Sunday, March 3, 2024

Kashmir: Discontent lingers after Supreme Court’s Article 370 ruling

In Kashmir, people feel downhearted after the Supreme Court’s verdict rejected a batch of pleas challenging the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave special power to the state.

The Muslim-majority state have been without people’s representation for five years and the apex court has given another year for the union government to reinstate election.

In June 2018, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) pulled out of its coalition government with the Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and pushed Jammu and Kashmir under Governor’s rule. Nearly five months later, a few local political parties expressed willingness to form a coalition government but fate changed when the Governor dissolved the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir on 21 November 2018.

On 5 August 2019, Modi-led Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) abrogated Article 370 — revoking J&K’s Special Status, and bifurcated J&K state into two Union Territories, amid tight security measures and complete communication breakdown. Several local political leaders were detained including former Chief Ministers of the erstwhile State. 

Several people including local political leaders and activists moved to India’s top Judicial Court and filled petitions against Article 370 abrogation. Interestingly, the abrogation was legalised by the Supreme Court.

The case was heard by a Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud.

Leaders slams verdict

“My dear statesmen, do not give up or lose hope. Jammu and Kashmir has seen many ups and downs. Today’s decision of the Supreme Court is a halt, not a destination for us. Don’t try to think of it as a destination. Our opponents want us to give up hope and admit defeat, but this is not to be, ” said the valley’s former Chief Minister and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti in her video message to people shortly after the Supreme Court verdict. 

Mufti and JKNC Vice President Omar Abdullah had alleged that they were placed under house arrest on the verdict day, a claim denied by the government. LG Manoj Sinha who’s heading the UT government in a presser at Jammu had said, “Neither anyone has been arrested nor anybody placed under house arrest.”

Irfan Hafiz Lone, who’s a legal rights activist as well as advocate, said, “People of J&K were having high hopes and feel disappointed, the sense of alienation is increasing though due to prevailing circumstances.” He said people aren’t expressing themselves publicly but they are very disappointed, particularly since the 05 August decision.

Lone was among the lawyers who represented J&K in the Supreme Court during hearings on Article 370. He said, “The restoration of our rights within the constitution must be achieved through peaceful means, unity and peaceful movement within the constitution that is sine qua non for restoration of rights guaranteed by the constitution of India.”

The demands are not confined to the reversal of the 5 August decision but all rights which were in existence in 1953, Lone continues.

“Article 370 was protecting the rights, it was giving autonomy and empowerment to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Satish Mahaldar, Chairman of the JK Peace Forum and Chairman of Reconciliation, Return and Rehabilitation of Migrants. Adding, “No doubt there was discrimination going on but the legislative Assembly could have modified it.”

Responding to a question about the government’s claims regarding normalcy in the valley after Article 370 abrogation, Mahaldar, a Kashmiri Pandit, said, “The incident happened in Baramulla where a person was going for Namaz and he was killed by militants. So how can we say that the normalcy has been this?”

No doubt, tourism has increased and people are getting benefits of national schemes which weren’t earlier extended to J&K, he claimed. 

“Why they (BJP) are not drawing up the plans regarding the return of Kashmiri Pandits, they have spoken lies to the majority of the nation that they will make a return,” Mahaldar said while stating that the return of Kashmiri Pandits was also a manifesto of the BJP like Article 370 abrogation but they betrayed the entire Hindu majority nation as well as the people of J&K.

“Even the successive governments had not done much but the BJP promised it and even they failed.”

While claiming that the J&K was turned into an open prison overnight, Sarah Hayat Shah, who is Additional State Spokesperson of J&K National Conference, said “For months we were cut off from the rest of the world.”

She said, “It’s clear that the government was apprehensive of strong public resentment against this move, and rightly so. So it’s a matter of common sense to understand the public’s sentiment about the recent Supreme Court verdict.”

“Of course, there’s a deep sense of betrayal among the people. Article 370 was the basis on which J&K acceded to India. Former Prime Minister of India (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) from the same party BJP in the past had said that “sky is the limit” about J&K,” Shah claimed while adding that “today by making us bottle up our emotions, they’re also betraying the democratic heritage of India.”

Shah said that the inordinate delay in elections is a blatant violation of the democratic process. Today, Kashmir has no robust mechanism to listen and respond to people’s grievances, she said.

“People’s voices have been crushed under the weight of an unelected administration that seems indifferent to the problems people are dealing with, whether it is concerning poor electric supply, economic distress or development.”

There’s no coherent policy to deal with these pressing issues under this unelected and unpopular administration, Shah further said.

Former CM Mufti in her five-minute video,  said that the Supreme Court’s verdict on Article 370 isn’t their defeat but the defeat of the idea of India.

“I hope that you will not allow hopelessness and defeat in your heart, but will move forward with a new hope, a new struggle,” She concluded her video with these words.

Bhat Yasir
Bhat Yasir
Bhat Yasir is a Kashmir based Journalist, studying Mass Communication and Journalism. He can be reached on Twitter at BhatYasir_
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