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Revoked Articles 370 and 35A : A Betrayal of People

In a single
stroke of decisions, the Indian government has revoked Articles 370 and 35A,
bifurcated J&K into J&K and Ladakh, and reduced their status to Union
Territories. While there are questions about the legal soundness of these
decisions, their moral illegitimacy lies in the fact that none of the
stakeholders in J&K have been consulted – native people of J&K (both
current residents and those who have migrated out in the past decades), their
local community leaders and political leaders belonging to either moderate or
non-moderate ends of the ideological spectrum.

Absolutely
no one belonging to J&K was consulted or taken in confidence about the
government’s decision.

Mainstream
and moderate political leaders have been put under house arrest, all means of
communication cut, curfew imposed and massive army troops deployed in the
J&K region, since a few days before the government’s announcement of the
decision in the parliament in Delhi. This means that communication among even
the normal peace-loving people and their leaders is severely restricted, their
mobility constrained, and no news is coming out of the region.

One must ask
how would the people have taken a decision in any other part of the country if
their statehood was converted into a union territory status or with incidents
such as the earlier use of pellet guns causing grievous harm to ordinary people
including children and women? It clearly shows the discriminatory attitude of
Indian state towards people of J&K, primarily on religious basis, and at
the same time demonstrates tremendous restraint people of J&K have shown in
the face of adverse situations.

Because of a
sustained right wing propaganda even the Indian people have come to believe the
majoritarian mindset that J&K unfairly enjoys some special status. A
separate Constitution for J&K may sound obnoxious but the fact is, it is
the Constitution of J&K which says that J&K is integral part of India,
not the Indian Constitution. And what privileges can people enjoy under a long
term military like rule?

There are
other instances from around the country where people have asserted their
autonomy. Nagaland wants separate Constitution and flag. It believes in
the idea of co-existence with India without subjecting itself to Indian
Constitution.

Siddaramaiah’s
Karnataka government decided to have its own flag, the second state in the
country after J&K to do so. Rabri Devi and Mamta Banerjee, as Chief
Ministers, decided not to subject themselves to the Prime Minister of the day
and violated the protocols.

Tamil Nadu
doesn’t agree to the three language formula of national education policy
because of its opposition to imposition of Hindi.

The Article
243G of the Constitution
envisions self-rule at the Village Panchayat
level. The idea of autonomy is at the core of democracy. Rather
than opposing the special status of J&K other states should have demanded a
similar status for deepening of democracy. Then there are sovereign individuals
within the country, like the infamous Unnao MLA from UP, Kuldeep Singh Sengar,
presently in news for wrong reasons, who refuse to subject themselves to the
rule of law and the governments usually go along with them. His accomplices
have openly fired at senior police officials of the Unnao district on more
occasions than one. But that is pardonable because he has chosen to be with the
party in power.

We don’t
feel threatened by him but are quite alarmed to see the picture of a child or
woman pelting stones at security forces in Kashmir. Is the bias religiously
coloured?

All this
unilateral curbing of basic political and societal freedom of J&K people
and their leaders amounts to plain murder of democracy by the Government of
India.

The backdrop
of this draconian decision of the government constitutes the utter mishandling
of Kashmir’s situation in the past five years as well as the
mismanagement of India’s economy and employment over the past three years.
Recent worsening of both J&K’s situation and India’s economy have been
unprecedented in the past few decades. In fact, the emotional issue of J&K
is probably being used as a smokescreen to camouflage the rapid disinvestment
of public sector undertakings taking place at this time including the
corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board with Adani and Ambani being the
biggest beneficiaries of this exercise.

Number of
terrorist incidents, deaths of Indian military personnel, and overt protests by
ordinary Kashmiri people against Indian forces have risen rapidly during
2014-2019. It culminated in the imposition of President’s rule in J&K in
2018. This indicates constant mishandling of J&K’s political and social
situation by the Modi government, growing resentment among Kashmiri people, and
breakdown of communication between the central government and the people of
J&K.

A parallel
trend has been the spiraling down of India’s economy, disinvestment of
government owned firms, industrial and employment situations over the past
three years (since demonetization) that has accelerated in recent months. This
grim economic story reflects in slowing GDP, rising unemployment, rising bank
NPAs, flight of foreign investment, rising fiscal deficit, and falling
industrial outputs and consumption. Some industries, notably automobile, are
witnessing absolute drops in production by 10-30%.

In recent
days several respected industry leaders have gathered courage to openly voice
concern about India’s economy despite the prevailing environment of fear of the
present government. Experts have raised serious doubts over the economy and
employment data released by the government that remains in denial about the
economic situation. All this shows gross mismanagement of India’s economy and
banks by the Modi government.

From these
trends it appears that Modi government is once again trying to hide its
incompetency in managing India’s economy, employment and security situations by
invoking the false spectre of nationalism.Ironically, in the name of politics
of nationalism, national assets are up for sale.

The
government’s propaganda and event management are ably supported by a lot of
mainstream media and IT/social media cells of the party and its supporters.
These cells specialise in creating and spreading exaggerated as well as
blatantly fake news posts that fuel people’s irrational fears and emotions.

This kind of
nationalism is xenophobic and parasitic as it aims to pit our own people
against each other and divide them. It not only diverts our attention away from
the real problems of erosions in economy, employment, financial governance and
basic freedoms of citizens, but also degrades us culturally and morally as a
society.

It’s likely
that many of the ordinary people of J&K, including those who have been
largely democratic and peace-loving in the midst of militancy and violence
during all these decades, might now adopt hardened views against the Indian
government. It’s likely that communication will break down even more and
distrust will deepen. If the Indian government responds by increasing the
presence of armed forces in the region, many more rounds of vicious cycle might
be in store. What will this mean for the future of the people of J&K and
the rest of us?

We need to
think where we are heading.

By Rahul
Pandey and Sandeep Pandey

(Note: Rahul is academic, entrepreneur and activist, Sandeep is social-political activist)

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