Indian Parliament’s J&K Reorganization Act 2019 will complete its first year on August 5. The Act revoked the special status of J&K along with its statehood. Instead two Union Territories of Ladakh and J&K came into being.
Reorganizing any federating unit of the Indian Union, territorially or administratively, to streamline the administration or accelerate developmental activities is provided by the Constitution of India. At several occasions in the past, the Union Government did take recourse to relevant constitutional provisions when reorganization of a federating unit was intended. Only two years ago Telangana was carved out of the State of Andhra.
Jammu and Kashmir had been granted special status in the Indian Constitution for some historical and geographical reasons. A movement for freedom from the autocratic rule of the Maharaja, and establishment of popular, secular and democratic governance had been carried on by the people of the State for more than three decades before the dawn of independence…
The partition of India in 1947 and carving a new state based on two-nation theory ran counter to the essence of the three-decade-old popular struggle in Jammu and Kashmir. The perception of a secular democratic Jammu and Kashmir was epitomized in the famous document called Naya Kashmir Manifesto adopted by the popular political party of National Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
There was indeed a small group of people in Jammu and Kashmir that sympathized with All India Muslim League during the heyday of the freedom struggle against the colonial rule. However, they had not brought the Muslim League to the State but created their parry called J&K State Muslim Conference. Since this party followed a communal agenda, it did not receive big public support and remained restricted to a small area of western Jammu region where the influence of the Muslim League was palpable.
With the partition of the country, there surfaced the difficult question of what should be the future course of action in the State. Knowing the geographical constraints and the demographic complexion of the State, the Maharaja concluded a standstill agreement with the dominion of Pakistan and offered the same to the dominion of India. He needed some time to decide the future status of his state. The ink on the standstill agreement had hardly dried up when the tribesmen from the North-West Frontier of Pakistan led a massive incursion into the State under abetment from Pakistan and routed the small rather negligible resistance from the State forces. In this critical situation, the rulers of Pakistan stonewalled Maharaja’s further negotiations with them. He signed the instrument of State’s accession to the Indian Union and forthwith received emergency military support to push back the raiders. A year later, India and Pakistan agreed on a ceasefire in J&K and the Line of Control was converted into the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) under the Shimla agreement of 1972.
The special status granted to the J&K was a temporary measure. The purpose was to give the people of the State an impression that besides being free to legislate and plan for them, the Union of India was there to extend its support in strengthening the freedom of the people in the State.
In early 1948, India approached the Security Council to ask Pakistan to vacate the part of the J&K State it had illegally occupied through sponsored trial attack. The Security Council passed two important resolutions in 1948 and 1949. The crux of these resolutions was that Pakistan should withdraw its fighting forces from the part of the State under its occupation as the first condition for holding a plebiscite in the State. Pakistan never withdrew her forces from Kashmir, rather went on increasing her military power and presence in PoK.
Three wars fought with India did not bring Pakistan an inch of Jammu and Kashmir land. Finally, having met with disappointment on all fronts Pakistan took the dangerous step of bringing terrorism and proxy war to Kashmir in 1989. She revived the old trick of whipping up religious sentiments of the people knowing that in the Kashmir Valley there is a majority of the people of Islamic faith.
For the last thirty years, Pak sponsored armed insurgency has been raging in Kashmir, consuming the lives of innocent people and destroying her economy and developmental programmers. It is the constitutional and moral duty of Indian Union to meet this grave challenge to life and property of the people of J&K and take all measure to ensure that peace is maintained in the entire region of South Asia.
In the long course of thirty years of armed insurgency in Kashmir, Pakistan-based some jihadist organizations, many of which have been designated by the UN and the American State Department, emerged as frontline activists sending in their deadly suicide bombers and terrorists who unleashed terror, mayhem, chaos and disorder in the otherwise peaceful life of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This perfidy was conceptualized by Pakistan’s late President General Zia-ul-Haq in a blueprint called Operation TOPAC.
