The NDA government’s dramatic decision to scrap Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu & Kashmir marks a tectonic shift in the policy towards the sensitive border State. A contentious constitutional provision that defined the accession of the State to India is history now. So is Article 35A that empowered the State legislature to decide permanent residential status and provide special privileges in terms of ownership and property rights. The State has now been bifurcated into two separate Union Territories —Jammu & Kashmir with Assembly and Ladakh without Assembly. The monumental move that disrupts the decades-long status quo is bound to have far-reaching political and social consequences and throw up new challenges. Most importantly, the historic decision will help mainstream the trouble-torn Valley that was fast turning into a laboratory for jihadi terrorism with even the mainstream parties promoting soft separatism to protect their political turf. This decisive step will pave the way for Kashmir’s assimilation into India by removing all political and constitutional impediments. With the abrogation of the special status, people from anywhere in India will be able to start industries, create employment, improve revenues and spur the development of the region in a big way. Political polemics apart, the harsh reality is that the border State has remained untouched by industrial development and suffered due to growing unemployment and rampant corruption while a handful of political dynasties benefited from the special status by harping on identity politics and whipping up passions when it suited them.
The sense of alienation among the youth due to lack of opportunities for upward mobility became the fuel for Hurriyat parties to keep the ‘azadi’ pot burning. The common people of the State deserved a better deal and fair share in the prosperity and development like their counterparts in other States. Keeping in mind the geopolitical position that Kashmir has in south Asia, the revocation of Article 370, which provides special status under “temporary, transitional and special provisions”, certainly means breaking new ground. Unfortunately, the temporary constitutional provision ended up creating a chasm between citizens of Kashmir and the rest of India. In an environment fraught with the threat of terrorism and jihad — the motive that inspired the tribal invasion of 1947 — and aggressive neighbours like China, India cannot afford to give up administrative or political control over the Valley. The biggest reason for India’s compulsion to retain Kashmir at all costs is that it just cannot afford another partition on religious grounds. Kashmir’s dream of ‘azadi’ can never be allowed to become a reality because it will set off a chain of violence that would plunge the country into turmoil. Kashmir remains an integral part of India at any cost.