In Kash­mir, in­te­grate Kash­miris

The na­tional project is com­plete. The demo­cratic project now needs work

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Comment -

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.

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