Kashmir is a classical example for assessing the impact of a religion-based proxy war in which the masses of people are targeted for brainwashing and made enormously receptive to false and fabricated propaganda. In Kashmir a proxy war is in place fought with sophisticated weapons and remote control plus disinformation campaign with relentless persuasion. Its impact on the economy, developmental process, education of the youth, opportunities of employment, maintenance of balanced social relations and the dynamics of modern life is of grave intensity. In a democracy, such an abnormal situation puts constraints on the trust people repose in the elected leaders… Democratic dispensation in J&K came under severe strain. Developmental work came to a standstill and uncertainty and confusion became rampant among various sections of society.
In the background of this social, economic and political scenario it became unavoidable for the Union government to step in and take some far-reaching decisions about the State. There are certain constitutional obligations which the Union government is expected to fulfil. For example, providing employment and skills to the youth, addressing deficit in industrial development, redressing the suffering of hundreds of thousands of families forced to migrate under threat to life and the integrity and sovereignty of the State etc.
The Union Government brought the Kashmir scenario under close examination. The thirty-year-old stalemate had to be brought to an end. All options were discussed. Expert opinions were sought by the Union government. The J&K Reorganization Act 2019 came into being after protracted debates in both Houses of the Parliament where, ultimately the bill was passed with a massive majority vote. The conspicuous part of this exercise is that the opposition used its full power and strategy to marshal arguments against the bill but at the end of the day had to fall in line. That is where the strength of a democratic dispensation lies.
The sum and substance of this important constitutional amendment is to find a way in which peace and development of J&K will be assured. Conversion of the State into two Union territories is essentially necessitated by security and administrative compulsions. Ladakh is now a Union Territory. It will be reminded that immediately after announcing that Ladakh would henceforth be a Union Territory, a statement came from Beijing expressing concern over this development. Normally, there was no need for China to make any comment knowing that it is an internal matter of India. But its statement defines its intentions. And we can link up the recent attempt of China to destabilize peace in Eastern Ladakh to its hostile border policy with India.
In J&K, we have confirmed reports that Pakistani jihadi organizations are deputing their suicide bombers and terrorists to the training camps close to LoC from where plans are drawn for continued infiltration into Kashmir and unleashing of destructive activities in the valley. Uninterrupted violation of ceasefire of 2003 along the entire LoC by Pakistani troops, firing and shelling, all is meant to provide cover to the jihadis infiltrating clandestinely into the Indian side of Kashmir.
Additionally, we find that Pakistan is conducting a massive disinformation campaign globally to mislead and vitiate world opinion against India. While Pakistani emissaries recount fabricated and baseless stories of “atrocities on the people of Kashmir valley”, they write formal letters of appreciation to the Chinese government for suppressing the Uighur nationalist movement through blatant autocratic means. .
The J&K Reorganization Act 2019 is a remedial measure aiming at restoring the state to normalcy. Therefore, under reorganized dispensation the Union government has adopted the two-pronged policy of fighting externally sponsored terrorism and simultaneously accelerating developmental projects in the Union Territory. Today, when the Reorganization Act has been in place for one year, we have noted the there was not a single protest rally anywhere in Kashmir against the new dispensation. Innumerable schemes and programmes of development and public welfare have been floated and most of the projects almost abandoned by previous governments have been taken up for completion. The vision of developmental effort will be gauged from the fact that five new medical colleges, two IITs, dozens of degree colleges and technical institutes have been opened. Panchayat organization, considered the backbone of democratic dispensation, has been strengthened and empowered far beyond our expectations as they work at the grassroots level and thus are vital to the strength and vitality of democracy.
We are confident that very soon terrorist activities will be put an end to and the misguided youth of Kashmir will be restituted to civil life. A good and prosperous future is in store for the people of the state who have gone through an externally sponsored ordeal during the past three decades.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir)