75th Independence Day

THE diamond jubilee of independence was marked by the absence of a shutdown in Kashmir, as has otherwise been the norm over the past thirty years. There were also no protests or stone-throwing. What is more, the day was celebrated in all government offices. The markets were awash with flags. The ABVP  led a Tiranga rally from Indira Nagar to Lal Chowk without being stopped anywhere. The government didn’t even need to suspend the internet, a testament to the new normalcy in the Valley.

The 75th Independence Day was especially well-publicized in other parts of the nation. It is a huge milestone in the country’s march towards progress and prosperity. And Prime Minister  Narendra Modi summed it up well in his speech at the Red Fort by laying out his vision of India 2047, as a fully developed and self-reliant economy. The PM spelled out big ideas for the future. In a speech that lasted 82 minutes, the PM urged the nation to prepare for the challenge in the Amrit Kaal, the next 25 years,  by committing to fight corruption, dynastic politics and nepotism. The PM didn’t make any new announcements but set out the ideas for India to follow going forward. He rose above party politics to address India’s challenges and opportunities. The accent on women’s empowerment stood out. The speech thus fit into the solemnity of the occasion.

Incidentally, the 75th Independence Day came ten days after Jammu and Kashmir observed the third anniversary of the revocation of Article 370. And that the PM didn’t feel the need to mention Kashmir, an otherwise abiding national issue for the past seven decades, shows how far Kashmir has come on the path to normalcy. The union government now sees the problem as good as resolved. And the peace in the Valley on August 15 proves the union government right.

Over the last three years, the situation in Kashmir has gone through a virtual metamorphosis. Leave aside intermittent extended unrests, even routine protests have disappeared. Militancy, although considerably abated, remains a challenge. Over 500 militants, 131 security personnel and 128 civilians have lost their lives in the union territory in militancy-related violence since August 5, 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated. And according to an estimate, there are still 150-200 active militants in the Valley.

That said, the situation in Kashmir has certainly come a long way. And it is acknowledged by one and all. There is a rub though. Despite the prevailing normalcy, people don’t feel that they are being trusted with the rights enjoyed by people in other parts of the country, a promise that formed the basis of the rationale for the withdrawal of Article 370.  The 75th Independence Day should thus be the occasion that the union government listens to this silent demand in the union territory and takes steps to address it.

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