No longer will February 14 mean the same to Indians as in the past. The day will go down the annals of the nation’s history as a cornerstone in its war against terrorism. While India has been busy preparing to conduct the massive democratic exercise of holding elections to the Parliament, Pakistan organised a ghastly terror attack at Pulwama. India’s response was in the form of airstrikes, wreaking devastation and destruction in the enemy’s heartland. Eton of international terrorism, Pakistan had made no secret in the past of its intention of bleeding India with a thousand cuts.
Pulwama marked yet another cut in Pakistan’s proxy war. Notwithstanding India’s repeated démarches and protests in the international fora in the past about Pakistan’s proxy war, this was the first time around that its efforts had succeeded in garnering absolute global support. The credit for the favourable political climate that has evolved over the last five years from a passive mood of indifference that had prevailed earlier on the part of the international community goes to the BJP-led NDA government that has worked tirelessly in exposing Pakistan’s insidious ways. Further diplomatic moves to isolate Pakistan among the comity of nations are afoot.
Although the whole of India has been a victim of terrorism all along the nation’s existence as a sovereign republic, the State which has suffered the most is Jammu & Kashmir. This is on account of the State being in the line of frontal assault by a hostile Pakistan which has always coveted J&K. The nation must seize hold of the congenial atmosphere prevailing at home and abroad to end the perennial threat from Pakistan and the political impasse in the Kashmir valley. Our all-out diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan must be complemented by cutting out the support base of the enemy in J&K. A concerted exercise at different levels ranging from diplomacy to politics and military action would make terrorism a thing of the past.
Tough times call for tough decisions. The Union government has already started the crackdown on the fountainhead of violence with the detention of hundreds of hardened anti-national elements and the withdrawal of security cover for separatist leaders. The state chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami has been banned. This has sent shockwaves among the anti-nationals and their sympathisers in the mainstream political parties across the State. Undeterred by the backlash over the developments, the Centre is mulling over ways and means to further strengthen the security measures. The mood of the nation has never been more congenial in the past for the government to take the next bold step. The time is propitious for it to go for the jugular of the enemy and establish to the world beyond any pale of doubt that India will never give up on Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral part of the country.
Military action against the enemy must be complemented by big-ticket political decisions in J&K. The last barrier before the State in extricating itself from a web of political machinations and intrigue needs to go. This presupposes the need for the consigning of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution to their rightful place viz the dustbins of history. It would mean no more separate Constitution, flag or special status for J&K. The falsity of the claim by those who are opposed to peace that abrogation of the two Articles would not be in the interest of the State and would spell fresh violence must be exposed.
The unique circumstances leading to the grant of special status to J&K are a thing of the past and have no relevance anymore. Why and how the special status was accorded are a matter of historical detail set in troubled times, never to be revisited. The redundancy of the special status makes it eminently worthy of removal, with no likely negative impact. On the contrary, its continued retention makes it a major irritant towards ensuring social harmony between people of the State and their compatriots in the rest of India. Its removal would make conditions easier for the Kashmiris seeking education and employment outside the State and also for non-Kashmiris who wish to migrate to the State and buy properties, get married and settle down over there.
Economy & Justice for All
Removal of Articles 35A and 370 would make the State’s economy a level playing ground for industrialists and entrepreneurs from all over the country. Fresh inflows of investments, skill and talent, would ensure multifold growth in the State’s industry, agriculture, tourism, MSME and all other areas of the economic and social spheres besides opening up new vistas of progress. Cessation of terrorism and removal of the two redundant Articles of the Constitution would make J&K a worthy and equal stakeholder in our nation’s growth and development.
Apart from doing immense good to the State, dispensing with the special status would do justice to the sentiments of the citizens living in other States whether they want to migrate to J&K or not. Why should there be a wheel within a wheel? How much longer should a State, which has been part of the country for seventy years, be allowed to enjoy special status and to what end? As a sovereign democratic republic, India should not hesitate to exercise its inalienable right to remove the inequality between States in the form of special status. Every citizen of the country has the Constitutional right to be treated alike, Kashmiri or not. Besides, prohibiting or restricting a non-Kashmiri citizen from buying property in the State or marrying a Kashmiri citizen albeit by means of a temporary Constitutional provision, militates against natural justice.
Restoration of peace and doing away with the inequality between citizens would facilitate the return of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus who had to flee from the State some years ago, leaving behind their home and hearth, to escape the wrath of mobs of hostile elements. Their return to J&K and rehabilitation should be facilitated by the government for the sake of restoration of the people’s faith in the rule of law.
Shed to Gain
The basis on which Muhammad Ali Jinnah had based his claim for Pakistan was that Muslims could not live safely in a Hindu-dominant country. The proclamation has been proved hollow, and the two-nation theory was a monumental failure. The people of J&K should not allow themselves to play into the hands of separatist leaders who try to instill in them the fear that they would be subsumed by the rest of India and lose their separate identity. By shedding the fig leaf of special status, people of J&K would gain peace, progress and prosperity, which have eluded them thus far. Nothing more could the people want. Political will and gumption are all that the government at the Centre needs to set a historical flaw right and make the country the overall beneficiary of the course correction.