Can Mehbooba Defend Or Restore JK’s Special Status?


SRINAGAR:  Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is the “strength” and “honour” for Jammu and Kashmir and the special status would not be threatened by the New Industrial Policy, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Thursday. We will not go into the merits and demerits of  the “ new” Industrial Policy nor the controversy thereof but will assess Mehbooba’s claims vis a vis her party’s alliance with the BJP and other contextual and political issues. 
First a word on Article 370. In consonance with the idea , theory and practice of “asymmetric federalism”  and given the special and extraordinary circumstances under which the state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India, the state was granted special status vis a vis the Indian federation.
While the status remains but it has been gradually and inexorably hollowed out by powers that be , at times, in connivance with local Kashmiri honchos propped by a combination of sleaze and wheelings and dealings by the Centre. Other devices or artifices that have been employed include the Governor’s office and other methods that defy political ethics and considerations. The result has been the ossification of the political process and politics in the state of Jammu and Kashmir with opportunism being the defining feature of main stream politics. This opportunist behavior has been expediently exploited by powers that be at the Centre.
Given that Article 370 has been somewhat hollowed out what can we make of Mehbooba’s assertion?
An answer warrants a little bit of contextual elaboration.
Article 370 can be abrogated and nullified if the state assembly passes a resolution or perhaps if “ facts on the ground change”. This potential is ominous.  Now against this backdrop, consider Mehbooba Mufti’s party’s , the PDP’s alliance with the BJP. The BJP, a far right , ultra nationalist party, has an agenda that seeks to homogenize India under the broad rubric of Hindutva. Comprehensive assimilation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union is central to this agenda. The PDP , for whatever reason, chose to ally with the BJP. There is then a major structural contradiction in the alliance and has implications on Article 370. The question is: till what time can the PDP latch on to its ostensible premise of guarding the state’s special status and how far and long will the BJP stay quiet over its core agenda? Once things start coming out in the open , the alliance will either fray or other deleterious consequences might ensue.
The other scenario that might pan out is changing of the facts on the ground. This can be done by altering the demographics of the state or through other subtle but underhand means by rejigging the Industrial policy of the state. Moreover, the mainstream political space in Jammu and Kashmir has been split between many parties with the National Conference and the PDP the major players along with the BJP. This fragmented political space lends itself to both overt and surreptitious tinkering with Article 370 and therefore the special status of the state.
A Trojan horse Industrial policy plus changed demographics of the state complemented by fragmented political scene of the state overlaid by potential political opportunism by certain players motivated by self interest than the larger good might lead to the “ creation of facts” on the ground which will lend themselves to abrogation of the said article and its erosion.
Admittedly, these are alarming scenarios but there can be no grounds for smugness or complacency by any party  or parties of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. While we have no reason to doubt Mehbooba Mufti’s sincerity but the challenge before her and others is immense. Structural and profound forces are arrayed against Jammu and Kashmir and it would take political acumen, determination and above all sincerity and even political sacrifice to give short shrift to these forces and not only maintain the state’s special status but also restore it. Is Mehbooba upto it? Time will tell.

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