Restoring Statehood

HOME minister Amit Shah gave an assurance in parliament on Saturday that the Centre will grant full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir at an appropriate time. He was replying to a discussion on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill that some Opposition members claimed contradicted the government’s plan to give J&K its statehood back. The opposition also took exception to merge the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) cadre of all-India services officers with the Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre. But the home minister said that merging J&K cadre with the (AGMUT) had nothing to do with negation of statehood to J&K.

Here’s hoping that the union government does take step to restore J&K’s statehood at the earliest. On February 5 the government restored the high speed mobile internet in the union territory after eighteen months. All these months, the government kept denying the 4G on the grounds that doing so was a security risk. This despite the fact that the ground situation in the Valley has remained calm over the past one and a half year.

Now the government wants to bring back a group of foreign diplomats for the third time to showcase the normalcy in Kashmir. The visit being planned in the next few weeks will include about 20 envoys and diplomats from different countries, including the European Union. The visit will be the third official one by foreign diplomats since the government’s decision to amend Article 370 on August 5, 2019. Among them was a group of far-right members of the European Parliament.

All such visits have run into their share of controversies. The move of bringing diplomats has come under criticism for trying to portray normalcy in Kashmir where the high speed mobile internet was only recently restored. The government has also been accused of seeking approval for its Kashmir policy from the foreign countries, when it considers Kashmir an internal issue. And also ironically while foreign diplomats are brought to Kashmir time and again, the leaders from the opposition parties have often been discouraged from doing so.

The BJP has remained unfazed by such criticisms and defended the visits of foreign diplomats as a helpful effort to demonstrate to the world that Kashmir was doing well following the revocation of Article 370. The BJP has highlighted the absence of protests in Kashmir as a sign of normalcy in the UT. The fact, however, remains that while the situation in Kashmir has remained largely calm, the government hasn’t been commensurate with relaxation of restrictions. Also, New Delhi has been delaying the restoration of statehood to J&K. Truth is that Kashmir has come a long way since withdrawal of its autonomous status and the situation has held largely peaceful. This should have qualified J&K for the grant of statehood. But the centre has so far given no timeframe for it. It is hoped that after restoration of 4G, the government will take firm steps to make J&K once again a state.

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