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How and why Kashmir is calm over SC

A Kashmiri boatman with kangri to beat freezing weather in the Dal Lake (Pics: Basit Zargar)

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz/Srinagar

Kashmir has been cool and calm after the recent Supreme Court verdict that upheld the abrogation of Article 370 even though the center and the political parties of Kashmir are interpreting it differently.

The Centre’s most articulate stand came from Home Minister Amit Shah in the Parliament. He pointed out how the apex court has endorsed all but one action – The state’s downgrading to a Union Territory – of the Narendra Modi government. 

Even on the court’s direction for the restoration of the Statehood to J&K, Shah said, he had made this commitment on the floor of the Parliament in 2019. 

Significantly, Congress didn’t respond to Shah’s challenge: to incorporate “restoration of Article 370” in its election manifesto.

Even as the chain of developments from 5 August 2019 to 11 December 2023 has shut the door for all legal and political battles on the restoration of Article 370, the valley-based leaders have unanimously rejected the SC judgment.

Ex-CM and the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti suggested that the Indian government in J&K had assumed the role of an occupying regime. “What is the difference between an occupation and a government?” she said, addressing her followers.

The reaction of the National Conference led by Farooq Abdullah ranged from hysteria to being guarded. Nonetheless, both Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah have asked their followers to get ready for a “long struggle”. They claim that “nothing is final’.

Peoples Conference President Sajad Lone and the Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari too have dismissed the SC judgment as unjust. 

On the other hand, the BJP is asserting that the Kashmiris had turned their back on Pakistan-sponsored insurgency, terrorism, and exploitative politics over the last 70 years.

The reality lies somewhere in between.

Work on transforming Srinagar into a Smart City continues uninteruptted despite freezing cold conditions

Statistics apart, it is hard to convince the Valley’s secessionists that their days are over. They have forgotten about the hollow promises of revolution from Pakistan, Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s slogans of “Ham Pakistani Hain Pakistan Hamara Hai”, Burhan Wani’s video statement on his plans to create a caliphate-based Islamic State, and Yasin Malik’s “Iss Paar Bhi Lenge Azadi Uss Paar Bhi Lenge Azadi”.

But as long as the United Nations Military Observers Group on India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) is stationed in Srinagar, the separatists have reasons to dream of a Plebiscite.

On the other hand, individuals and organizations in many places have begun identifying themselves with Indian colours. They have been participating in and promoting government programmes. 

A rap song of two young Kashmiris ‘Badalta Kashmir’ which is breaking the Internet indicates that the aspirations and narratives for India as well as for Pakistan and Azadi co-exist, albeit without an anarchical confrontation on the streets. 

However, all indicators point to the fading out of conventional political narratives of ‘greater autonomy’, ‘self-rule’, and ‘special status’, which were competitively promoted by the valley’s mainstream politicians after 1999.

This indicates that space has shrunk for hypocritical and amphibian politics that gave the valley’s mainstream leaders – and their wider ecosystem – a share in the Indian power and simultaneously some patronage of the separatist sentiment. This transformation began on 5 August 2019 and reached a milestone on 11 December 2023.

Those living in Kashmir know well that all the key rabble-rousers against the SC verdict have shared power with the same BJP they are targeting today. In 2015, Mufti Sayeed’s PDP formed the government with the BJP after a virulent election campaign in which Narendra Modi was demonized as “the killer of Muslims” and videos of the 2002 Gujarat riots were played.

Now there are revelations that even the NC was in negotiations with the BJP in 2015. Both Lone and Bukhari were Ministers in the same PDP-BJP government. Some indications of 2022-23 suggest that all the four valley-based parties are secretly competing in proximity to the BJP, not for 370 but for the formation of the government in the next Assembly elections.

Kashmir’s youths have also unanswered questions about the role of the first generation of today’s rabble-rousers in obliterating Article 370 instead of the historic rigging in the Assembly elections of 1957, 1962, 1967, and 1972. It was routine for the Congress regime to fraudulently reject the nomination papers of the opposition candidates and declare their candidates ‘elected unopposed’.

It takes just a minute on Google to find who exactly are the beneficiaries of the quid pro quo in all those elections; who helped their masters in Delhi to neutralize Sheikh Abdullah’s and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s NC and establish the Congress party in J&K in 1965.

The first major tampering with Article 370 was the 6th Amendment to the J&K Constitution which changed the nomenclature of the Head of the State and the Head of the Government on 30 March 1965.

With the help of the Kashmiri politicians who were declared as ‘winners’ in the rigged elections and inducted as MLAs and Ministers, the nomenclature of ‘Sadr-e-Riyasat’—as also the mode and method of his appointment—was changed to ‘Governor’, an agent and nominee of the Government of India. The State Prime Minister’s nomenclature was reduced to ‘Chief Minister’.

This signifies a trust and credibility deficit for the callers and sponsors of a new agitation on 370. Ironically the same leaders’ progeny is today cursing the saboteurs of 370 and asking a new generation of the Kashmiris to get ready for another “long struggle”.

The other commonly ignored factors are equally significant.

Alongside the hardcore counterterror operations of the Police and security forces—which, admittedly, include strikes to neutralize Pakistan’s soft power in the government, clergy, media, Bar, academia et al—the top leadership of all separatist and militant groups has vanished in the last four years.

SAS Geelani, Ashraf Sehrai, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Sheikh Tajamul Islam, and Altaf Shah Fantoosh died natural deaths. Most of the leaders of Mirwaiz Umar’s faction of the Hurriyat Conference have gone into oblivion. Almost all top militant commanders have been killed in encounters.

The Indian Air Force strike on Balakot, coupled with Pakistan’s unprecedented economic and political breakdown, in which two ex-PMs have lowered their country’s prestige and morale, are also some factors behind the valley’s calm.

ALSO READSC judgment has ended a prolonged state of political uncertainty in Kashmir

There is also a perceptible realization that the SC judgment has come not from a Government but from the topmost judicial forum. There are few takers to the opposition’s veiled assertions that the verdict has been delivered under the influence of the Narendra Modi government. Even those who believe in the contrary accept that Article 370 would not return through any route.

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