Off late, the security forces have been able to retrieve the situation in the Valley, substantially. The infiltration across is also down to minimal levels. In the never ending struggle in the Valley, it appeared that Kashmiris will experience a more peaceful winter. However, Article 35 A has now taken centre stage with political parties taking a strong stance and viewing its possible setting aside as a threat to the demographics of the Valley. The author analyses the related issues in the light of the Valley’s turbulent history and migration of population to and from the Valley.
MILITANCY ON THE WANE; ARTICLE 35A IN LIMELIGHT
Nothing succeeds like success. The surge in the rate of elimination of militants in the Valley is a sign of success. The government’s strategy appears to be moving in the right direction. Operation ‘All Out’ has begun paying dividends. Security forces losses have reduced considerably. Support from local population has increased, thus providing timely and accurate information. Infiltration is negligible as counter infiltration grid remains effective and cross border firing is retaliated in double measure.
The NIA has managed to isolate the Hurriyat, publicly showcasing the dirty face of its leaders including properties owned by them or their proxies, earned while ensuring hundreds lost their lives or vision while battling security forces. Their flow of funds stands exposed just as their involvement in burning of schools, thus depriving local children of education. Their standing in the valley is now on the wane and their calls for protests, ignored. As the investigation progresses, they would be facing series of cases and possibly even long jail terms. Those who always considered them as part of the solution have been forced to take a back seat.
However, locals joining ranks of militants have witnessed an increase this year. While most who joined have barely survived their first year, this is a negative trend as compared to the positives witnessed in recent times. With infiltration now reduced, they are the only ones who could swell militant ranks, though most are poorly motivated, equipped or trained. Curtailing this figure would vastly assist in reducing militancy to controllable levels.
Amid this changing environment has been a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court on Article 35A of the constitution, which confers special rights to citizens of the state. It was known that the article was discriminatory to even its own people, however it remained unchallenged. The fact that the article could be set aside by the Supreme Court, solely because it was included in the constitution without taking approval of parliament, has created such panic, that even sworn enemies like the PDP and NC, are joining hands to battle it. As the legal battle continues in the Supreme Court, political parties of the valley are priming up the locals for another round of protests. Militancy reduces; Article 35A could lead the next charge of protests and enhanced violence.
The PDP and NC have been insisting that by removing Article 35A, the Valley would witness a changed demography. Valley based political parties have even infused a religious fervour into the case, further inciting the population. The logic being projected by them is that only non-Moslem residents of the state, Kashmiri Pundits and Hindus of the Jammu belt, have demanded removal of the article, while Valley residents have asked for its continuance.
These parties represent the state, but having lost control of the plains region to the BJP, have begun ignoring it, aiming to maintain a hold over the Valley. It has within the state, opened a new battle zone between regions and religions, a dangerous trend which could blow up in the days ahead, unless deftly handled.
The reality however has been the opposite. Over the years, residents of Jammu and Ladakh, being state subjects, could have purchased property in the Valley, however there was no such movement. In fact, population flow has been in the reverse direction. Many from the Valley moved south, changing the demography of the Jammu belt. In the Valley, the only change in demography in 70 years of independence has been the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits, with the ratio changing in favour of one community.
The Article has been a hindering block in the development of the State. Restrictions imposed by the article have prevented professionals from seeking employment in essential state and central institutions and opening entrepreneur businesses in the state. Professional colleges including specialist medical colleges are without requisite faculty solely because the article places restrictions on the future of the families of those who join.
Those who come to serve in professional institutions, seek a lifetime of commitment, but are restricted as they cannot purchase property, their children denied college admission and government jobs, despite their serving the State. Hence, the select lot refuse to join. The state population continuously demands opening of AIIMS and IIM level institutes, but with professors unwilling to join due to restrictions imposed by the Article, nothing would be gained and the institutes would remain hollow shells as they presently are.
The Article treats those coming from POK as its citizens for two generations, while those who migrated during independence are not. Women who marry outside the state lose their status, while men who do so, don’t. It discriminates basic articles of the constitution including equality in status and jobs, but has remained untouched, because previous governments were unwilling to broach the subject.
For elite families holding political power in the state and the Hurriyat, which leads the charge on retaining the Article, lack of proper educational and other facilities in the state has no impact. Their kith and kin study outside and go to J&K only to join government jobs, as those studying locally remain under qualified. They undergo treatment in the best of hospitals in the nation, while the locals suffer. However, the masses are wired up on the thought of demographic change, with few sane personalities seeking to share the negative impacts of the Article.
Following the debate on social media, one observes the only protection the Article provides is maintaining demography of the Valley. There is no concern on the negative impacts on development, lack of facilities and impoverished national level institutes. In case the court appears to favour its removal, there is a strong likelihood of a fresh round of protests. The government at the centre has lost all connect with the local populace and there is no way, that false information and rumour mongering can be stopped and the reality explained.
The four ministers deputed by the state to camp in Delhi to oversee the battle in the Supreme Court, are all from the PDP, representing solely one region. The state is willing to enhance the divide, distance region from region, religion from religion, solely for political gains. Fully aware that militancy is receding, infiltration is down to a trickle, differences on Article 35A are out in the open, Pakistan has jumped into the fray. It has openly supported Valley based political parties on their stand, thus enhancing the divide within the state.
Sadly, there will always be divisive forces to ensure that peace never returns to the Valley. While militancy is being curbed, another hydra has begun raising its head. The divide this PIL may create may cause irreparable damage to the State, but then, political parties are only concerned about political power and the interests of a few individuals. They have little concern for the State and its people.
Maj Gen Harsha Kakar (Retired)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)