Satwant Singh Rissam
Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led Union Government has finally abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian constitution after getting the approval from the President of India on Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill 2019. No one had ever imagined that such a thing would happen and that also in the most dramatic manner. Even though the Parliament witnessed heated exchange between the Union Home Minister and several leaders of the opposition yet the bill got passed from both houses of the Parliament. BJP very cleverly got this bill passed in Rajya Sabha even when they don’t enjoy majority in that house. The manner in which this was planned; nobody could have stopped the Government from scrapping the special status and bifurcation of the State.
The state now has been bifurcated into 2 Union Territories i.e. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh which will come into existence on October 31, 2019. Although the long-standing demand of Ladakh for Union Territory is now fulfilled but people in Jammu feel that Union Territory for Jammu and Kashmir is a demotion under the constitutional status. Inspite of the fact that the Union Government has stated that once the situation normalizes in Jammu and Kashmir, the statehood will be granted. Nevertheless in prevailing circumstances statehood for Jammu and Kashmir doesn’t appear near and I think this statement on statehood may give rise to another agitation in Jammu after some years.
The West Pakistani refugees, the members of the Valmiki community and Gorkhas in Jammu and Kashmir who were denied citizenship in the state because of Articles 370 and 35A have now become permanent residents. In addition to it, now the children of the daughters of Jammu and Kashmir married outside the state with non-residents will have the rights to inherit their mothers properties located in Jammu and Kashmir. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir would be now governed directly by New Delhi and that also under the Indian constitution. In total, we can see that the BJP Government has created history. Despite the fact that Article 370 was never intended to be permanent but the way it has been changed has created doubt in the minds of some people of Jammu and Kashmir especially in Kashmir. Ladakh too is clearly divided after removal of the special status because many people living in Kargil have started protesting against this decision. Revisiting the Indian constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir was not purely domestic and many international disputes with Pakistan and China could now fell flat. If something like that happens then it appears that Jammu and Kashmir will now get more internationalized once these countries start interfering in these areas.
We all need to stay optimistic but also let’s not forget that implementation of new situation on ground won’t be so easy in Kashmir. The Central Government has to reach out to people in Kashmir in more effective manner or the country could witness spike in violence and protests once people in Kashmir come out of the ongoing lock down. It is likely that new wave of militancy can also emerge if only the pressure mechanism is applied in Kashmir. Presenting a new narrative for Jammu and Kashmir actually is not as easy as it is now being projected out of the Parliament. Article 370 was projected as a blot on history and was believed to have led to isolation of the state. At this moment, when this article is now part of the history still no one can assure whether normalcy will return to Jammu and Kashmir.
On the other hand, if the issue of investment by private sector was just related to militancy then why didn’t Government invest in Kashmir on large scale? The problem wasn’t just militancy but also lack of many other things like connectivity of road and train. So now onwards Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will surely witness new changes in the security dynamics. BJP has played its last hand on this issue and left all political parties in confusion and despair. The new political ramifications will rise and could bring out many problems which if not answered positively, will create bigger worry in the coming times. The country is at crossroads because of the constitutional changes brought suddenly and it has left us all on a new territory.
Satwant Singh Rissam