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J&K Reorganization Act 2019: First Anniversary

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THIS TEXT IS EXCHANGED WITH THE FIRST ONE on August 2nd, 2020:

By K.N. Pandita

Indian Parliament’s J&K Reorganization Act 2019 will complete its first year on August 5. The Act revoked the special status of J&K along with its statehood. Instead two Union Territories of Ladakh and J&K came into being.

Reorganizing any federating unit of the Indian Union, territorially or administratively, to streamline the administration or accelerate developmental activities is provided by the Constitution of India. At several occasions in the past, the Union government did take recourse to relevant constitutional provisions when reorganization of a federating unit was intended. Only two years ago Telangana was carved out of the State of Andhra.

Jammu and Kashmir had been granted special status in the Indian Constitution for some historical and geographical reasons. A movement for freedom from the autocratic rule of the Maharaja, and establishment of popular, secular and democratic governance had been carried on by the people of the State for more than three decades before the dawn of independence…

The partition of India in 1947 and carving a new state based on two-nation theory ran counter to the essence of the three-decade-old popular struggle in Jammu and Kashmir. The perception of a secular democratic Jammu and Kashmir was epitomized in the famous document called Naya Kashmir Manifesto adopted by the popular political party of National Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.

There was indeed a small group of people in Jammu and Kashmir that sympathized with All India Muslim League during the heyday of the freedom struggle against the colonial rule. However, they had not brought the Muslim League to the State but created their parry called J&K State Muslim Conference. Since this party followed a communal agenda, it did not receive big public support and remained restricted to a small area of western Jammu region where the influence of the Muslim League was palpable.

With the partition of the country, there surfaced the difficult question of what should be the future course of action in the State. Knowing the geographical constraints and the demographic complexion of the State, the Maharaja concluded a standstill agreement with the dominion of Pakistan and offered the same to the dominion of India. He needed some time to decide the future status of his state. The ink on the standstill agreement had hardly dried up when the tribesmen from the North-West Frontier of Pakistan led a massive incursion into the State under abetment from Pakistan and routed the small rather negligible resistance from the State forces. In this critical situation, the rulers of Pakistan stonewalled Maharaja’s further negotiations with them. He signed the instrument of State’s accession to the Indian Union and forthwith received emergency military support to push back the raiders. A year later, India and Pakistan agreed on a ceasefire in J&K and the Line of Control was converted into the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) under the Shimla agreement of 1972.

The special status granted to the J&K was a temporary measure. The purpose was to give the people of the State an impression that besides being free to legislate and plan for them, the Union of India was there to extend its support in strengthening the freedom of the people in the State.

In early 1948, India approached the Security Council to ask Pakistan to vacate the part of the J&K State it had illegally occupied through sponsored trial attack. The Security Council passed two important resolutions in 1948 and 1949. The crux of these resolutions was that Pakistan should withdraw its fighting forces from the part of the State under its occupation as the first condition for holding a plebiscite in the State. Pakistan never withdrew her forces from Kashmir, rather went on increasing her military power and presence in PoK.

Three wars fought with India did not bring Pakistan an inch of Jammu and Kashmir land. Finally, having met with disappointment on all fronts Pakistan took the dangerous step of bringing terrorism and proxy war to Kashmir in 1989. She revived the old trick of whipping up religious sentiments of the people knowing that in the Kashmir Valley there is a majority of the people of Islamic faith.

For the last thirty years, Pak sponsored armed insurgency has been raging in Kashmir, consuming the lives of innocent people and destroying her economy and developmental programmers. It is the constitutional and moral duty of Indian Union to meet this grave challenge to life and property of the people of J&K and take all measure to ensure that peace is maintained in the entire region of South Asia.
In the long course of thirty years of armed insurgency in Kashmir, Pakistan-based some jihadist organizations, many of which have been designated by the UN and the American State Department, emerged as frontline activists sending in their deadly suicide bombers and terrorists who unleashed terror, mayhem, chaos and disorder in the otherwise peaceful life of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This perfidy was conceptualized by Pakistan’s late President General Zia-ul-Haq in a blueprint called Operation TOPAC.

