Kashmir Poised to Move On Beyond Special Status Debate

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If an honest debate is initiated in the public domain and we wish to be a sincere learner of history and political developments, we should refrain from hastily jumping to a conclusion and let the facts, their interpretation and arguments flow on all sides. References to sources and quotes are fine.

Ever since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, I notice all our friends, past and present, are divided mainly into two camps: Pro or Anti Narendra Modi or the BJP. In the process, I see many of my JNU friends from Free-Thinkers group as well as from the SDS (Students for Democratic Socialism, a Pro-JP movement breakaway from the Yuva Janata) taking a 180-degree turn. They have been speaking the language of our Communist/Congress friends. Conversion has taken place on the other side as well.

The sanguine position would have been to try to get to the unbiased objective truth, collecting and analyzing all aspects into consideration (although it’s a misnomer). Elements of truth could be found on all sides and, therefore, there are competing narratives.

In the matters pertaining to our country, no matter how many times we repeat Universal Brotherhood or 'Vashudhaiv Kutumbakam,' national security or geo-political interests do matter. So does matter the cultural identity. No logician will argue why in the neighborhood of all "--stans," around Central and South Asia, only Hindustan will have no right to exert its existence.

Even a universalist like Mohandas Gandhi, whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated world-wide this year, left South Africa and sailed for India to work for independence, territorial integrity and its social emancipation. He represented the best Hindustani identity.

With regard to Article 370 and 35A, it's now abundantly clear that it was a temporary provision enshrined in the constitution at a turbulent time to make the Kashmiri Muslims feel secure within the Indian federation. However, in 72 years of Kashmir's accession, the application of the article in the center-state relations had constantly been diluting. It became practically redundant through different Congress and non-Congress regimes.

In one way, it rejuvenated itself when the extremists and politicians of all shades in Kashmir sought to use this article as a political tool.

It also came to light that the Article 35 (A) discriminated against the displaced migrants of 1947, the Valmikis (the Scheduled Castes), and the women of Jammu & Kashmir.

In 2019, therefore, the debate whether Bhim Rao Ambedkar or anyone else wanted or supported Article 370 and 35 (A) remained only one of academic importance. If Kashmir is now like any other state of India, why will she have any extra-ordinary constitutional privilege, why should she not be with the mainstream? The experience of history has been wherever extraordinary privileges were granted, the extraordinary classes of vested interests (the likes of the Sheikhs, the Muftis, the Geelanis or the Hurriyats) had emerged.

Is this not true that behind the veils of Article 370, autonomy or special status, the most militant and extremist forms of Islamism have been killing the Hindus, the moderate Shia or Sufi Muslims in Kashmir and bombing their Dargah(s)?

Look at the list of journalists, musicians, politicians, and public or security officials assassinated by the Pak-inspired Islamist militants in Kashmir for the last many years. A member of the Mufti family had once been kidnapped and her release was secured only by freeing a group of Islamist extremists held in Indian jails.

Also look at what Pakistan has done to the part of Kashmir she has kept under occupation since 1947: It has been reduced to ‘military barracks of successive army rulers of Pakistan. The indigenous Kashmiri culture including the language has brutally been destroyed and replaced.

The circumstances under which special status was given to Jammu and Kashmir don’t exist anymore. The events of 1947 were overtaken by history. In new Kashmir, the younger generation wants to live with freedom and dignity as equal to other citizens of the country. Most certainly, they wouldn’t like to fall under the influence of Pakistan or become its part.

Indian intelligentsia and the new generation, particularly the millennials, are now poised to leave the debate surrounding Article 370 and 35 (A) in the history books and move forward. The Hindus, Muslims of Kashmir, Bihar or Tamil Nadu and the rest can and will now study and work in any state of India they wanted.

The national and international communities also support this resolve.


Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.

Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.

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