Kashmir: Assert authority, maintain peace
Delhi should be vigilant, but avoid disruption in KashmirUpdated: Jul 31, 2019 20:23 IST
The past week has seen a sudden spurt in activity in Jammu and Kashmir. National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, visited the state. The Centre deployed additional paramilitary forces. There are reports of possible threats in the run up to August 15. The Centre, in line with its decision to empower the third tier of government in the state, has also decided to encourage each panchayat to hoist the Indian flag on Independence Day. There have been rumours that New Delhi will revoke Article 35A, which gives a degree of autonomy to the state by prioritising permanent residents. And the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has stepped up internal deliberations for the assembly elections.
Three trends can be clearly discerned. The first is the movement towards elections, which could be held by the end of the year. This is welcome news. The state has been under Governor’s Rule for over a year now; a democratically elected government will help channel aspirations; and this will create space for both existing mainstream actors and newer players. The second trend is the firm desire of the Indian State to stamp its authority in the Valley. Home minister Amit Shah’s statements; Mr Doval’s visit; the mobilisation of troops; the anti-corruption investigations, which could implicate many mainstream and separatist leaders; a crackdown on militants; and the determination to have the Indian flag up across the state indicate that Delhi is in no mood to tolerate any activity that undermines the integrity of the state. This, too, is long due, but there must be no political vendetta or security excesses.
The final trend is a move towards a renegotiation of the contract that exists between the Union and Kashmir. The BJP believes that problems in the state have arisen because it has not been fully integrated into India and, therefore, provisions which guarantee it special status must be reworked. This, however, calls for pause and reflection. Kashmir’s accession to India happened under unique circumstances. As the historian, Srinath Raghavan, has argued, both Article 370 and 35A are a product of this legacy. This is not to suggest they are set in stone. And they were indeed temporary provisions. But any moves to rework the letter and spirit of the provisions must happen after due consultations with Kashmiri political forces, especially the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, which have stood by the Indian Constitution in difficult times. Delhi must assert authority, but avoid disruption.
First Published: Jul 31, 2019 20:06 IST