Kashmir is a classical example for assessing the impact of a religion-based proxy war in which the masses of people are targeted for brainwashing and made enormously receptive to false and fabricated propaganda. In Kashmir a proxy war is in place fought with sophisticated weapons and remote control plus disinformation campaign with relentless persuasion. Its impact on the economy, developmental process, education of the youth, opportunities of employment, maintenance of balanced social relations and the dynamics of modern life is of grave intensity. In a democracy, such an abnormal situation puts constraints on the trust people repose in the elected leaders…Democratic dispensation in J&K came under severe strain. Developmental work came to a standstill and uncertainty and confusion became rampant among various sections of society.

In the background of this social, economic and political scenario it became unavoidable for the Union government to step in and take some far-reaching decisions about the State. There are certain constitutional obligations which the Union government is expected to fulfil. For example, providing employment and skills to the youth, addressing deficit in industrial development, redressing the suffering of hundreds of thousands of families forced to migrate under threat to life and the integrity and sovereignty of the State etc.

The Union government brought the Kashmir scenario under close examination. The thirty-year-old stalemate had to be brought to an end. All options were discussed. Expert opinions were sought by the Union government. The J&K Reorganization Act 2019 came into being after protracted debates in both Houses of the Parliament where, ultimately the bill was passed with a massive majority vote. The conspicuous part of this exercise is that the opposition used its full power and strategy to marshal arguments against the bill but at the end of the day had to fall in line. That is where the strength of a democratic dispensation lies.

The sum and substance of this important constitutional amendment is to find a way in which peace and development of J&K will be assured. Conversion of the State into two Union territories is essentially necessitated by security and administrative compulsions. Ladakh is now a Union Territory. It will be reminded that immediately after announcing that Ladakh would henceforth be a Union Territory, a statement came from Beijing expressing concern over this development. Normally, there was no need for China to make any comment knowing that it is an internal matter of India. But its statement defines its intentions. And we can link up the recent attempt of China to destabilize peace in Eastern Ladakh to its hostile border policy with India.

In J&K, we have confirmed reports that Pakistani jihadi organizations are deputing their suicide bombers and terrorists to the training camps close to LoC from where plans are drawn for continued infiltration into Kashmir and unleashing of destructive activities in the valley. Uninterrupted violation of ceasefire of 2003 along the entire LoC by Pakistani troops, firing and shelling, all is meant to provide cover to the jihadis infiltrating clandestinely into the Indian side of Kashmir.

Additionally, we find that Pakistan is conducting a massive disinformation campaign globally to mislead and vitiate world opinion against India. While Pakistani emissaries recount fabricated and baseless stories of “atrocities on the people of Kashmir valley”, they write formal letters of appreciation to the Chinese government for suppressing the Uighur nationalist movement through blatant autocratic means.

The J&K Reorganization Act 2019 is a remedial measure aiming at restoring the state to normalcy. Therefore, under reorganized dispensation the Union government has adopted the two-pronged policy of fighting externally sponsored terrorism and simultaneously accelerating developmental projects in the Union Territory. Today, when the Reorganization Act has been in place for one year, we have noted the there was not a single protest rally anywhere in Kashmir against the new dispensation. Innumerable schemes and programmes of development and public welfare have been floated and most of the projects almost abandoned by previous governments have been taken up for completion. The vision of developmental effort will be gauged from the fact that five new medical colleges, two IITs, dozens of degree colleges and technical institutes have been opened. Panchayat organization, considered the backbone of democratic dispensation, has been strengthened and empowered far beyond our expectations as they work at the grassroots level and thus are vital to the strength and vitality of democracy.

We are confident that very soon terrorist activities will be put an end to and the misguided youth of Kashmir will be restituted to civil life. A good and prosperous future is in store for the people of the state who have gone through an externally sponsored ordeal during the past three decades.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

Restoration of statehood to J&K

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By K N Pandita

State Reorganization Act 2019 passed by the Parliament on 5 August 2019 with a huge majority vote came as a shock to the Kashmir valley leadership, the victims of split-personality. The bluster spelt out by Gupkar Declaration of August 4, 2019, like “the streams of blood will flow”, and “not a single man will be there to raise tricolour” foreboding, all evaporated in thin air when only 24 hours later, a bill purporting not only the scrapping of anti-people Article 370 but also breaking the State into two Union Territories was tabled in the Parliament. Next day, 6th of August, the bill was passed into an Act of Parliament with an overwhelming majority.

