Sovereign Kashmir, a ballad of the bewildered

Col J P Singh
Ever since I remember, Kashmir is sovereign in J&K. J&K had four Kashmiri Muslim prime ministers. It never had a Kashmiri/Dogra Hindu or Ladakhi head of the govt. J&K has own flag and a constitution of its own. Except for Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications, the state is already semi-sovereign. This semi-sovereignty is granted by Article 370 of the Constitution. I have seen Kashmiri rulers misusing this article to blackmail the nation and suppress other regions. ‘Ek Desh, Do Nishan, Do Vidhan’ is not a healthy situation for good Centre-State relations. Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, both former chief ministers of J&K are trying to make the best of the bad situation arising out of Article 370. Omar has said that whether the Articles 370 and 35 A stay or not, the state will revert to its sovereign status with its own Sadar-e-Riayast and the Prime Minister. The very idea and a call for a sub-continental sovereign Kashmir is rather intriguing. Mehbooba Mufti is not far behind Omar in thundering that constitutional guarantees of 370 and 35 A are the only safeguards to their survival in India. She has threatened that removal of these offending articles would end the original accession by the Maharajah and turn J&K into another Palestine. The reference to Palestine in her statement is attributed to the unprecedented insurgency in the valley and proves the fact that PDP is born from the womb of militancy. It is no secret that Kashmir valley is distraught with separatism, radicalisation and terrorism. Kashmir is burning since nineties. Who is responsible for it. It is the main stream politicians who say that if these articles are abrogated there will be no soul left in Kashmir soil to pick up Indian flag and there will be mass destruction. Mehbooba has threatened to create havoc in the country. Hence the threats that if Articles 370 and 35 A are touched, Kashmir will burn is worrying. These people are out-rightly challenging constitutional authorities. They couldn’t have done it if there were no 370 and 35 A. They couldn’t have said so if militancy wasn’t at its peak and hadn’t have support from Pakistan. Hence the root cause of Kashmir problem is Articles 370 and 35 A and at the root of their threats is Pak supported militancy. More they shout, more their ballads are exposed.
Kashmir is India’s Achilles heel ever since accession. At the root of Kashmir dispute is Article 370. The irksome stands by both the former chief ministers are a direct and serious challenge to the Indian State inciting it to act strongly against the very thing they are protesting against. Such is their notion. But even the remotest rationale for a sovereign/semi-sovereign Kashmir is null and void for good is my notion because J&K is an integral part of India. No power on this earth can separate it. Moreover Nehru era is long gone past. They seem to have completely misread the reality. They actually think Delhi can be coerced and compelled to simply hand over the state to them and leave it to their mercy because it has Article 370. They are too naïve to think that there is none in the Indian political landscape who will run a steamroller over these Articles. Congress may be pliable in becoming a party to its spinning away into a sovereign orbit as is seen from its election manifesto but the current BJP leadership and the very authority they are challenging can cause their downfall and political death. The idea of current BJP leadership of doing away with Articles 370 and 35 A for full integration of J&K into Indian Union has become their Achilles heel. Now wait and watch!
Looking at the genesis of trouble, both the offending articles are the creation of congress led by Kashmir lover Pt. Nehru, the first prime minster of India who was from Kashmiri lineage. He took the Kashmir dispute to the UN, internationalized it and landed the nation into a bad situation which Kashmiri politicians are exploiting to their best advantage time and again. How long can India have a Constitutional mandate to allow secessionist activities in the valley uninterrupted, which is what Articles 35 A and 370 are allowing and at the same breath blame Pakistan for exploiting sentiments of separateness fueled by these Articles; or let the Kashmiri leadership keep the secessionist tinder box conflagrated. There has to be an end to the ballads of the bewildered.
72 years of blackmail has got the nation to a stage where Kashmiri leaders, who have grown rich and prosperous with the Indian Rupee, think they are doing India a favour by being Indian. Any talk of secession, sovereignty/semi-sovereignty status or self rule; all meaning separation from the Union is being tolerated somehow. Otherwise such notions would draw death penalty if harbored in neighboring Pakistan or China. Let me remind them that coerced by your threats, should the Articles be done away with, any such talk of secession will automatically be treasonous and dealt with legally to their utter peril.
Lot of blood has spilled over the soil of Kashmir. Time and opportunity; both have nearly come for a final solution to the Kashmir problem by getting rid of, by any and every means, both these Articles from the Constitution of India and simultaneously changing the demographic balance of the state. Removal of Article 35 A will automatically open up J&K to other citizens and outsiders. The sale of properties to other Indians will steadily increase the flow of people from rest of the country. In the same vein, the state’s economy will grow many fold. Employment opportunities will increase. Integration of the state will strengthen. Insurgency will certainly die down when enabling Articles are scrapped even though it may take a little longer. Under such circumstances, use of Security Forces for deep penetration of Kashmir society for neutralizing the local militants will be the answer for which there is a need for strengthening Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) by removing all loopholes that permit the questioning by civilian entities of any armed forces actions, thereby enabling frontline troops doing their duty successfully with utmost and absolute legal sanction and protection which means strengthening AFSPA. Army’s much criticized operation ‘Clean Out’ has helped curb terrorism in the valley. Army must pursue it relentlessly and enable the next govt at the centre to take an undeterred call on 370 and 35 A.
A word about AFSPA which currently is selling like hot potatoes because of Congress election manifesto. It is a law which protects all military men carrying out their duties in the disturbed areas, including the shooting of terrorists, secessionists and rioters in J&K. It is being challenged by the very politicians who are challenging accession is understandable but being challenged by Congress is intriguing. In its election manifesto, Congress has promised to water down the AFSPA little realising that making this law toothless by imposing more layers of civilian control, will not only raise legal risks faced by security personnel but also expose them to the perils of shoot and scoot by urban militants. Congress public posturing that AFSPA needs to be reviewed leaves one with a woeful feeling because such notion will demoralize the forces and allow militants to re-group and carry on violence with renewed energy. No soldier can lay down his life for the nation that is desperately looking to prove that he is a criminal. Kashmir will survive only when fiercely guarded by the army. If India needs its armed forces, it should make them confident that nation is standing behind them, wanting them to succeed not fail irrespective of the ballads of the bewildered.