Dynast politics has an expiry date. Once, the surname Gandhi made you a genuine heavyweight, but with Rahul Gandhi losing Amethi, a family bastion, that’s gone. After Bal Thackeray’s demise, Uddhav Thackeray, as we have seen recently, could not keep the party together, just by virtue of being a Thackeray. The Akali Dal, initially created to democratise the Gurdwaras in conjunction with the struggle against British colonialism, when reduced to a Badal family enterprise allowing Punjab to become a dope haven, is now quite discredited.
The pattern could repeat itself in J&K too, with the Abdullahs and Muftis feeling threatened that their game could be up. Thus, their rallying point has become the restoration of Article 370. But as a Kashmiri myself, I ask the youth of the Valley — how will reviving that dead letter help?
It is quite funny to see some people argue that militancy and stone-pelting have not completely ended because of the abrogation, as if the abrogation was expected to solve all problems overnight or was in itself a complete solution to all problems in the Valley!
The struggles of the security forces and intelligence agencies at counter-terror, assisted by many local Kashmiri Muslims, were on and will continue for some time, as they have in places like Punjab, Mizoram and Tripura, which are now largely peaceful. Yes, as of date in Kashmir, those associated with mainstream, non-separatist democratic politics continue to be targeted, and the killings of some Kashmiri Pandits, still living in the Valley, in 2021 and 2022 were tragic. However, how is the abrogation responsible for them when this pattern existed even earlier?
In fact, thankfully, at least thus far, we’ve not seen stone-pelters take the entire Valley hostage to their violent antics, as we saw on several occasions before the abrogation. These young men with misplaced passion not only hold regular movement of other Kashmiris and the Kashmiri economy hostage, but put their own lives at risk, achieving nothing for anyone.
Indeed, what the abrogation has helped achieve is that Kashmiris will not be seen as “appeased” and privileged by mainland Indians anymore. The abrogation has helped J&K-ite women married to non-J&Kite men get a due share of their family property and Valmiki Dalits and other Hindus and Sikhs migrating from PoK to get Indian citizenship — something the Abdullahs, Muftis and Ghulam Nabi Azads didn’t bother about in decades.
From the Right to Education Act to the Forest Rights Act (the latter will help Gujjar and Bakarwal tribals of J&K) to central statutory schemes becoming directly applicable, good laws passed for the whole country are no longer non-applicable to J&K.
As an active politician seeking to serve people on the ground in J&K, the absence of the Right to Education Act in J&K thus far reminds me of an incident of a school in Poonch region denying admission to certain students, in which the students had to stage protests and finally, the school relented after pressure from the district authorities. Now, children can approach the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
Other than protection of rights of access to forest land and forest produce, various initiatives for the employment, education and general welfare of the traditionally nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal tribals are being taken by the Narendra Modi sarkar. If the Abdullahs and Muftis argue that these initiatives could have happened prior to the abrogation and good pan-national laws could have been enacted in J&K as well, they have none but themselves to blame for doing so.
In fact, these two legislations were enacted in the UPA, during which not only Congress ally National Conference but, from November 2, 2005, to July 11, 2008, the Congress itself — in a standalone fashion — was in power in J&K. However, it did not empower the people of J&K the way it empowered other Indians, and can squarely be accused of bias!
On the other hand, the Modi-led BJP, in its ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwaas’ mode, has accelerated welfare schemes and infrastructure development with new tunnels in J&K, and the party has been very particular to act against those hate-mongering against Kashmiri Muslims. When an eight-year-old girl was brutally raped in Kathua, the Modi-led BJP dropped two ministers who had gone berserk in defending the perpetrators, put the case on fast-track and ensured the diabolic extremists involved were booked.
Indeed, many Kashmiri Muslims live and work alongside other Indians across mainland India without any major problems, some even excelling professionally. In fact, if the Modi sarkar’s track record in Northeast India is something to go by, AFSPA and heavy military presence could go from Kashmir too if we, the Kashmiris, prioritise peace and development and give up on pelting stones at jawans posted here from poor families across India who have helped us even in times of natural disasters.
Islam is about peacefully submitting to the divine will, not shedding blood of fellow human beings over imposing your arguable version of Islamic law, when sharia or a legal system is not even one of the explicitly stated five pillars of Islam that define being a devout Muslim, and devout Muslims contributing to nation-building, like Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, have won much affection from Indians across religious lines.
And if many fellow Kashmiri Muslims are genuinely irked by generalised anti-Muslim misinformation on social media, they should remember that charity begins at home and would do well to first rebut the blatant lie that Kashmiri Pandits left their nice homes to settle in shoddy tents just to malign Kashmiri Muslims. If you want to check communal polarization, start off by encouraging Kashmiri Pandits, who are undoubtedly genuine victims of terror in the name of Islam, to resettle in Kashmir on their own terms, even if in separate colonies if they so desire, rather than engaging in the hypocrisy of asking for a separate country for yourselves but denying fellow Kashmiris separate colonies!
The abrogation signaled that the people of the Kashmir Valley have no avenues available to them, except to be a part of the India story. Despite all challenges, unlike Pakistan, Afghanistan, most Middle Eastern and North African countries, Myanmar or Sri Lanka, India remained a stable, secular democracy which is still among the fastest growing economies globally.
Given these facts, integrating at every level with India is really not a bad idea, no, fellow Kashmiris?
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