With the passing of the Act, valley-based ambivalent political parties found their seven decades-old edifice of separatism, exclusiveness and communally oriented anti-national narrative crumbling down. With that, most of them found themselves under house arrest. They expected the gullible people to rise in revolt and wreak havoc by large scale anti-government protests. Not a dog barked. The people said, “The thieves are in and we are free”. The balloon of their imagined popularity and power punctured with a bang.

Pakistan poured abuse on Kashmiris calling them “traitors” because they had disappointed them by not bringing out protest rallies and now were guiding the security forces to the hideouts of the militants.

Valley-based politicos began howling that democracy was given a rough deal. They demanded the revival of statehood, doing away with UT status, restoration of democratic process such as Assembly elections and formation of a popular government. But they never said democracy was in the elections of 1986.

Only a couple of days back, Nabi Azad, met with the Prime Minister and talked about “only Kashmir.” He said he had repeated the demands stated above. Daily Excelsior, the leading English daily of J&K gave it full coverage. Simultaneously, the BJP President Mr Nadda issued a statement advising his party workers in J&K to forget revival of statehood and assembly elections and work hard to reach each nook and corner of the State to strengthen BJP on the ground. The Daily Excelsior gave it also full coverage and thus as astute Fourth Estate brought both viewpoints to the public domain. Let us analyze the entire gamut of the issue hoping that the Daily Excelsior will give it also the exposure it deserves…

Article 370 was tabled for discussion in the Constituent Assembly in 1949. No minister in Nehru Cabinet approved it. Dr Ambedkar, the Law Minister and also the father of Indian Constitution bluntly told Sheikh Abdullah that he was not going to make another Pakistan in independent India. Sheikh Abdullah, along with his lieutenant Afzal Baig, was encamping in Kashmir House, Prithvi Raj Road for nearly a month and a half debating his special issue demand with G Parthasarthy, Nehru’s confident emissary. In the beginning, even Nehru was reluctant to make constitutional concession in Kashmir. And when Parthasarthy told the Sheikh that even Nehru had reservations about it, the Sheikh thundered, “Tell him we withdraw accession” Where was the commonality of ideology, which Nehru claimed cemented Congress’ relations with NC. What a perfidious blackmail!

Nehru totally disregarded the views of the opposition and got the bill passed. The point is that he persuaded the Parliament to pass it. Kashmir leaders should have understood the powers and authority of the Parliament. Now that the same Parliament passed the Reorganization Act of 2019 and with an overwhelming majority, one fails to understand why Kashmir leaders decline to accept the Act and label it the tyranny of majoritarian-ism. If majoritarian-ism is a tyranny, the Sheikh had managed to grab 73 out of 74 votes when J&K Constituent Assembly elections were conducted in 1949. Thus majoritarian-ism was good when it favoured him but bad when it did not.

Yes, there is an instance when democracy was trampled under feet. That is depicted by the illegal, unconstitutional, clandestine and secretive manner in which Article 35-A was inducted into the Indian Constitution without the knowledge of the house, without the knowledge of the Council of Ministers, without the consent of the Union Minister of Law and without going through the entire process of law-making in the Parliament and above all hiding it from the Fourth Estate for too long a time. It was blatant fraud on the people of India. For the sake of his friend Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru threw democratic norms to wind. When in 2019 the Home Minister detected the fraud, he rectified it and got the rectification endorsed by the Parliament, the same entity which enjoys the powers to make or break the constitution. He did it transparently, without mincing words and without keeping stakeholders in dark.

Nabi Azad says there was a commitment and a year has gone by. In the first place, there is no commitment whatsoever that statehood would be revived. Yes, there is a broad statement that the statehood can be revived if circumstances warrant. That is not a commitment. Has normalcy returned to the State? If yes, then why does Nabi Azad demand security cover for valley leadership? Why the double s;peak?

