31st October 2019 has been a monumental day in the history of J&K. This day will be remembered for splitting of the State of J&K into 2 Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. Article 370 and Article 35 A were abrogated and UTs came into existence. The State of Jammu and Kashmir has always been known for disturbance, turmoil, dispute, terrorism, and unrest. The span of the last 30 years further tarnished the image of the state – obviously for a reason. All J&K could become is the largest exchequer to the Government of India.
It is interesting to note that while the financial support was offered by Govt. of India through all these years post Independence, the question has been on Kashmir being an integral part of India or not! It has been 72 years since 26 October 1947, when the Instrument of Accession was signed by the then erstwhile king Maharaja Hari Singh of the princely estate. Unfortunately, the Instrument of Accession and existence of Article 370 and 35A as a special provision have been projected in the utmost confusion and surrounding anxiety.
Nobody will ever tell that Kashmiri is an ethnicity under the garb of which both Muslims and Hindus stayed together for centuries. Nobody will ever tell the public that Instrument of Accession was not forced upon. And nobody will ever mention that as per the Constitution, Article 370 was a temporary provision between the princely estate and Dominion of India. It had to go. Nobody ever talks about the scope of development that could be brought to Kashmir in all those years. It has been never discussed on an open platform, the ways to provide the best healthcare, education and civic amenities to the people of Kashmir – the way terrorism and politics has been displayed and used to arm twist the destiny of the people of Kashmir.
From Abdullahs, Muftis, Lone to the separatist groups – all of them have been engaged in ensuring their seat of power and fulfilling their vested interests. Whatever it takes to stick to the throne – misrepresenting the situation of kashmir on the national and international platform, letting brethren kill each other, or using all means to fabricate false stories to the people of Kashmir against India. While they themselves engaged in Delhi to maintain their position and power, what they did back in the valley is to instigate ire among the local folks against the Indian subcontinent. They spoke two different ways to suit their interest. It is pitiful. That is all I can say.
But today when both these articles of special provision stand vanquished, there is a plethora of opportunities that lay ahead. And this comes at a time when both Srinagar and Jammu are in the list of proposed Smart Cities Mission of Govt. of India. The laying of metro in the cities connecting various other towns of both the provinces can up the connectivity and mobility of people. Welcoming the industries and IT companies to Jammu, making Srinagar the tourist capital of the world, one-window service to the people for all Government related document services, ensuring proper sewage and disposal system – there is a lot we can do to tell the world that “Yes, these articles stood in between the path of development as hurdles.” All of this has been long delayed to be delivered to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.These developments and changes in themselves will be real testament to the people of Jammu and Kashmir about the trust they can lay in Govt. of India.
The Story of Kashmir has been camouflaged by the so called torchbearers of Kashmir. But it is time we change the narrative. The question today should not be where Kashmir belongs to, the question today has to be “How to flourish Kashmir”. We have enough lived with this tormency of hearing Kashmir to be an unsafe haven for any and all kind of visitors. It has to change.
The Accession to Abrogation has been one long journey full of despair, loss of lives and peace. There has been confusion all around. One loss has led to another loss and formed a vicious circle. Until and unless we put water over troubled times and absorb ourselves in the glorious past of Kashmir, it will always be tough to start afresh. While all of our elders and previous generations have been a part of the movement in one way or the other, the real tribute to all of them will be that people of Jammu and Kashmir decided to choose peace over war, development over politics, unity over anything else. What remains to be seen is how the carving of UTs can accelerate the process!
(The writer is an alumnus of IIM Shillong and mentor of change with AIM, Niti Aayog)