Today marks a year since Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status and reorganised into two UTs. In one stroke, an assertive BJP claimed, a solution had been found to the Kashmir imbroglio and the stumbling block to the integration of the Valley removed. The jubilation in the rank and file came as no surprise. What did was the overwhelming sense of endorsement in the rest of the country. How Kashmir and the Kashmiris felt mattered little. And, apparently, still does not. Jammu was ecstatic, initially at least. Having read the fineprint, the apprehensions are far from muted. Ladakh felt it had gained freedom from the stranglehold of distant and uninterested administrators. The slow pace of change is testing its enthusiasm.
The non-BJP parties did show a semblance of resistance, but quickly realised the power of silence in the changed climate of burning patriotism and nationalism. Omar Abdullah has been scathing in his attack, saying he felt betrayed more by the Opposition. What deserves serious attention is his charge against the Modi government of reducing the political mainstream into an object of ridicule. Four-time legislator MY Tarigami’s argument is pertinent: ‘The continued detention of political prisoners, particularly legislators, shows that if democratic rights are not even available to the voices that speak on behalf of the Indian union, how would ordinary people even think of enjoying them?’ The only fallout of disallowing political discourse is anger, sullenness and further alienation, not integration.
Since the clampdown in the Valley last year, high-speed Internet remains out of reach. That amounts to two lockdowns, including the one induced by Covid-19, without a basic necessity. Carrying out such an exercise anywhere else in India is unimaginable. The legal challenge to the abrogation of Article 370 is still on, restoration of statehood is a popular demand. Allow voices of dissent. Dispel the notion, as a former CM feels, that all the Centre wanted to do on August 5, 2019, was to ‘punish and humiliate’ the people.