As we cross into 2020, we can only hope that it is better than the previous year. Last year was one of the toughest the Valley has seen over the past seven decades. The revocation of Article 370 on August 5 was a monumentally disruptive decision taken by the Narendra Modi led government at the centre. It changed the basis of Kashmir’s constitutional relationship with New Delhi. The Article 370 granted Jammu and Kashmir a semi-autonomous position within Indian Union. J&K had a limited autonomy in conducting its internal affairs and also the outsiders couldn’t buy land and become its citizens. This has changed now. J&K has now not only been divested of its special status but also been bifurcated into two federally administered areas of Ladakh and J&K. The union territory as J&K is called now is ruled by Lieutenant Governor Girish Chander Murmu. As matters stand, there is little hope that the elections to a largely disempowered Assembly will be held anytime soon. All major leaders including three former Chief Ministers – Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – are under detention. Again the centre has given no indication that the leaders will be released in near future.
Kashmir Valley was also put under a sweeping security lockdown and communication blockade, partially eased since. Prepaid cell phones and even the sms service continue to be blocked. And more importantly, internet clampdown remains very much in place.
As we look forward to new year, it looks unlikely that the situation will undergo any redeeming change. People are already in dread of what might follow as a fallout of the revocation of Article 370. So far the government has pre-empted any expression of dissent by ensuring that there was little organizing ability left on the ground to enable mobilization of people. And it has so far succeeded in this objective. Unlike 2016 when killing of popular militant commander Burhan Wani triggered an extended unrest, the reaction to withdrawal of Article 370 has been eerily calm. That is, apart from some mobilization that took place in the first few weeks after the August 5 move.
Then there is India, Pakistan dimension too. New Delhi’s integration of J&K has plunged the relations between the two countries to a new low. Pakistan has refused to accept Kashmir’s merger with India and sought a reversal of the move, something that New Delhi is unlikely to do. At the same time, Islamabad’s efforts to internationalize Kashmir haven’t met with any success. This makes the future of the relations between the neighbours very fraught in nature. New year can witness the unfolding of these new dynamics in either a disruptive way or should the leaders of the two countries behave in a statesmanly manner, the situation can even in a constructive direction. We can only hope the leaders choose the latter option.