Kashmir's fate hangs between hope, fear

Published: Mon 5 Aug 2019, 8:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 5 Aug 2019, 10:50 PM

The Indian government's resolution to revoke the special status granted to Jammu & Kashmir is an effort to bring the state into the mainstream Indian democratic process. Administrative autonomy that was granted to the state had done more damage than good in the Narendra Modi government's view. It is indeed true that militancy and terror had disrupted governance; institutions were tottering; corruption was rampant and political dynasties governed by their own rules. What was considered a novel attempt at federal politics in a sensitive border province turned into a disaster with militancy and wars holding different administrations to ransom. It was a failure from the start in hindsight. Article 370 was doomed because the 'special status' accorded to J&K was temporary at the outset and was invoked in times of strife. Part 21 of the Constitution under which the Article falls deals with "temporary, transitional and special provisions." The spirit of the effort more than 70 years ago was snuffed out as violence soared and reached its peak in the 1980s. Simply put, Article 370 had outlived its purpose, and has now died an unnatural death. The state must be left in peace to pick up the pieces and make a new beginning after decades of strife.
Under 370, Jammu & Kashmir remained alienated from the Indian constitution and away from parliamentary oversight in most respects, except in matters of defence and foreign policy. The border state will now be split into two Union Territories, which would mean decisions taken in New Delhi would prevail in all matters of governance. Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, the two new entities, will become two among equals under one Indian constitution (J&K had its own constitution under the old act). What must be understood here is that Article 370 was made when the state acceded to India back in 1947, during foreign aggression. The Hindu King, Hari Singh, ruled over a Muslim-majority province that came under attack by foreign mercenaries back then. Pakistan also claims Kashmir as a whole, the main reason for conflicts between the two neighbours. With the scrapping of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state, the problem only gets more complicated. India wants the isssue resolved bilaterally while Pakistan is open to mediation. Now with New Delhi enforcing its writ, a diplomatic solution to the crisis remains farther than ever.

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