Kashmir’s tryst with destiny – How abrogation of Article 370 shall usher in an era of social change

Taking the liberty of rearticulating the famous quote from the literary genius Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Something ‘was’ rotten in the state of ‘Kashmir’”. With abrogation of Article 370 one may say that India has finally taken a bold step towards ending decades of paralysis putting millions of lives in a vacuum of uncertainty and political chicanery. The move reignites hope and aspiration and indeed opens the gates of Kashmir to development and integration with rest of the nation.

For decades, the state has been in a war like situation, leaving deep imprints on the psyche of the residents. The vicious circle of political turmoil and conflict sowed the seeds of distrust, frustration and apathy. Dual citizenship, separate flag for the state and other provisions ensured that identities never assimilated with rest of the nation. For decades it brewed not only fear and misery but also poverty, poor healthcare, hunger, lack of education, corruption, displacement. To say the least development and rights have been a casualty in years of conflict. J&K, sadly, had become synonymous with conflict, be it in the minds of youth growing up in the valley or any part of India, it appeared to be a never-ending saga. What the repeal of 370 does is demolish that mental barrier. The barrier and dissonance, our neighbor used to its advantage ever since; making Kashmir a breeding ground for separatist tendencies and alienation.

A white paper on Kashmir by Dr. M. K. Teng & C.L.Gadoo categorically mentions that “Within the broad framework of the special status envisaged by Article 370, which isolated the state from rest of India, it was far easy for secessionist elements to infiltrate into the administrative cadres of the government.” The provision has been carefully used until now to ensure that economic political social and emotional alienation of Kashmiris is maintained for benefit of a handful few. The abrogation ushers in their psychological and emotional integration with the rest of India.

Exposed to uncertainty at an early age, the youth and children have been vulnerable to non-state actors radicalizing them, leveraging the implanted frustration and anguish. Unemployment and stunted economic growth further fueled this susceptibility. What is even more unfortunate that article 370 deprived the children of Kashmir from the Right to Education, accorded to children in rest of India. While rest of children in India enjoy 25% reservation in private schools for economically weaker sections, children of the state have since been deprived of the right. Lack of career opportunities and environment to harness their full potential, the injustice to the youth and children has been herculean.

Accountability is one important facet that would now make its way into the valley. Important checkposts of democratic governance such as Right to Information Act and the CAG audit were not applicable in the state due to article 370. Devolution of powers to panchayat bodies would aid in better grassroots governance, implementation of important schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, among others would ensure better monitoring and judicious allocation of resources. The ripple effects in terms of economy, employment generation and environmental sustenance would be felt eventually, though gradually.

As rightly pointed out by hon. Home minister in the Rajya Sabha, Kashmiris have been deprived of the fruits of several social sector schemes and initiatives. Be it Ayushman Bharat, despite being implemented in the state, lack of qualified doctors and specialty private hospitals weaned the people from its true benefits or be it building IITs and IIMs in the state, where competent professors and academicians are unwilling to move to the valley at the cost of their children’s education and stability.

Further, Article 370 must also be analyzed in the light of its gender inequity. With its abrogation, women can now buy and transfer property to children, even if they get married to a non-resident as Article 35A has automatically become void with the scrapping of Article 370. At its very genesis, Article 370 had spelt socio economic and political inequality by crafting separate rules for people of the same country, sowing seeds of disharmony and perpetual tension. Despite being part of the world’s largest democracy, Kashmir has ever been deprived of the essence of freedom.

Further, article 370 pampered economic elites in the state who ensured that the rich got richer with little bargaining power for the poor. With no investment from outside the state, the power circles faced little competition and flourished in the calm of status quo. Inability to purchase land practically closed the doors to rest of the world. This is set to change. The abrogation would attract investments in the state and trigger an era of development in the state. Encouragement to tourism sector and parallel improvement in security situation would unleash a huge growth potential.

The nation must now unite and ensure that India passes the test of time and transitions Kashmir into a new phase of growth and development. It must also be noted that a culture prospers in an atmosphere of stability and openness. For a culture to survive it may not close its shutters to the rest but strengthen its potential by assimilating with the national identity. Kashmiriyat must and would prosper when rest of the nation is eager to know about its brothers and sisters separated by a virtue of a historic blunder.

*Image courtesy Business Today

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