Elusive Order

The Valley has, by and large, witnessed an uneasy calm since August 2019. But there is no peace in the true sense of the term

TWO years after the withdrawal of J&K’s special status, Kashmir is far from coming to terms with the unprecedented move. On the day of its second anniversary, 5 August, this was evident.  While the BJP held rallies across J&K, including across the country,  the other parties acted as mute spectators. The people in the Valley were completely indifferent, so was a significant section of the population in Ladakh and Jammu division, now sobered by the state of affairs over the last two years.

It is difficult to predict how the situation would evolve going forward. For now, a sense of resignation has set in. Though a large majority in the  former state seethes at the 5 August decisions, they have stayed short of expressing their anger. The reality as of now is that the Valley has, by and large, witnessed an uneasy calm since August 2019. Protests and for that matter even stone pelting has abated. But there is no peace in the true sense of the term. Nor is there a normal political and social life.

Kashmir still has nothing remotely resembling a working political and social structure – other than a few new ones believed to have been forged by New Delhi –  that could either articulate the sentiment of their people or formulate a response to the current crisis.  And there is little hope that things would redeem on this score in the near future. It is unlikely that the region would be allowed to have normal political and civil society activity anytime soon.

What is more, over the last two years, the centre has embarked on far-reaching measures that seek to build upon the August 5 move to remake Kashmir. New Delhi has already  issued new domicile rules for Kashmir that have thrown Kashmir open for settlement by outsiders. According to the rules, anyone who has been a resident of Kashmir for 15 years will get the residency rights. The law applies retrospectively. For central government officials, the period is 10 years and for students it is just seven years. And now even the spouses of the J&K women married outside are entitled to a domicile certificate.  People can apply for these certificates online and the official charged with granting them has to do so within a fortnight, failing which he will be fined  Rs 50000. This leaves little space for investigation of the documents of the applicants.  Even the original residents of J&K have to apply for domicile certificates,  putting them on par with the outsiders.

Under the Control of Buildings Operations Act and Development Act any area can be notified as a “strategic area”. The Army can now acquire land in the former state without a ‘no objection certificate’. Scores of the other laws have been issued that are geared to remake the former state and so far the project has succeeded to a large extent.

Where does Kashmir go from here? Nowhere in the near term. The last two years have witnessed little change in the ground situation in Kashmir, other than the one enforced through application of a stronger government hand. There is no let-up in the centre’s efforts to control and micro-manage things in the Valley and recast it in its ideological image.

But despite bringing to bear all its might on the region, New Delhi seems nowhere near pacifying Kashmir, the alleged grand objective of the withdrawal of Article 370.  The militancy related violence has only spiked. According to the data, last year over two hundred militants lost their lives.   Though  the public protests and stone pelting have temporarily disappeared, this is due more to extraordinarily harsh oversight of the former state by the security agencies  than to any reconciliation  among the people.

The reality is that the two years on from the loss of autonomy, Kashmir is more alienated from New Delhi than perhaps ever in the past. This is why the space for pro-India politics has drastically shrunk, one indicator of it is the endemic support for China’s recent incursions in Ladakh, something Kashmiris assume might help dissuade or delay New Delhi’s pursuit of its alleged ideological designs in the region.

What form this alienation takes place in the months or years  ahead as New Delhi goes about easing the lockdown is difficult to tell. But one thing is sure, it would be long before Kashmir even starts coming to terms with the loss of the August 5 move.  The day for them is no longer only about the loss of autonomy in a literal sense, it has now taken on a larger psychological dimension: it is also about political disempowerment.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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Riyaz Wani

Riyaz Wani is the Political Editor at Kashmir Observer

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