In Kashmir, integrate Kashmiris
The national project is complete. The democratic project now needs work
It has been a year since Parliament changed the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), effectively nullifying Article 370, and reorganising the state into two Union territories of J&K and Ladakh. This newspaper supported the quest for integrating Kashmir with the rest of India, constitutionally and legally, with the dilution of Article 370 — while raising questions about the process followed to achieve it, and emphasised the need for outreach to the Kashmiri people.
A year later, there is little doubt that the entire constitutional, legal and administrative rejig of J&K has cemented the control of the State over the territory. It has armed Indian security forces with greater room to tackle Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and crack down on violence. And it has shown the futility of the
“azaadi” slogan of those who harbour ambitions of secession. At the same time, the challenge of integrating Kashmiris with the Union persists. The detention of mainstream leaders, the curtailment of civil liberties, including mobility and connectivity, and the restrictions on political activity (all of which this newspaper has consistently opposed) has left the Kashmiri street alienated. The dilution of statehood has been met with hostility. There has been tremendous disruption to the everyday lives of people.
The government must note these sentiments and not brush aside the democratic dissent of citizens, even as it battles the violence. Restoring democracy fully — by removing restrictions on connectivity, releasing detained leaders, initiating a political dialogue, making security forces more accountable for excesses — and restoring statehood to J&K (while keeping Ladakh as a separate unit) is the best way to restart the political process. Kashmir has been won over, now win over the Kashmiris.