Members of Gujjar community celebrating abrogation of Article 370 at BJP office Trikuta Nagar
Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A finally promises to bring equality and justice to the poor and downtrodden people of Kashmir and to put an end to corruption, injustice, and nepotism in the State
With 370 rendered ineffective, 35A consigned to the flames and a separate constitution for the State becoming part of history, every citizen of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) will now lead a life of equality, honour and prestige. Ratan Sharda, an eminent freelance columnist, author and editor refers to them as “unseen orphans of partition.” Regrettably, politicians with a vested interest in the status quo are not happy with the newly achieved freedom by the so-far neglected sections of the society and hence are busy misleading the people through motivated and provocative statements. Their attitude has added salt to the wounds and hurt the pride of the hapless West Pakistan refugees, Gurkhas and Valmikis who number almost three to four lakh and have lived a life of humiliation and inequality for generations. Now they will be citizens of a free India after 72 years of independence. They have been the victim of the worst form of human rights abuse without much hue and cry by the numerous human rights organisations. They have suffered in silence under Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the only political organisation which not only shared their grief but also promised them justice one day. Now that the justice has been delivered, those who exploited them as a mere vote bank till now rather than explaining the positive aspects of the bold and historic decision of the Modi government are trying to spread negative propaganda and create an atmosphere of fear and despair.
Every citizen will now enjoy similar benefits and privileges and none will be treated as “second class” citizen because of not being a permanent resident due to anarchic, farcical and discriminatory practice that prevailed in the State. They will now be able to participate in the panchayat, local bodies and assembly elections, own, buy and sell properties, apply for government jobs, enjoy benefits of the reservations in jobs and academic institutions. Their children will be like the other children and enjoy the same benefits like them. They will be able to contest elections and represent their people in various democratic fora. Unfortunately, a majority of them also belonged to SC/ST groups and were denied benefits so far. They will now enjoy the benefits of all the concessions and privileges to which members of these communities are entitled across the country. Political reservation for the STs will arm the so far neglected ST community with political empowerment. All citizens will also be now governed by the Constitution of India, which guarantees Fundamental Rights and Duties which were conspicuous by their absence from the Constitution of J&K. The National Minority Commission will now have jurisdiction over the state. Right to Education, Right to Information, Prevention of Misuse of Religious Places Acts will now be applicable and will act as game changers as far as ease of living and quality of life is concerned. Anand Marriage Act 1951, a long pending demand of the Sikh community will also be applicable now.
The State will be bifurcated into two distinct administrative units namely Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K UT) and Union Territory of Ladakh (Ladakh UT) with effect from 31st October 2019. This will bring to end an era of blatant regional discrimination which had subjugated the people of Jammu & Ladakh regions. Not only this, it is the best bet possible for checkmating the growing menace of radicalisation. With police under central control, those claiming to be in mainstream politics will no longer be able to harbour a soft or ambiguous approach towards separatism and militancy amounting to running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.
The gender discrimination will no more exist and all daughters of the soil will be treated equally. Earlier the local daughters who married non-permanent residents could enjoy her existing property in the State but could not will to her inheritors because her family lost the right to inheritance. But now not only she but her husband as long as he is an Indian citizen will enjoy full rights over her property in the State as well as the children will be able to inherit the same. No Pakistani or any foreigner will be able to obtain Indian citizenship merely by marrying a Kashmiri. In other words, the State will witness the end of cronyism, favouritism and nepotism with equality and justice being the new buzzwords.
It is a travesty of history that the present government is being blamed for “murder of democracy.” How can one forget 1951 when Sheikh Abdullah played the biggest constitutional fraud with the people of J&K by composing a Constituent Assembly without any member from the opposition? The nomination papers of all candidates not belonging to National Conference, Abdullah’s party, were rejected on flimsy grounds and were declared ineligible to contest. To protest against this authoritarian attitude of Sheikh Praja Parishad, the only major opposition party, decided to boycott the elections. The same Constituent Assembly went on to frame a Constitution for the State that catered to the aspirations and interests of a particular region only thus granting constitutional validity to regional discrimination and scuttling the aspirations and hopes of the 2/3rd of the State. Now that the days of discrimination and partiality are over and the citizens are seeing a new ray of hope, the vested interests who have been the beneficiaries of restrictive and discriminatory provisions of the state constitution are busy issuing statements critical of the government in order to create unrest and disturb law and order.
Under the garb of 370 and 35A, these leaders have amassed huge personal wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. Many of them already are facing charges of corruption and misuse of public funds against them. In order to keep themselves immune, anti-corruption laws passed by the Indian Parliament were not made applicable to the State of J&K. Now laws like anti-money laundering, black money, the prohibition of Benami transactions will be applicable and ease the process of dealing with the corrupt and hawala operators. A sense of insecurity haunts them due to the ongoing war on corruption unleashed by the present administration. The people now are much more aware and conscious and hence are unlikely to fall prey to their machinations. People will hold them accountable for their sins and misdeeds if everything is normal and hence their attempt to create chaos through a planned disinformation campaign based on presumptions like loss of identity, land and jobs. To achieve their sinister aim they are also resorting to rumour-mongering and fake news. A disturbed environment rather than peace suits them well. Their attempt to scare the people is misplaced.
The allegation that reorganisation of the State is a blow to Dogra identity and pride is full of duplicity and dichotomy. The very people who, through a deliberate misuse of administrative machinery, left no stone unturned to make extinct all signs of Dogra identity and heritage are today shedding crocodile tears over the loss of Dogra pride in order to emotionally blackmail the innocent citizens to whip up anti-government hysteria. “Identity” is not a tradable commodity that it can be erased or multiplied easily. Identity is established through the dint of outstanding achievements. Dogras are known the world over as fierce fighters and loyal soldiers. This identity was established by the bravery and sacrifices of our fore fathers. This identity was with us when J&K was a princely State; it remained with us when we were a state and will continue to stay when we become a Union Territory. The onus of maintaining the identity lies with us and nobody can forcibly snatch it from us. What should be worrying us is the growing drug menace that is ruining our most precious wealth, the youth, but none of these self-seeking politicians are worried about it. It is highly ironical but in politics, there is no holds barred and for their political survival, the politicians can go to any extent. The Kashmiri dominance acted as a hindrance in the promotion of Dogri culture and literature. We had to fight for it. Now with equality granted, there will be nobody to blame but ourselves. Hence, the onerous responsibility of promoting our culture and ethos will lie on the civil society of Jammu region cutting across religious lines but with ethnic loyalty. Thus, those creating the scare of erosion of our identity need to carry out a self-introspection and stop looking at this emotive issue through a political prism.
However, good governance and passage of time will not only prove them wrong but compel them to face reality and accept the dawn of a new era on the political horizon of this region.
While some of the apprehensions may be ill-founded, some may be genuine as well. The government will do well to frame new laws to protect the demographic and cultural interests of the people similar to Article 371 for other states. In order to ensure the safety of jobs and employment to the locals, the clause of “domicile” needs to be introduced. The government also needs to address the issues of illegal migrants and Rohangiyas as they pose a serious challenge to the safety and security of the country.
(The writer is a Jammu-based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst)