Life after reorganisation of a disturbed state

Many experiments in reorganisation of constituent states in the Indian Union have been undertaken since Independence.
Amit Shah
Amit Shah

Many experiments in reorganisation of constituent states in the Indian Union have been undertaken since Independence.

The integration of princely states was a major exercise followed within a decade by redrawing the political map of the country on linguistic basis.

The process has continued almost without a pause—sometimes strategic considerations have dictated this and quite often political expediency of partisanship in electoral politics has been imperative.

In almost all cases a bitter legacy of disappointment and discontent continues to haunt both large sections of residents in the reorganised state and the central government.

Be it the seven sisters and a brother in the North East or the triplets born together—Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh—or more recently, bifurcation of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the labour pains have been quite distressing.

Resentment continues to simmer and complaints of step-motherly treatment continue to breed disaffection. What is happening in the disturbed state of Jammu and Kashmir should be analysed and understood in this context.

What has been dismantled dramatically (and traumatically, for some) is the constitutional protection for the ‘special status’ of J&K.

Enough has been said and written in the past few weeks reviewing the events in the wake of Partition of India—the rulers’ vacillation, Pakistan’s desperate gamble to grab real estate through thinly disguised military invasion, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s blind trust in the viceroy’s advice and reluctance to listen to his deputy, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and hoping against hope that his friend Sheikh Abdullah would ensure that J&K would rebuff Pakistan and became an integral part of India.

The Sheikh drove a hard bargain and extracted the promise for special status. He was granted three wishes—a separate flag, a title asserting his status superior to chief ministers of other states and a separate Constitution. Much water and blood have flown down the Jhelum, Chenab and Ganga-Jumna to lament over folly or wisdom of the decisions taken more than seven decades ago.

Let there be no mistake. These lines are being written more in sorrow than in anger. Was it Voltaire who said that we owe nothing to our ancestors long dead and the past is another country?

But this doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility for our compatriots at present and future generations. There is one thing never to be forgotten: let us not apply double standards wherever and whenever violations of human rights are concerned.

Those who are crying hoarse at the moment were shamefully silent when the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits was underway. Those who are prodding the Modi government to restore normalcy should pause to ponder: when was the Valley ‘normal’ last? What about the state of anarchy unleashed by separatists, unofficial curfews and barbaric killings that refused to fall in line?

Both the political parties that have ruled the troubled state—the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference—can’t claim to represent the ‘aawam’.

At best, their top leaders are die-hard defenders of dynastic interests. They have been equally opportunistic in forging alliances with the Congress and the BJP. The Hurriyat has long ceased to have any credibility.

They bask in a few seconds of glory when attending a reception in the Pakistani High Commission or are granted an audience by a high-ranking US diplomat. Then who should have been consulted by the Centre before the harsh reorganisation?

In one swoop, Home Minister Amit Shah not only rendered the ‘special status’ obsolete but punished the ‘Azadi slogan raisers’ and stone-pelters by reducing J&K to two centrally-administered territories. This was akin to adding salt to injury.

But let us not forget what Shah was doing was to redeem a pledge made in the party’s election manifesto. It needs to be underlined that the clear majority given by the electorate arms it with an exceptional mandate.

One fails to understand how the wishes of the majority can be dismissed as majoritarianism. One doesn’t have to be a supporter of the BJP or detractor of the Congress to see it crystal clear how Article 370 was being used to deepen the divide between J&K and the rest of India. Why should one state have a privileged special status?

This is not the time for chest-thumping triumphalism or shedding tears over the house arrest of corrupt dynasts. What is required is to reassure the people of Kashmir that hereon they do not have to live in constant fear. Old wounds will not heal overnight. But promises will have to match performance. It is primarily the responsibility of the Centre to apply the healing touch to prevent festering sores.

Pushpesh Pant

Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express