India's failure on Article 370, not terrorism, is alienating J&K

It is high time that the Valley issue was tackled humanely, with the graduated acceptance of their Constitutional demands.

 |  2-minute read |   25-10-2015
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Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif's bilateral talks with president Barack Obama in Washington D.C. were once again another serious disappointment for Pakistan. Obama refused to get involved in the Pakistan-India dispute on Kashmir, and made the US position clear. The Kashmir dispute, he reiterated, was a bilateral concern and should be solved through bilateral negotiations. This was a serious setback for Pakistan, as the incorporation of Kashmir into Pakistan is a lynchpin of both its foreign policy and its nationalism: the so-called "unfinished agenda."

This creates many openings for India in its negotiations with Kashmir. It is no secret that there is substantial alienation in Kashmir from India. It has long list of complaints against India. These include violations of human rights under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1942). This colonial Act gives armed forces personnel immunity for anything "done or purported to be done," while fighting insurgents, and others considered dangerous to the state. Sheikh Abdullah enacted the Public Safety Act (PSA) which was intended to stop timber smuggling, but has become another draconian law, to arrest political activists for two years at a stretch, extendable by another two years and so on.

To paraphrase Dadabhai Naoroji, there is "Un-Indian Rule in Kashmir."

This is alienating Kashmiris, leading to more suffering, and a state of affairs not in keeping with the promises and aspirations of Indian democracy. Each outbreak of Kashmiri protest leads to Indian counter action, leading to injuries and even death, and more alienation, and an identification of India as the enemy, and Pakistan as a friend. This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. No one can argue that Indian democracy cannot do a much better job to deal with Kashmiri anger and grave disappointments. The main issue is not terrorism, including cross border, and increasing infiltration, but activating Article 370, which PM Nehru had promised during the instruments of accession, sustainable development, sharply increased funding including of very inadequate flood relief funds, removal of draconian laws, and ensuring that priests like Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and SAS Geelani are allowed to lead prayers in their congregations.

The politics of the Mirwaiz and Geelani, the first a moderate Hurriyat, the other pro-Pakistani, are well known and stopping their prayers will further worsen the situation, apart of being an infringement of Kashmiri's religious rights.

The statist argument is that why should we give the Kashmiri's such special rights? Because they are part of the instruments of accession of Kashmir to India, or are a logical extension of the same. India has tackled difficult situations earlier in Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab and Manipur. It is high time Kashmir was tackled humanely, with the greatest and graduated acceptance of their Constitutional demands.

They deserve better. India had promised better, both in the special instruments and its democratic Constitution.

Writer

Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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