Two crucial points have to be taken note of. Firstly, about Article 370 (now defunct) it was categorized as “temporary”. Under that nomenclature, its temporary status stretched on to no fewer than seven decades. NC never made any demand that Parliament change the status from temporary to permanent. They knew the Parliament would. Similarly, under the rider “when conditions become normal”, dismemberment of the statehood is a “temporary measure” and we can allow it also at least 70 years to go on.. If Congress managed to drag the temporary status of Art. 370 for 70 years, why not allow NDA also 70 years to linger on with the UT status of J&K. Nabi Azad has to be rational and take recourse to simple logic.

Azad has unusually given more than necessary detail about what he spoke to the Prime Minister. Any dispassionate observer will point out that 99.9 per cent of what he spoke was off the mark. This is all what the opposition spearheaded by Congress has been telling the PM. But Azad has very shrewdly avoided to touch on the crux of the problem. He should have asked the PM the reasons for abolishing statehood of J&K and converting it into two Union Territories. He should have told the readers the reasons which the PM gave. He did not do that. It would have exploded the myth that he was speaking for the people. He tried to walk away safe. But this does not satisfy any inquisitive observer and commentator.

When Dr Farooq Abdullah was the chief minister, he got the Greater Autonomy bill passed in the Assembly. It was then sent to the Parliament for approval. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Prime Minister summoned Farooq and asked him to tell him where he had not have the autonomy so that more autonomy would be conceded. Farooq was cut to his size, stood up and quietly left the room. Never did he talk of Greater Autonomy thereafter.

On 4 August, all shades of Kashmir valley political leadership, to be more precise, the Muslim leadership met at the residence of Farooq and passed the Gupkar Declaration. It says if New Delhi removes Article 370, it means India is at war with Kashmiri people.

In the first place, the declaration speaks of India at war with “Kashmiris” and not with the people of J&K State. This inference is that the declaration is oriented along the interests of the Muslims of the valley only. For the signatories of the Declaration secular tag stands rejected and discarded, which is an irrefutable reality even if thickly masked. Secondly, have not Kashmiris initiated war against India since 1989? Are not they fighting the Indian forces with highly sophisticated weapons, ammunition, war material, logistic, media and financial support from Pakistan ever since the outbreak of militancy? Have not some of these Kashmiri leaders extended covert support to the militants? Has a single Kashmir valley leader protested against militancy? Conversely, they harp on talking to Pakistan while they have been regularly in covert and overt liaison with Pakistan. Kashmiris have declared war on India in 1989 or even earlier and war is a war, not a pastime. When you sow the wind, the whirlwind will follow.

Nabi Azad has given to press a litany of demands he made in his recent meeting with the PM. What is new in it? The fact is that the statement attributed to Nabi Azad is only a cover to what transpired between him and the PM. It is for public consumption and more for the consumption of the Congress High Command which has sidelined him for quite some time. He is not a Trustee of the notorious Rajiv Gandhi Trust. The defamation that has come to the Trustees, the near-sinking ship of Congress in Rajasthan after Madhya Pradesh, the fast declining credibility of Congress, these issues are weighing heavily on the mind of Nabi Azad and he is seriously and desperately looking for his ideological rehabilitation. He is conscious that his open hostility towards Modi government during the agitation period of Shaheen Bagh has raised serious doubts about his secular credentials. Incidentally, he might have pleaded with the PM the matter of release of Engineer Rasheed former Kashmir MLA, once his great benefactor, but now languishing in the jail.

PoK – a spurious state run by proxy

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By K.N. Pandita

Political theorists have not been able to define the legal and political status of a region illegally occupied by Pakistan and named “Azad Jammu and Kashmir”. Realizing its strategic importance in the context of CPEC, B&R Initiative and Chinas expansionist designs eastward, Beijing insisted upon Pakistan to define the region’s legal and juridical status. Continue Reading…

Geelani disassociates from Hurriyat: Story of ideological crisis

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By K.N. Pandita

For quite some time Geelani was mute, maybe owing to advancing age problem like dementia. In a letter, scripted three months ago but released now to the heads of the eight units of his organization (Hurriyat – G), he made threadbare confession of his dissatisfaction with the units of his organization in both parts of the State. Continue Reading…