When the Congress Government led by Nehru in 1949 enacted article 370, it exempted the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the constitution of India. Or, the laws which were applicable to Indians were not binding on residents of J&K. Then which laws were applicable to them? There were special laws.
For example :
- A resident of J&K(Hindu or Muslim) can buy land anywhere in India. But an Indian who’s not a resident of J&K can’t acquire property in J&K.
- A J&K woman marrying anyone who’s not a resident of J&K will lose all ancestral rights to the property etc.
- No Indian other than a resident of J&K can get a Government job in J&K.
Now tell me, you have heard a more outrageous thing than this one! J&K was a Pakistani state within India, created by Indian Constitution! When a Kashmiri Pandit, himself was at the helm!
Now that I have you, let me turn the knife a little more.
- During partition, millions of Sikhs and Hindus were displaced from Pakistan. Many of them who came into J&K were not given residential rights until today. Which means they can neither buy property in J&K nor lease a property for themselves.
A slight digression here, but worth a mention, nonetheless. That’s what the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) tries to correct. You connect the dots and understand why such heartburn amongst a section of Politicians & Press! And why riots were engineered once the law was passed.
So, Article 370 legitimized the Islamist claim, that Kashmir will be run as per diktats from Pakistan and not as per the framework laid by the Indian Constitution. Abrogation of 370 dismantles the Constitutional mechanism which allowed this sectarian discrimination. So, none should have any doubt about the political and civilisational importance of this daring step by Modi & Shah.
Yet, the fact remains that it has failed to create confidence amongst Kashmiri Hindus! To reiterate, they are not going back to Kashmir till they are sure that their security is guaranteed by the government. What’s the point in going back to the same bloodthirsty neighbourhood? Where even the police and local administration is infested with Jihadi elements!
Does this mean they have renounced the land of Abhinavgupta & Chinar for good? I don’t think so. But for that to happen this Government has to bridge the massive trust gap, which is there at the moment. And it has to travel an extra mile to address apprehensions & few demands of exiled Hindus.
In the upcoming article, we will try to spell out those demands and scrutinize the feasibility of those.