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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 39, New Delhi, September 14, 2019

After Abrogation of Article 370: Cutting corners won’t cut any ice

Sunday 15 September 2019

by M.A. Sofi

Following the developments on August 5, 2019 involving the revocation of Articles 370/5A and the bifurcation of the J&K State into Union Territories, Kashmiris have good reasons to contend that they have been betrayed and back-stabbed by the GOI. Not necessarily because it has been done with an eye on changing the demographic pattern of the State so that it ceases to be a Muslim-majority State but mainly because it is least likely to help restore peace and resolve the Kashmir tangle which shall continue to fester in the absence of a will to address the issue head-on.

However on the obverse side, there are equally solid grounds to argue that the abrogation of Article 370 shall serve to give a new lease of life to calls now for complete liberation of Kashmir from India while uniting the Kashmiris like never before in their struggle for freedom from what is clearly a regime of oppression and tyranny. History tells us that those who are gloating over rewriting the history of ‘New India’ through what have clearly been under-hand means involving a recourse to trick, treachery and travesty of parliamentary pro-cedure, will soon learn that they have already passed into history well before Time will have pronounced its final judgment upon them.

The question of why the abrogation of Article 370 is not going to make any difference in the attitude of Kashmiris in terms of how they look upon India as an oppressor who has forcibly occupied their land is because the first signs of fissures in the relationship between Srinagar and New Delhi were beginning to become visible early enough when the latter had started playing games by seeking to do exactly what it did on August 5, 2019–seek to dilute the disputed status of the J&K State through stealth and stratagem, involving the gradual erosion of the said Article and other provisions of the Indian Constitution as applicable to the State.

Pitting communities against each other along religious lines has been the BJP/RSS’ most favourite pastime all of these years since they tasted blood beginning with the infamous rath yatra of L.K. Advani in 1990 and continuing in that vein ever after. Much as they tried to drive a wedge between Kashmiri Muslims (KMs) and Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in the aftermath of 1989 when armed militancy had broken out in the Valley, this devious strategy was only partially successful in that the KMs refused to be taken in by the venom and vitriol poured over them by a large section of the KPs who were almost effortlessly won over by the Sanghi brigade in their tirade against Muslims.

Having been blinded by their hatred of the KMs, the KPs have gleefully allowed themselves being taken on board and pushed by their Sanghi handlers to support a vicious campaign for the abrogation of Articles 370/35A. Now that they may pretend to have succeeded in their mission to ‘teach Kashmiris a lesson’, I wish to record my worst fears involving the KPs and of the odds involving their return to the Valley and of settling down here in an atmosphere of peace and security! As opposed to the period prior to August 5, 2019 when KMs were waiting with open arms to welcome them back to the Valley, that sadly seems to be a thing of the past considering the extremely unrea-sonable and belligerent position of the KPs in respect of Article 370, resulting in what threatens to be a volte face in the attitude of KMs to the issue of KPs returning to the Valley.

It’s not that the KMs are reciprocating the bile and hatred that the KPs have reserved for KMs especially since 1989-90 when the KPs had migrated from the Valley to other parts of India. Their contention that they were hounded out of their homes by hordes of KMs by holding threats of their mass killings or of destroying their properties falls on its face when viewed in the light of certain recent developments involving an advisory that was issued by the government to all the tourists and yatris to cut short their stay in Kashmir and to head back home. This is because—as it indeed has turned out—the government was planning to unleash a reign of terror in the event of a possible revolt/resistance by the people of Kashmir against the pre-meditated abrogation of Article 370. More to the point, it is also reminiscent of the apocalyptic developments of the early nineties when KPs had left the Valley lock, stock and barrel at the instance of the then Governor as the administration was planning a major military offensive in the Valley. No wonder, the recent administrative order as referred to above involving the tourists/yatris would soon be used by Kashmir-bashers to spread the lie that they were hounded away from Kashmir by local Kashmiris, exactly like a vast majority of KPs have been brainwashed by their handlers into repeating a similar canard involving their migration from Kashmir. I have no doubt in my mind that the KPs will soon wake up to the hard reality that they have been misused, abused and exploited by their masters and that it is time that they ceased to be used as pawns by those who are out to cause the greatest damage to the nation!

BUT who exactly are these who are out there to destroy the nation? It takes no rocket science to aver that it is the breed of politicians who have done such a great disservice to this country. Right since 1947, this country has had to contend with a whole lot of politicians, in spite of some of them like Pandit Nehru who had brought laurels to this country in many ways. He surely stands apart for striving to set the country on the path of progress and prosperity and to foster scientific temper by creating a formidable infrastructure of great institutions of science and technology across the country. However all that notwithstanding, like a typical Indian politician, he did indeed succumb to the baser human instincts by playing politics of the meanest kind to further his political agenda in ways that are redolent of what we are wit-nessing right now in 2019. His handling of the Kashmir issue and the manner in which he had practised his brand of secularism did leave a big mess in Kashmir on the one hand and also led to a long regime of communal tensions in the country on the other, that manifested themselves in hundreds of communal riots having been engineered by those enjoying the blessings of the political establishment.

