Modi's (mis)conception on J&K

Kashmir Times. Dated: 8/10/2019 11:17:18 AM

Prime minister's conception and narrative about J&K is based on lies and lack of information on ground realities

Prime minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation about the changed orientation of Jammu and Kashmir may sound optimistic for some but is packed with ambiguities and mis-information. Modi tried to project Article 370 as the mother of all ills, lack of opportunity and development in the state. On the contrary, the Article 370 has ensured a much more equitable pattern of social and economic growth in the state as compared to rest of the country. Though, there are many lacunae, there are several aspects of the J&K's special laws are exemplary enough to seek inspiration from. J&K's Land Reforms Act of 1950s with its emphasis on land to the tillers empowered peasants including the socially oppressed classes. This has been one of the few states in the country where socio-economic disparities are not so huge and nobody dies of hunger. It has in place its reservation act that provides for quotas in educational institutions and jobs for Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribes, LoC areas and backward areas etc. Women enjoy 50 percent reservation in professional colleges. Since 1950s, education at school and college level is free in government institutions. The prime minister's contention that Minimum Wages Act does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir is only half true. The wages paid to workers in the state are much higher in J&K as compared to rest of the country which is why the state has been one of the most favourite destinations for migratory labourers, who have also benefitted from the state's free education schemes. He spoke about denial of permanent residentship to West Pakistan refugees and safai karamcharis. The sufferings of these two classes are true, though he was probably a little misinformed about the case of safai karamcharis. It is only about 200-300 families of safai karamcharis who do not enjoy this privilege. They were initially brought in 1956-57 by the state government from neighbouring Punjab, on the promise of permanently settling them here, when the local safai karamcharis went on a prolonged strike. Since then, they have been doomed to a life of uncertainty and many of them are forced to the misery of manual scavenging, a practice that has escaped the notice of the prime minister in rest of the country. The case of the safai karamacharis and the West Pakistan refugees waiting for due entitlements may be valid but could have been easily resolved with slight amendments in J&K's special laws to accommodate them and should have been done long time back.
To link terrorism to Article 370 is delusional unless the special laws for the state under Article 370 were mandating terrorism or legalising it. Terrorism is not an offshoot of special status but stems from the alienation and aspirations that are 70-year old. Insurgency began in 1989 after decades of sense of betrayal, imposed puppet governments, erosion of state's autonomy, manipulative politics and the last straw was the infamous rigging of 1987 Legislative Assembly elections. Maximum damage was done to Article 370 in early 1960s, reducing it to a hollow shell. Such severe tampering of the state's special status led to the restlessness in border districts of Rajouri-Poonch culminating in Pakistan's misadventure of training and aiding armed guerillas in the district in an operation codenamed 'Operation Gibraltar' in 1965. Repression, disillusionment and mistrust of New Delhi have remained the major causes of terrorism. The prime minister's rationale that the move will help counter corruption is also unconvincing. Though J&K is notorious for its corruption levels, this is not the only state in the country where corruption is rampant. While it is nobody's case that the Abdullahs, Muftis or anybody else are above the board, there is a due legal process in the country and has also been existing in the erstwhile state of J&K under Article 370 allowing for pressing corruption charges with evidence against politicians or anybody else followed by trials in court. However, a perception is being constructed that every Kashmir-based politician is sunk in the morass of corruption. To be fair to the Kashmir's mainstream politicians, despite all stiff public opposition from time to time and a troubled history of 70 years, it is they who have managed to keep aloft the Indian tricolour in Kashmir. As regards development, a hilly state like J&K with its rich diversity is more suited to a different development model than the prime minister envisions which appears to be based more on crass capitalistic greed. The latter will have a huge environmental impact which would be disastrous for the entire J&K.

 

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