Since independence Kashmir remains a bone of contention for India. Right after the independence, Kashmir invited wars between India and Pakistan that took the life of thousands of soldiers. Kashmir made Pakistan the arch-rival of India. After the series of wars with Pakistan, a wave of insurgency came in Kashmir after 1989. This was more monstrous than a full-fledged war as in the insurgency operations it was a more challenging task to spot the enemy. Many Separatist factions emerged in Kashmir during this phase and Pakistan also started patronizing these activities by providing cross-border aid. Since 1989, thousands of Kashmiris and our soldiers have lost their lives in these insurgency movements and this letter to the invocation of the Armed Force Special Protection Act (AFSPA) in the region, which further deepened the separatist feeling in Kashmiris.
Kashmir was incorporated in Indian Union, when Raja Hari Singh signed Instrument of Accession, according to which Kashmir was given the full autonomy in all aspects except defense communication and international affairs. To facilitate these provisions article 370 was incorporated in the Indian constitution. However, these provisions were temporary and could be revoked with the prior permission of the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, this autonomy act as both boon and bane for Kashmir. On the one hand, it remains a pacifier for the separatist feeling of Kashmir and on the other hand, it Acts as a barrier in the path of development of Kashmir and also the cause of terrorism in the state.
The abrogation of Article 370 was much desired by many of the Indian people but ironically not by Kashmiris. Article 370, over the years, was diluted many times with the consent of the Kashmiri people and their elected governments. This article was the cause of asymmetrical federalism in India, so the government decided to abrogate this article. Before abrogating this article thousands of troops were sent to Jammu and Kashmir as the government was much aware of the repercussions of this unwelcome move. On August 5, 2019, the government unilaterally abrogated article 370 and article 35-A and split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two new union territories, i.e. Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
After the abrogation of article 370
The curfew was imposed throughout the state just before the proposal made in Parliament. There was internet shutdown in the whole state and prominent leaders were house arrested including former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, and many other state leaders. The choked communication system in Kashmir created panic among people and made them helpless. People were unable to contact their loved ones and family members. According to a report of the Observer Research Foundation, Core sectors of the economy of J&K have witnessed a steep decline after the abrogation of Article 370. Due to the communications blockade, curfews, and militant threats, in the past five months alone, the economy of Kashmir lost INR 178.78 billion and more than 90,000 jobs in the sectors of handicraft, tourism and information technology. The horticulture sector is also in distress, tourism is in shambles, and students are suffering because of the ongoing internet blockade. It is for the first time in the past 70 years that rural Kashmir is facing such a great degree of an economic slowdown. The apple industry in Kashmir, worth INR 80 billion which contributes eight percent of J&K’s GDP, has been worst affected. Threats from militants, coupled with the government’s severe clampdown delayed the harvest for over a month, dealing a crippling blow to the industry during the peak harvest season. By the time the government intervened and apple, produce was procured and marketed by NAFED, the damage had been done. Much before this intervention, hundreds of farmers were forced to either sell their produce at throwaway prices or just watch their produce rot. The continuing internet blockade has severely affected college and university students. College students and research scholars, for instance, have not been able to fill the online forms for competitive exams, scholarship grants, and research papers. Most of the hostels in Kashmir University are shut indefinitely. Internet access to university libraries has been disrupted, increasing the stress levels of students. Besides wasting precious time, each student has had to shell out INR 100 to 200 per online submission at dedicated offices of the government. According to the interviewer, the annulment of Article 370 has made common Kashmiris lose their trust in the pro-establishment political class of Kashmir. The respondents feel that, with this move, New Delhi has labeled all common Kashmiris as separatists.
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On International platforms also India is facing criticism, in the last few months, the United Nations Security Council has met two times for closed-door meetings on the situation in Kashmir. The US Congress has passed two house resolutions on Kashmir, condemning India’s decision. The House resolution No. 745 that was introduced in the House of Representatives last year by Indian-American representative Pramila Jayapal has gained 36 co-sponsors, 34 of whom belong to the Democratic Party and two, Republicans. This increased focus on the situation in Kashmir (from the UNSC and the US, in particular) has forced New Delhi to invite foreign diplomats and lawmakers to the Kashmir Valley on ‘fact-finding’ trips. The first one was in October 2019, when the government invited a group of European Union lawmakers to the Valley. Recently the EU Parliament passed a resolution against India on the issue of Kashmir and Citizenship Amendment Act to ensure the world that everything is normal in the valley the government invited the second group of foreign diplomats including the Ambassadors and High Commissioners to India of 15 nations was taken on an official visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
In the newly-formed Union Territory of J&K, the central government is trying to formulate new rules that will give domicile rights to residents over land and in government jobs. This has been a response to the perception that the unemployment rate in J&K is higher than the national average. Domicile rights have also been a long-standing demand of the Dogras of Jammu and the Buddhists of Ladakh. Also for the first time, the budget for a Union Territory is proposed by the Finance Commission, the government is intended to infuse more and more funds in the state, also the government is spending heavily in the infrastructure of tunnels, dams, highways in the state. The inclusion of Kashmiris in the mainland is only possible by providing them incentives in jobs, giving quality education to their children.
Also To rebuild the trust deficit and to win over the confidence of the Kashmiris, the government must rethink about the PSA (PUBLIC SAFETY ACT), under which hundreds of people were detained in the state to avoid any conflict, but the government cannot slap this act for a long time. Also, rural agricultural distress must be addressed by subsidizing farmers, loan waiver can also act as trust builders here. the government must immediately lift the internet blackout in all educational institutions. Prolonging the internet curfew any longer will only alienate the students and the youth, who are already hurt and angered at the Centre’s unilateral action. Without delay, the Centre must also announce the establishment of modern educational institutions. Also, leaders of the Kashmir must change their tendencies, if they want their rights from Indian Constitution, then they must stop propagating the Pakistani agenda. So, we can here conclude that life in Kashmir is slowly and eventually limping towards normalcy. However, the Valley stands in the midst of an uneasy calm that may explode at the slightest provocation from across the border, which India should take care of.