By Arun Srivastava
Undoubtedly the time when the bill scrapping Article 370 and declaring the state of Jammu and Kashmir as Union Territory was introduced in the parliament has been really a momentous occasion in the Parliamentary democracy.
For last 72 years, since India attained Independence, suggestions were made to trifurcate Jammu and Kashmir, but the political leadership of the country refused to be pressurised by any argument. It is not that they were naïve or failed to comprehend the interest of the country.
The idea of dividing Jammu and Kashmir into two or more parts is not new. Its origin could be traced to the Dixon Plan of 1950. Owen Dixon, an Australian jurist was chosen by the United Nations to mediate between India and Pakistan on the J&K issue who in his report of September 1950, suggested a package, which was eventually outright rejected by the government of the day.
Even eminent jurist A.G. Noorani in his article in Frontline of October 2002, had suggested to assign Ladakh to India and northern areas and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir to Pakistan, besides splitting Jammu between the two. He had also proposed a plebiscite in the Kashmir valley. B.R. Ambedkar had also suggested the formation of three zones: the area held by Pakistan, the Valley and Jammu-Ladakh. He had also favoured a plebiscite only in the Valley. In 1983, former President R. Venkataraman, had also floated the concept of trifurcating J&K; Ladakh as a Union Territory; Jammu as a State and the Valley as a “separate entity.” He had mentioned this in his book, My Presidential Years (1994).
In 1966 the then Home Minister G. L. Nanda had told the Rajya Sabha that the government had “no intention” of separating Jammu from Kashmir. It is not that the persons or the leaders who did not endorse trifurcation or supported the idea of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir were anti-nationals or committed any kind of historical blunder.
Interestingly this demand was also rejected by the patriarch and present margdarkshak of the BJP, L K Advani. In the wake of submission of the report of the State Autonomy Committee the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had renewed the idea of trifurcation. But in October 2000, after attending an official meeting in Srinagar, Advani the then Home Minister, rejected the RSS demand. Did he lose sight of the saffron importance of trifurcation ?
Home Minister’s assurance having many ifs and buts that the government could restore full Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir if the situation improved ought to be taken seriously. What is the guarantee that the situation in valley will improve in near future? Also government’s pledge to engage with the local population is fraught with many uncertainties.
Terrorism was cited as the primary reason for bringing in the bill. The government even held that the Article 370 allowed Pakistan to spread terrorism in J&K that has seen 41,900 deaths since 1989. “Do we still want to follow the same path that we have so far followed or should we try something new?”
But at the same time it would be utopian to comprehend that scrapping the Article 370 or trifurcating the state would ease the state of the threat of terrorism. The terrorist using the PoK to carrying out their nefarious activities from PoK would use the space merrily. Though the Home Minister asserted that the government’s decision did not impact in any way India’s claim over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and the government would continue to do so the fact remains that the latest document did not stake India’s claim on the PoK, as it used to frequently do in the past.
The decision of the government to do away with the special status to J&K and bifurcate the state into two UTs was allegedly propelled by view that people of Kashmir are living in poverty. They don’t get the benefit of reservation. The BJP government refused to accept the fact that a complete sway on Kashmir will provide it with opportunity to spread all over India. Being a Muslim dominated state, it was proving to be a stumbling path for BJP.
It is also significant to watch that the Centre’s decision on Kashmir comes at a time when the Indian economy is experiencing a slowdown coupled with large-scale loss of jobs. Notwithstanding poor financial indicators, the state was also questioning the political authority of the party. True enough rightist parties, from Hindu Mahasabha to BJP, have been demanding from the time of Independence, the abrogation of 370. The latest move comes as the fulfilment of their wishes. It will help establish a saffron government there.
With Kashmir’s autonomy already eroded, Indians can now buy property and land in Kashmir, and displace the local population as the owners of the New Kashmir. Already social media has started featuring overloaded trains moving to Kashmir with the intention to buy lands; following the process of first come first serve. No denying the fact that this would alter the demography of the state fundamentally. (IPA Service)