Kashmir is part of core Hindu identity, created by sage Kashyap, thousands of years ago. The descendants of Sage Kashyap, going by Kashyap Gotra are all over India. Kashmiri Pandits, currently in J&K are Saraswat Brahmins. Saraswat Brahmins as a community are distributed all over India indicating kin-ship with people all over India. Some of the Saraswat Brahmins migrated from Kashmir as it came under Islamic rule few centuries back.
It appears that Jammu & Kashmir king signed an accession agreement on the same lines as all other kings. All agreements mentioned 3 subjects such as Defence, Communication and External Affairs. Other kings followed it up with a merger agreement, which meant assimilation of their kingdom within Indian union, without retaining the boundaries. In case of J&K, next legal steps were in the form of article 370 that put certain conditions/limitations on central government’s oversight. But everywhere it was accepted that J&K was integral part of India
In any case conditions in article 370 were blatantly one-sided and Indian Government should not have agreed to them in first place. For one, the boundaries of the state can neither be expanded nor reduced. Also J&K had its own constitution, flag and PM( initially). Again central laws have to be replicated in J&K constitution. All this ensured a sense of separateness within the people. The article itself was supposed to be temporary, but the damage was done, as it has got perpetuated separateness. Unlike SC/ST reservations, it did not have specific time frame. So people of J&K are deprived of progressive legislation that covers whole of India and sense of separateness has continued.
In addition to this J&K had residency laws that means outsiders cannot buy property in J&K. Also if a Kashmiri woman marries an outsider, she will lose her rights of residency. Again article 370 has meant circumscribing rights of a billion Indians over J&K.
In course of time, certain dilution has taken place in article 370, with election commission and Supreme Court extending its purview on J&K. However there are still riders. Constituency boundaries cannot be changed to reflect changes in population. Overall quite a lot is done to perpetuate Muslim Majority in the valley. Also valley has domination over Jammu and Ladakh with successive governments led only by people from valley, with a few exceptions. The situation in J&K and treatment of Kashmiri Pandits, gives a message to India at large that secularism does not protect Hindus when in minority.
Kashmiri Pandits were attacked and ethnically cleansed out of valley. Their houses were burnt or forcibly taken over, pushing them to Jammu or outside the state. While Indian media talks about 2002 riots every second day and 1984 riots also frequently, nobody in the media talks about Kashmiri Pandits, nor do foreign media/governments. It is also believed that the wheels of justice have hardly taken off to punish the guilty. This gross injustice needs to be corrected.
Muslim Majority in Valley has meant tendency for Islamization overriding Kashmiriyat. Also it has meant for sustained probability of local support to terrorists from across the border. Whereas there are several areas in India that have border disputes, steady migration and assimilation over time has meant the disputes have dissipated and people have moved on.
Article 370 and special status has meant perpetuation of sense of separateness. It will continue to feed on sense of alienation. More you feed a problem, more strength it gains. Because of local support to terrorism in some form or other means Army needs to be present in J&K. Sustained presence of Army has taken the toll on both soldiers and residents. Status quo on population means Kashmiris get to see only military face of India and not common people across India. In general,this has meant writ of separatists and victory of violent sections over general populace. If article 370 and residency laws go there will be greater assimilation and integration with rest of India.
Article 370, residency laws and fixed electorates have made it harder for a national party to form Government in J&K. Even though Punjab had separatist tendencies, people choosing at least half the time national parties has meant elimination of terrorism in course of time. Also national parties may not be stuck in history and willing to move forward as their relevance is not driven by existence of Kashmir problem. It is time to relook at the stalemate in Kashmir and let new state leaders emerge who can transform the situation. It was not in Kashmir alone that there were disagreements. It is the duty of Union Government to take a decision and see it through. Not taking a decision does not help. Think of Parliament attack and huge cost of keeping army in Kashmir. It is better to pay a high short term cost and do the right thing. In any case separatists do not care about constitution of India and most people have issue with the presence of army.
In conclusion, some of the recommendations are given below:
- Repeal Residency Laws
- Repeal Article 370 and get J&K on par with all other states
- Redraw electoral constituencies
- Ensure proactive enrollment of all citizens to electoral rolls.
- Reduce the presence of Army in numbers by using high technology and intelligence gathering. Use the approach that other countries use where number of people involved is far fewer, but they are better equipped.
- We should also respect our soldiers and strike a balance in trying to reduce the number of lives lost. May be selective use of air power is needed.
- Have an integrated police force that has 50% local and 50% from rest of India, which is trained and largely self-sufficient
- Destroy the eco-system that provides local support to terrorism.
- Begin a process of repealing AFSPA and address all genuine concerns about human rights.
- Go all out to eliminate corruption and provide best possible governance
- Tackle Pakistan by being proactive than using a reactive approach.
- India needs a forward strategy while handling terrorism/terrorist states. The US did a military outreach all the way to Afghanistan. The forward strategy is very important to block enemy in its path.