On 5th August 2019, President Ram Nath Kovind issued a constitutional order revoking the 1954 order, and making all the provisions of the Indian constitution applicable to Jammu and Kashmir void. Following the resolutions passed in both the Houses of Parliament, he issued a further order on 6th August declaring all the clauses of Article 370 to be inoperative.
To me, as a layman, 15th August 1947, 26th January 1950 and 5th August 2019 are the dates of equal importance. My thoughts are without any political views and prejudices. Who did it? Which party took the decision, to me is immaterial. I have been reading about the situation in Kashmir since childhood. As the world in my youth, the people who were involved in the issue were naïve. The naivety kept the problems below the boiling point most of the times. Except for a few serious incidents, nothing major happened, till 1989. The situation started changing after the 1971 war with Pakistan. Ninety thousand plus Pakistani soldiers surrendered to the Indian army in Bangla Desh.
It was the first golden opportunity for a strong leader Indira Gandhi to repeal article 370. She could have done this change in exchange for the return of POW’s. But in those days, India’s finances were not very strong. India’s stature in the global arena was not very high. It is said that Nehru followed the doctrine of NAM (non-alignment movement) by remaining out of groups formed by the USA or Russia. The analysts of those times said that this was done to win Nobel Prize for peace! But post-1965 and 1971 wars, India realised the folly of NAM and joined hands with Russia. The fall of the Russian Empire later led to India slowly switching over to the American group. The last twenty years has made India economically powerful. Adding to this, India got a strong leadership in the form of Mr Modi.
Countries world over started looking at India as a stable country (though it was accepted reluctantly by some countries). While these changes were happening, our friends Pakistan went in reverse gear. Their leadership had only one agenda that is how to trouble India. They started with supporting the Khalistan movement. India handled the situation assiduously. International relations with other countries were handled with great aplomb. The world supported India in handling the Khalistan issue. Under the leadership of Director General K P S Gill India crushed the Khalistan movement in Punjab.
Whenever the infiltrations happened or terrorists attacked, it was being discussed until 4th August, as terrorists attacked so and so place in Jammu and Kashmir. (Some even wrote Indian occupied Kashmir) The narration always talked of Kashmir. But friends, from 5th August the narrative will be terrorists attacked so and so place in the Indian state of Kashmir! Now the attack will be on India and not on disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. The article 370 helped some nations to always refer to the region “disputed region of Kashmir”. The narrative has now changed for good; incidents, if any, will be in the Indian state of Kashmir! The events of 5th August are game-changing events.
There could be different views about the Indian government’s action on article 370. Some people feel that the procedures followed were incorrect. Others think that the move may not stand the legalities in the court of law. Some are discussing the illegality of the action itself. In today’s world, anything and everything is challenged by differing opinions and views. It is because each individual, each organisation or each country needs to decide what is right for them. Perspectives in the international arena are many a time diagonally opposite to each other’s views. Why India delayed this decision for 70 years is anybody’s guess. But I felt that India needed a leader with total clarity about world affairs to take such a bold decision. The resounding victory in recently held elections helped the matter for the current government. Though there was no majority in Rajya Sabha, the bill was first introduced there. Modi-Shah had absolute clarity that this step would be supported by even opposition parties, barring a few.
There is an attack on freedom of the press, and people’s voices are muzzled; opinion of people of Jammu and Kashmir was not taken on the matter. These comments are genuine if taken out context. The context is when 5th August dawned, the people making such comments had forgotten the previous 70 years. What had the article 370 achieved for Kashmiris?
Three main achievements of article 370 were that it helped Pakistan to create vicious separatist atmosphere and continuously send terrorists in India. It created a situation where religious cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits was done systematically. It forced India to keep a large number of armed forces permanently, leading to some coercive actions from them. From 5th August onward, point 1 and 2 will change for better but 3 might become worse before tapering off.
It was used more cunningly by Pakistan by continuing with proxy war when they could. Another issue with the Kashmir problem is hyphenation. It was always said to be Jammu-Kashmir issue. But the issue was more about four or five districts in Kashmir valley rather than in Jammu or other parts of Kashmir. Another point was Ladakh also came to be dragged because of the geography of that area.
The central government was transferring a huge sums to Jammu-Kashmir area every year. Kashmir always got the lion’s share because it cried loudly. People from Jammu had to fight for the development money but managed to get it as their population was substantial. Area of Ladakh is enormous, but since it has a small population, it always lost on funds. Ladakh’s MP Namgyal put this point succinctly during his recent speech in Lok Sabha when the discussion on article 370 took place. Declaring Ladakh as a separate Union Territory was well thought of act.
All said and done, will this be a smooth ride? No, it will not be a smooth ride. How people will react to this action only time can tell. The Indian government was managing the issue for 70 years within certain limitations. Now it can use the carrot and stick policy which could be under more control. There are such regions all over the world. The Kashmir issue was born due to the actions taken by the British rulers when they were forced to leave India. When something did not work for seventy years, it was time to at least try something different. I am sure the concerned people have come up with a well thought of policy. There must be plan B and plan C if plan A fails. But these will be under controlled conditions unless Pakistan opts for a nuclear option in desperation.
I have some thoughts about experts on these issues. For such an important issue, why some of them grind their axe with the current government? Why do they discuss such issues with prejudice? If they are totally against the action of the government, it is perfectly okay. They can write the reasons and argue why they are against this. There is no need for rhetoric and diatribe. India is a democracy, and all of us can write our views. Is such rhetorical reporting going to help anyone other than Pakistan? What Pakistan does is, from such speeches and articles, they pick up some parts out of context and try to show the world that even Indian media is against the action.
I saw one video where NSA Mr Ajit Doval is asking a young Kashmiri boy, “Are people in Kashmir happy?” Next to him was an old man who says, “Is anyone happy in Kashmir?” The irony of this video is that Mr Doval is protected by Z level security! One thing it proves is that this is not a doctored video! Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh are work in progress! How long? Only time and God can tell.