With the obliteration of Article 370 from the Indian Constitution and the bifurcation of the J&K State into Union Territories, Kashmir is not going to be the same again—and in more ways than one! Never ever have I witnessed such intensity of anger, anxiety, rage and pain as is visible right now on the streets of Kashmir where the bruised, brutalised people are being caged in their homes right since August 5 and without access to the essentials of everyday life. This fury and rage would only get further exacerbated into a tsunami with the continuation of the most dehumanising and life-denying treatment being meted out to the people here over these past five weeks. The realisation that the coup has been staged at a time of the year when the Valley was supposed to be at the peak of its economic activity involving its horticulture, agriculture and tourism sectors and not the least the tens of thousands of those who are in the business of marriage-related economic activity should serve to underscore the conscious plans of the policy-pundits to cripple the Valley-economy, a stratagem that is aimed at the impoverishment of the people of the Valley.

All Kashmiris think—as would all right- thinking Indians—that the enemies of peace and humanity who are now seen to double up as prophets of doom for India and the worst-ever tormentors of the people of Kashmir and other weaker sections of the society deserve to be held to account and shown the door at the hustings next time around. Having paved the way for a million mutinies in the form of an apocalyptic wave of unrest being witnessed across India, they have buried once and for all whatever little was left of the chances for peace returning to the Valley in the near future. As such, it is by no means over as long as the unresolved issue of Kashmir continues to hang fire, which can only go from strength to strength as more and more regimes of oppression are being contemplated and brought to bear upon Kashmiris. With this latest piece of ill-thought- out legislation, the last hopes for a possible rapprochement between New Delhi and Srinagar have now been razed to the ground in one fell swoop.

And this precisely because of the old dictum: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Never ever before has the import of this dictum been hammered home with such impact and ferocity and to such a devastating effect as it has now, following the audacity, the arrogance and the sheer ham-handedness with which the government has gone ahead with this latest piece of legislation involving the repeal of Article 370 on the one hand and the equally disastrous move to bifurcate the J&K State on the other.

Why this most ill-conceived move is a non-starter and why it cannot make material difference to this 70-year-long phase of turmoil in Kashmir has to be understood in the light of thefollowing facts that India is not entitled to change the status of the J&K State on its own because

1. Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute which has to be sorted out between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir through a referendum to be held under the auspices of the UN where it figures as an unresolved issue. A host of resolutions have been passed by the world body since the issue was referred to it for the first time by India in 1948 for its peaceful resolution between India and Pakistan. The removal of Article 370 has been conceived to unlawfully end the disputed nature of Kashmir.

2. In the unwelcome event of the referendum under the watch of the UN being ruled out as a practical option, the only other natural and practical way to resolve Kashmir would be through a serious and sustained dialogue between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris over the future of Kashmir! This is so because the much-touted plea that the unwillingness of both India and Pakistan to pull back their armies from the two parts of Kashmir occupied by them in 1947 —which was set as a precondition by the UN for holding the referendum in Kashmir—has sealed the fate of Kashmir to continue to remain as a de-facto part of India, doesn’t wash. After all, you cannot ignore the aspirations of 65 per cent of the State’s population who are completely against the idea of J&K being part of India, unless the same is formalised through the instrument of plebiscite—or dialogue. All other means of seeking to settle the issue ‘once and for all’ are doomed to fail and to remain legally and constitutionally infructuous.

More ominously, the real intentions of the GOI behind the abrogation of Article 370 are informed by low-level politics which is to pave the way for engineering a demographic change in the J&K State by seeking to insidiously settle hordes of non-Kashmiris in the Jammu and Kashmir regions as an ‘investment in future’ by way of using that to its advantage in the event of a referendum that may become inevitable for a final resolution of the K-issue down the line. Also, alongside the abrogation of Article 370, the bifurcation of the State into Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir as Union Territories is designed precisely to disempower the people of Jammu and Kashmir in every conceivable way.

That having been said, there remains no doubt in my mind that in spite of how all the hell that has been broken loose in Kashmir and across the length and breadth of India especially by those who are at the helm of affairs right now, the ‘real India’ deserves to be saved from further damage at the hands of these thugs who are stopping at nothing to push India back to the primitive age. Not the India of today which is being ruled by those who are out to destroy its syncretic/scientific/plural culture, but to salvage the truly great India of a vast majority of right-thinking Indians com-prising the teeming millions of simple, innocent, toiling hardworking common men and women, a vast pool of its intelligentsia, its intellectuals, thinkers, writers, scientists and great industrial-philanthropists. It is the India of these great Indians that I would still love to see emerge where the rule o f law, j ustice and human dignity prevailed and where the recourse to the use of force and violence as an instrument of its state policy—as is being done in Kashmir—was allowed to yield space to grievance-redressal through dialogue, debate and discussion. This is my voice as it is the voice of all Kashmiris who hold nothing against the people of India, save against the policy of repression against them and other vulnerable sections of Indians by the state through those who wish to propagate, promote and pursue an archaic and antediluvian view of India that simply would not survive for long!

Prof M.A. Sofi belongs to the Central University of Kashmir, Srinagar

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