On Aug 5, 2019, the Modi government made the decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, fully integrating Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India. As for the curious artifice of demoting a state into a union territory, Amit Shah clarified that this was a strictly temporary measure. You can watch this, on video from Aug 5, 2019 itself.
When the time is right, Jammu and Kashmir will get back statehood. It’s common sense, as well as the only democratic and fair thing to do. In the years past, I do not remember anyone, BJP supporter or otherwise, complain about Jammu and Kashmir being a state. The objection was to special status, which allowed the J&K legislature to overrule laws passed by our Parliament.
So why was J&K turned into a union territory on Aug 5, 2019? Because of the exceptional circumstances and the fear of large scale violence. To tackle the potentially explosive situation, the center would need to temporarily assume control of all the organs of the state. There was a messaging component as well. When you have a child throwing a tantrum, one way to tackle is to take the child’s favorite toy and place it on the upper most shelf.
The demand for special status of J&K was similarly childish and unreasonable. Almost everyone else in this country lives in some state or the other and nobody sees this as unfair. What was this boast of Article 370 being some kind of precious crown for J&K? No, you can’t have special status. The bluff has been called. When the child stops throwing a tantrum, they can have their toy back. That’s statehood, to be returned at the right time.
Now, some may object to people of an entire region, or at least their political leaders, being compared to children. Well, when adults demand special status for no reason, that’s the definition of being a child, and a pampered one at that. Only a kid would run to their mom asking to be hugged and told that they are “special.” Adults know that nobody is special and that’s perfectly okay.
Around two years hence, tempers have cooled and the consultations have begun. We have already had one round of elections, for the so called District Development Councils (DDCs). Now it is time for delimitation of constituencies in the Assembly, and talks with state leaders so that J&K can be reborn as a state, fully integrated into the Union of India, same as Karnataka or Jharkhand.
So they came, they were (presumably) offered tea, they clicked a photograph and they left. I am failing to see why this image caused so much heartburn among the BJP’s online supporters.
I understand the liberal commentary on this. They are desperate, eager to paint everything as a “humiliating U-turn” by Modi. I skimmed their reactions online, trying to understand exactly which concession they are celebrating. Is it that Amit Shah is no longer referring to these people as “Gupkar Gang,” as he did before DDC polls? Seriously, is that everything?
I mean, have these people ever witnessed politicians take jibes at each other during an Indian election? If we get into the history of who said what, well … Let’s just not finish that thought. It’s better that way.
Anyway, those who were called Gupkar Gang seem to have readily brushed off the insult and moved on. They are hard-boiled politicians and know how to take things in stride. The only people who have not moved on are liberals in the media who took offense on behalf of the so called Gupkar Gang! In their mind, this photograph is an apology, a humiliating U-turn. Yes, it is whatever helps them sleep at night.
I was less able to understand the reaction from some of the BJP’s core constituency and all the disappointment they seemed to feel. For all my effort, I could not identify an actual concession that the Prime Minister made. There is going to be delimitation, then statehood and then elections. No hard deadlines given, just a promise of doing things at the right time. Exactly like it was promised on Aug 5, 2019.
On the contrary, I find the J&K politicians much changed. They have been chastened by spending long periods in custody, long enough to reflect and get real. That’s why Omar Abdullah now says there is no point asking the Modi government to restore Article 370. He says this is now a legal fight in the Supreme Court. That’s just another way of saying he knows there is nothing he can do. You should have seen Rajdeep’s face when Omar Abdullah said as much.
In fact, the ‘gang’ itself has fallen apart. Mehbooba Mufti has taken a more hardline stance, reflecting the views of her core constituency. In other words, both the PDP and the NC have realized that elections are coming. So they better get back to being enemies. Getting back Article 370 is an impossible dream. They better take what they can get. For that, they must compete, not cooperate.
For decades, the leaders of the Kashmir region dared the government in Delhi to remove Article 370. They arrogantly used to say that this is the bridge that connects Kashmir to the rest of India. If India drops the special status, the consequences will be too heavy for India to handle.
None of that happened. The Central government clamped down and got it all done in a single fell swoop. There were protests, but no widespread violence. Nothing unmanageable at all. In retrospect, those who kept up this empty boast for 70 years turned out to be the biggest enemies of the people of Kashmir. If they had not conjured up wild visions of large scale violence, the Central government perhaps would not have proceeded with such extreme caution in Aug 2019. There would have been no need for such a painful communications shutdown. Sensible people in Kashmir need to question their leaders about this. Without the empty boast of valley politicians, the transition would have been totally painless.
Now it’s done. Statehood for Jammu and Kashmir is on its way. They will get their toy back. It was theirs anyway.