“Modi government ‘dilutes’ Article 370 to strip Kashmir of its special status and bifurcates J&K into two Union Territories,” reads the notification bar on the morning of August 5, 2019. Trying to connect to a Kashmiri friend went in vain for the entire state woke up to a communication blackout and curfew. While they were asleep, the signal bars on mobile phones and internet was turned off. My friend’s last Instagram post was on Sunday – motivational quotes on August 4, 2019.
Scrapping off the special status can give rise to communalisation in the state. There will be immense polarization between Srinagar and Jammu. It shall provide ripe conditions for our opportunist neighbours to disturb law and order, and internal peace in the state with cross border infiltrations and ceasefire violations.
But job creation and political inclusions can help stabilising the area, emphasises the government. Evidence from other long-running internal security threats – Maoist conflict in the Eastern corridors, suggests that generating employment couldn’t stamp out conflict and as of today, North-Eastern youths, also victims of insurgency, stand discriminated against in parts of the mainland.
Whether the government can provide education facilities and create enough jobs to stem the deep-seated grievances of Kashmiri youth remains to be seen.
Tourism, the state’s major industry is deeply hit, leading to loss of many Kashmiris’ economic livelihood. Loss of freedom and movement, communication shutdown and isolation altogether can be seen as measures to crush dissent which undercuts the efforts for peaceful compromise that mainstream Kashmiri politicians have been calling for.
Numerous bitter memories of the conflict experienced in the past deterred their elders from violence but what is more, the exclusions from the state power can incite the youngsters to think that their time has come and this may push them towards civil disobedience and violence, paving way for the expansion of existing separatists and Islamist terrorist movement, massive street demonstrations and the withdrawal of cooperation from government institutions.
Recent house arrests of prominent Kashmiri politicians could further increase Kashmiri youths’ sense of marginalisation and provoke rebel groups by strengthening nativist sentiments. High mobilisation capacity of non-Kashmiris could cause demographic changes and ethnic inequality generating conflict between newcomers and the local population contributing to state weakness.
Many people may not find anything wrong with the intentions of the government but the situation is complex. The only permanent solution considering the will and aspirations of the Kashmiris is a plebiscite allowing them to decide their fate. Integrating them to the mainstream through defence recruitments, reservations, engaging youth in culture, sports, organizing events in Jammu and Kashmir in which its youth would like to participate, student exchange programs may perhaps help winning back the trust of Kashmiri youths in Indian democracy, thus ensuring natural integration and preventing them from joining separatist movements.
Given the pertinent disbenefits, the central government and other revered leaders should agree that they could have had superb enactment of leadership through a set of tactics rather than execrable execution of an admirable strategy.
Note: This article received a position in the Democracy Wall contest organised by The Print.