How do Kashmiris feel about the revocation of Article 370?
In the moving novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, author Arundhati Roy provides a hair-raising account of the lives of the people in the beautiful Kashmir Valley, describing it more as heaven’s graveyard than heaven itself.
Ever since Sir Cyril Radcliffe ran his pen or pencil to tear India apart, Kashmir has endured an uneasy existence. Both India and Pakistan claim the territory as theirs. Until a couple of weeks ago, Article 370 of the Indian constitution allowed protection against any property purchase by those not from the valley.
The revocation of the article by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has changed that, and there are reports of hardline action being taken by the Indian army. While it is an internal affair of India, there are UN resolutions that called for a plebiscite among the people of Kashmir that India refuses to recognize.
Pakistan-administered Kashmir doesn’t have any such protective measures, and India has often accused its neighbour of fuelling extremism in the valley that has taken too many lives to be counted.
The Indian government denies heavy-handedness in tackling extremism, but there are too many examples, including the latest report by the BBC, where victims have had gruesome stories to tell.
In general, the people of India support the revocation simply because it really doesn’t make sense to allow a part of the country to have special rights. The government has pledged a massive influx of development funds and job creation following the revocation.
Whether the people of Kashmir support the concept is moot.
Their fear is that the revocation will lead to the Muslim majority being overwhelmed by the inevitable inflow of Hindus and that they will be further marginalized. The Indian government denies it is a Hindu-Muslim issue, but the BJP’s inherent philosophy is to create a Hindu state, as is obvious from some specific comments from their leadership on different occasions.
On their part, the Kashmiris are loathe to allow their territory to be owned by outsiders, so to say. And this in spite of no bar on Kashmiris owning property in the rest of India. Such examples are few and far between, and the number of Kashmiri students studying in the numerous educational institutions in Bangladesh is indicative of how repressed they actually are.
Article 370 did not prevent development from taking place or jobs being created, nor did it prevent investments through businesses.
It is a complex issue that must take into consideration the will of the people.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.