India Today - - FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF - (Aroon Purie)

No sin­gle is­sue has fea­tured as fre­quently on the in­dia today cover as Jammu and Kash­mir. Since 1975, the state has been on our cover 27 times. Our 28th cover story ar­rives at a his­toric junc­ture—when In­dia’s most trou­bled state has ceased to be a state. The re­gion has been un­der an un­prece­dented lock­down and com­mu­ni­ca­tions black­out since Au­gust 5 when the NDA gov­ern­ment dis­man­tled Ar­ti­cles 370 and 35A, while bi­fur­cat­ing the state into the Union ter­ri­to­ries of Jammu & Kash­mir and Ladakh. This is the big­gest move since 1949 when the gov­ern­ment in­serted Ar­ti­cle 370 into the Con­sti­tu­tion giv­ing the state a spe­cial sta­tus.

With the ‘di­lu­tion’ of Ar­ti­cle 370, the gov­ern­ment has pre­sented the peo­ple of the state with a fait ac­com­pli with enor­mous im­pli­ca­tions. In one fell swoop, Jammu & Kash­mir’s com­pact with the rest of In­dia has been al­tered. This was not an en­tirely un­fore­seen sce­nario—the ab­ro­ga­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370 has been on the BJP agenda for a decade. In its April 2009 man­i­festo, the party de­scribed Ar­ti­cle 370 as a ‘psy­cho­log­i­cal bar­rier to the full in­te­gra­tion of the peo­ple of Jammu and Kash­mir with the na­tional main­stream’.

Close to a month after it over­turned Ar­ti­cle 370, the gov­ern­ment seems to have han­dled the sit­u­a­tion on the ground fairly well. The re­gion has not wit­nessed the vi­o­lent flare­ups it has seen in the past. The sit­u­a­tion, though tense, ap­pears fairly un­der con­trol. Of course, it is very dif­fi­cult to judge the mood of the peo­ple or their ac­cep­tance of this de­ci­sion when all com­mu­ni­ca­tion is lost. The ob­vi­ous ques­tion then is whether the calm is be­cause of the un­prece­dented se­cu­rity lock­down. There are deep con­cerns over the house ar­rest of the erst­while state’s lead­ers, though the gov­ern­ment claims this is war­ranted by the un­usual cir­cum­stances.

Our cover story, ‘Game­plan Kash­mir’, put to­gether by Group Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor Raj Chen­gappa, looks at this sce­nario and at the road ahead. “The gov­ern­ment has put an au­da­cious game­plan into op­er­a­tion, but one that is fraught with risk at ev­ery stage,” says Chen­gappa, who vis­ited Srinagar for an on­the­ground as­sess­ment. “How the gov­ern­ment ma­noeu­vres in the months ahead will be cru­cial.”

Things in Kash­mir take years to un­fold. The next six months to a year are go­ing to be cru­cial. Even as the gov­ern­ment will need to keep the sit­u­a­tion nor­mal, there are sev­eral other im­pon­der­ables. The le­gal­ity of

ab­ro­gat­ing Ar­ti­cle 370 has been chal­lenged in the Supreme Court. The ex­er­cise for the de­lim­i­ta­tion of con­stituen­cies in the two UTs will be­gin soon.

Septem­ber, in par­tic­u­lar, will be a cru­cial month be­cause it is the har­vest sea­son for the state’s most im­por­tant cash crop, ap­ples. The gov­ern­ment has to see how to get these to the mar­ket so that loss of in­come does not fuel fur­ther re­sent­ment. At the same time, it can­not ease re­stric­tions too much till the Val­ley snows up, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for mil­i­tants from Pak­istan to cross over.

It is also when the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly will be in ses­sion. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s hand­slap­ping bon­homie with Don­ald Trump in Biar­ritz, France, might have staved off the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent’s at­tempts to me­di­ate be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan. But Pak­istan will con­tinue to play up al­leged hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Jammu & Kash­mir at the UN.

The big­gest chal­lenge for the gov­ern­ment, how­ever, will be back home—to get the cit­i­zens of Jammu & Kash­mir to rec­on­cile them­selves to liv­ing in a Union ter­ri­tory, an or­der that comes into ef­fect by Oc­to­ber 31 this year. How does the Cen­tre pro­pose to con­vince the peo­ple that the move is to their ben­e­fit? The key has to be rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, but how that will be achieved un­less law and or­der is main­tained is the Catch­22 sit­u­a­tion. What will the new re­la­tion­ship with New Delhi be like? Could the de­ci­sion to dis­mem­ber Ar­ti­cle 370 re­trieve J&K from the cul­de­sac it has been trapped in for all these decades or merely thrust the re­gion down an en­tirely new one? One busi­ness­man who em­ploys sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple in the Val­ley told me that many of his em­ploy­ees say that at least now they know clearly who their mai baap is in­stead of the var­i­ous votaries of au­ton­omy, azadi and Pak­istan. The cen­tral gov­ern­ment has en­sured that in no un­cer­tain terms by de­mot­ing the state to a Union ter­ri­tory. How all this will turn out, no­body re­ally knows at this stage, how­ever gently the gov­ern­ment opens the tin­der­box. One thing, though, is for sure: there is no go­ing back. If there is some­thing one has learnt in the past 72 years, it is that Jammu and Kash­mir is a prob­lem that has no easy so­lu­tion.

Jul. 6, 1998

Sep. 12, 2016

Aug. 14, 2000

Apr. 30, 1990

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