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Sunday, April 11, 2021

One year after abrogation of Article 370, has J&K seen progress?

Last year in August, the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre stripped the special status granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then there has been severe criticism and uproar against the decision and it still remains under the heat. Some say that the situation in the valley has improved for the better while others say that the government has become indifferent to the people’s plight.

We try to find out one year after the abrogation of Article 370, has J&K seen progress?

Is there any progress?

The Central government has been stressing on the fact that violence and terror have reduced in the area and it is likely a sign that citizens have accepted what happened a year ago. However, there are no real parameters actually to determine the amount of progress made or damage done. Anand Arni, former special secretary R&AW and is currently associated with the Takshashila Institution writes, “as the state is under a form of lockdown with restrictions on communications, media and politics. Also, security forces are very visible. There is no real normalcy and tourism and the lucrative apple crop have taken colossal hits. The facts on the ground are that there is a reduction in violence, but this is more a consequence of the state’s muscular policy and the tight security grid. Given the restrictions in place, it is difficult to comprehend the mood in the Kashmir Valley. There is undoubtedly resignation, those who talk say, sotto voce, that nobody wants to risk life and limb in confronting the state. Attitudes have hardened and there is anger with the judiciary which was once seen as being neutral. There is bewilderment that the government’s anger with Pakistan is now focused on the ordinary Kashmiri. As for younger people, we simply do not know. There is no visible leadership with the strong crackdown creating only two segments — with us or against us.”
While the abrogation of Article 370 has already been done, Arni adds, “the healing process to address the sense of humiliation and hurt has not begun. There must be an attempt to talk to the people; to win hearts and minds; to withdraw the harsh restrictions and permit political participation. Parallelly, the Centre needs to recognize the unique character of the state within the limits set by the Indian constitution. The first of these steps would be to restore J&K to a full-fledged state and to mitigate the impact of the withdrawal of Article 35A by moving the former state under provisions exercised by other states under the sixth schedule or Article 371. Once the restrictions are lifted, there is bound to be a reaction with an increase in protests and demonstrations (and even militancy) but this is to be expected and is the essence of democracy.”

Has the violence decreased?

Let’s look at some of the sectors and scenarios that have progressed or deteriorated in the past year. The government has said that militant activity seems to have come down and public protests along with stone-pelting are also on the decline after the revocation. However, some figures show the exact opposite. According to the data collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal revealed that violence was observed to be declining in the initial days of this decade, with the lowest point in the year 2012 when 19 civilian deaths were reported, 18 security personnel and 84 terrorists/extremists were killed in J&K. But to our surprise, in just a matter of a few months in 2020, as many as 17 civilians, 34 security personnel and 154 terrorists/extremists have lost their lives amid violence in the valley. The government and a lot of experts who are of the thought that violence has decreased keep on blaming our neighbor Pakistan for violent outburst or intrusions in the state. However, in reality, after the August 5 revocation in 2019, has only led to a rise in separatist groups and more number of young people joining these groups.

The state of Kashmir’s economy

As far as the economy of the state is concerned, the real picture doesn’t look too promising either. While it was promised that with the revocation Kashmir will become a part of mainland India and more investments will help develop the economy, that has not been the case so far.
According to the Preliminary Economic Assessment Loss Report put out by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries( KCCI) in December 2019, Kashmir’s economy has suffered a loss of a whopping Rs 17,800 crore and nearly 5 lakh jobs were lost between the timespan of August and October 2019. “The loss to business in Kashmir now stands Rs 40,000 till August 2020,” said Sheikh Ashiq, president KCCI, adding that the job losses in the state vary from season to season. “Last year, most jobs were lost in the hospitality sector after the government ordered tourists to leave Kashmir three days after [Article] 370 was taken down,” he added. Until December last year, nearly 2.5 lakh youth, including 1.5 lakh postgraduates and PhD scholars
Till December 2019, at least 2.5 lakh youth, including 1.5 lakh postgraduates and PhD scholars had got themselves registered with the government, according to a DNA report. Sectors like Horticulture, floriculture, agriculture, and sericulture have also seen at least 12,000 job losses. In the manufacturing sector alone 70,000 job losses were reported since last year, followed by 60,000 and 20,000 job losses in the transport and construction sectors respectively.

Come up with a probable strategy

So, after one whole year, what the government has done or could have in Kashmir is quite complicated. There are only a few successes and a lot of other missed opportunities. Lt Gen DS Hooda, retd, Former Northern Army Commander writes from a security perspective, “situation has been reasonably well controlled. 2001 was the peak year of violence in J&K, with more than 4,000 fatalities of civilians, security forces and terrorists. By 2012, these figures had come down to a little over 100. Since 2013, there has been an increase in violence levels, but the average fatalities the past three years number less than 400. On the other hand, there has been little progress in finding a long-term solution to this intractable conflict. This is the result of a strategy that has focused on conflict management rather than conflict resolution. This is no simple task in a conflict as complex as Kashmir, but a start can be made with an approach that is people-centric rather than security-centric.”

Let’s hope Kashmir sees progress as time passes by. The government might need to up their game a bit and come up with probable solutions for the state to flourish like any other.

Don’t have time to read? No Problem. Platocast’s “All Things Considered” is a weekly Indian politics podcast. You can listen here.   

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