Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is purportedly the most weighted article on which the accession of erstwhile Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir took place to India. Indian-administered J&K retained certain provisions for those that it defined as “permanent residents”, effectively denying outsiders from buying property, holding government jobs, or enrolling in government colleges in the state. The 5th August 2019 measures in Kashmir were a watershed event in the region’s history. The special status of the region granted through Article 370 was abrogated through a Presidential Order, which also went on to bifurcate the J&K state into two union territories.
Three years after the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the constitution, J&K is witnessing progress at a fast pace which was long due for the people of the valley and this development is multidirectional, addressing all the key sectors which will boost local economy and make J&K independent. J&K Govt has adopted a planned approach on developing a network of roads and highways also which will directly influence other key development sectors in the valley and help them come at par with the other states of India.
Article 370 was exploited by the ruling elite for the non-participation of the common man in the governance structures. The new projects of the Government of India revolving around empowerment, investment and development (EID) has brought the people together in rural Kashmir, Gujjars and Bakarwals, Paharis, Kupwara, Handwara, Gurez and most of the Jammu region. In case of South Kashmir, Jamaat-e-Islami has been influential in Kulgam, Tral, Pulwama, Bijbehara, Anantnag, Kokernag, Doru and Pahalgam and that gets reflected in the different day-to-day incidents of violence.
The very foundation of Kashmiriyat collapsed as a courtesy of targeted violence and forced mass departure of the entire indigenous minority community of Kashmiri Pandits in January 1990 and thereafter, the Pandits continue to live in exile, away from their homes, since the past 30 years now. The abrogation of the special status of J&K could be another important turning point in the exiled history of Kashmiri pandits. The events that unfolded in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370, could have a lasting impact on any possibility of their return to Kashmir. The benefits of the merger of J&K with the Union of India have started to encourage the people to invest in Jammu and Kashmir. After the abrogation of Article 370, the J&K government received investment proposals worth Rs.150 billion from around 40 companies from sectors like IT, Defence, Tourism, Education, Hospitality and Infrastructure.
The abrogation of Article 370 once again brought the think tanks, political pundits NGOs, human rights groups, media etc. to the fore, with the local political class propagating “soft separatism”. The problem is compounded because the “political family fiefdom has taken deep roots in Kashmir and this political kinship survives in the conflict, with both the separatist and mainstream political elites cashing out on the conflict”. So, the challenge for the Government of India is to make peace more profitable for these political elites than the conflict.
A noticeable feature of post 370 abrogation has been the dominance of permanent bureaucracy over the administration of the newly born UT. In the absence of a political dispensation, the bureaucracy replaces and represents political establishments. The government of India should be conscious of the historical truth that maltreatment of Kashmiris at certain crucial junctures in the past only helped Pakistan and its stooges in radicalizing Kashmir, basically feeding the Kashmiri minds with anti-India fodder. The larger truth, however, is that winning over the ‘heart and minds of Kashmiris’ the nation suffered huge setbacks at many crucial junctures.
Though the government of India tried hard to contain the international fall out of the abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir remained, and continues to remain, in the focus internationally. Barring three countries, viz. China, Turkey and Malaysia, the rest of the world is concerned about the human rights situation in Kashmir. The clampdown, blockade of mobile and internet services and crackdown on the political class in Kashmir are the areas of focus for the people in the world and India has invited the wrath of the western media on these issues.
India’s peaceful abrogation of Article370 was a major geopolitical shocker and an intelligence failure for Pakistan. In one stroke, India completely collapsed Pakistan’s complex and well-designed structure of militancy. Contrary to expectations when there was no widespread backlash against it, the ISI-masterminds pressurized the local terrorist organisations and Islamist groups to execute a large-scale terror attack or orchestrate a massive civil uprising. However, when they failed, clueless and perplexed Pakistan made drastic strategic and tactical changes in running Kashmir’s militancy to gain its lost ground.
The Kashmiri and Pakistani diaspora got emboldened by the western media reportage on Kashmir after the 5th August events. Realising that Kashmiri separatists will be exposed to central security forces and laws, and its terror industry built in the Kashmir over the decades will crumble, Pakistan has shifted its focus to the diaspora. Pakistan’s targets for information warfare are different for each type of narrative. For religious agenda, it is targeting people of the Kashmir valley, people of Pakistan, terror groups, and Muslim diaspora, the global community of Muslims. Simultaneously, it is mobilizing Khalistan sympathizers to exploit the alleged suppression of minorities under Hindu regime.
Addressing the prime cause of terrorism, the terrorist activities have reduced considerably since 2019, and this reflects the positive side of the abrogation of Article 370 and co-ordination between the central and state Govt. In the five years that preceded Delhi’s historic decision, Indian security forces had launched an aggressive drive against militancy and neutralized a record number of militants, the majority of whom were untrained locals, primarily motivated by religious factors rather than the secular separatist ideology.
Along with India’s kinetic approach against militancy, its systematic and organised crackdown on the terror-financing network and radical Islamist organisations also ruptured militancy’s infrastructure. In this domain, in particular, certain measures such as ban on the Line of Control (LoC) trade, reportedly one of the major sources of terror financing employed for smuggling cash, narcotics, and weapons, in the valley, National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) offensive against Hawala operators and separatist leadership, and the Ministry of Home Affairs’(MHA) ban on Jamaat-i-Islami, the central feeder organisation to terrorist groups, acted effectively. All these measures were immensely helpful in maintaining peace for almost a year-and-a-half in Kashmir after repealing its special status.
Since Article 370 is now a thing of the past, new challenges have come up for the government, like, upliftment of marginalized sect of people, bringing people together through confidence building measures, de-radicalization and regaining the faith of people in the government. Government of India now needs to pay special attention towards aggrieved communities like Gujjars, Bakarwals, Shias, Paharis, Kashmiri Pandits, POK/West Pak refugees and Valmikis etc in order to uproot the well-entrenched soft separatism and start from grassroot level to establish institutions of growth. All those involved in separatist narrative need to be exposed and the nexus of separatists, hawala operators, corrupt businessman contractors, political leaders, media academics and NGOs need to be dismantled, who have been the root cause of violence in the valley.