6th August 2019 – one of the most polarizing days in recent Indian history, the day Articles 370 and 35A were abrogated from the Indian constitution and Jammu and Kashmir, as well as a separate Ladakh, were given the status of Union Territories. Some celebrated it as a decision that was long overdue – that would strengthen national unity. Others feared that it was an act of betrayal towards the Kashmiri population that was promised autonomy and self-determination by the nation’s founding fathers.
The immediate repercussions too were immense. On one end, rallies set out to commend the complete integration of Kashmir into the nation. Many claimed that abrogation of the outdated and unnecessary laws would lead to large scale development in a region that has perennially dominated nationwide political discourse. Ladakh celebrated, as it was finally recognized as a separate Union Territory. Kashmir however, faced some very challenging times.
A large military force was moved to the streets of Kashmir to quell any rebellion or violent aggression against the decision. Basic facilities like the internet were shut down, and the state went into lockdown, for quite different reasons than the rest of the world would within a year. The state government fell as Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood was revoked, and political leaders were put into house arrest. On the international front, Pakistan began lobbying frantically to try and sway India’s decision and appear as the flag bearer of Kashmiri interest in Global politics.
A little over 2 years have passed since the controversial decision was passed. How have things panned out for the Valley and all its stakeholders ever since?
Journalists that have visited Kashmir recently have suggested that things are looking much more stable. After all the chaos that followed the decision, normalcy has been restored. DK Singh, a journalist at The Print, stated that the attitude of Kashmiri people towards journalists has changed drastically over the last two years. The initial scepticism has now given way to optimism, as the Central Government’s plan has begun falling into place. In fact, Kashmir is the safest it has been in recent history. Compared to 2019, the number of terrorist incidents has reduced by 59% in 2020. The incidents reduced a further 32% till June 2021 compared to the corresponding period in 2020. Stone pelting has almost stopped completely, according to forces stationed in the region. The security situation looks like it has come into control.
On the developmental front, the Central Government has so far lived up to its promise. It has made massive investments in Kashmir to try and usher in an era of development in the region. As of December 2021, Jammu and Kashmir received Rs. 3,325 crore investment proposals in healthcare. The budget for the Union Territory has been further increased by 27% for 2021. In September 2020, a Rs. 1,350 crore economic package was announced in Jammu and Kashmir to boost tourism and the other sectors. The government has also sanctioned the creation of new IIT’s, IIM’s and AIIMS’ in Jammu and Kashmir to improve the education situation. Besides this, they plan to launch at least 50 new educational institutions offering 25,000 seats to students. During the last 2 years, Jammu and Kashmir have also achieved 100% household electrification. In February 2020, the Central Government also approved Rs. 60 billion for a multi-purpose irrigation cum power project in J&K’s Kathua district. The appointment of Manoj Sinha as the Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory has so far looked to be a great decision. He has played a crucial role in winning the trust of the Kashmiri youth through his ‘Mission Youth’ scheme, and talks to the people of the valley regularly through interactive shows like ‘Awaam ki awaaz’. Pandemic management in the region has also been of the highest standard, with a fantastic vaccination drive flattening the curve.
One of Kashmir’s biggest problems was the high rate of unemployment. Due to a lack of outside investment into the state, job opportunities were scarce. Separate laws were also made that essentially incentivized the unemployed youth – paying them an allowance for the same. Since article 370 was revoked, thereby ruling out this law and opening J&K to outside investment, there has been a massive influx of capital into the newly declared Union Territory. Till March 2021, a total of 456 MOUs amounting to Rs. 23, 152.17 crores have been signed with potential investors since then. According to Manoj Sinha, this investment will reach around 50,000 crores in the near future. As a result of all of these, the unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir has gone down from 19.6% to 10.6% within the last year, despite the pandemic.
In global politics, Pakistan failed miserably – most countries have acknowledged that Kashmir is a part of India’s internal affairs and that other foreign entities including international organizations should not meddle in them. Abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has also strengthened India’s position with Pakistan in the sense that Kashmir is now no longer up for debate – it does not receive differential treatment and is therefore as much a part of India as any other region. The only discussion with Pakistan now, according to India’s foreign affairs ministry, will be on Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
When the government announced its decision to abrogate articles 370 and 35A, many were sceptical that there will now be no dialogue between the Jammu and Kashmir representatives and the Union Government. The Centre had taken the decision without consideration and would oversee the governance of the region on its own terms. This fear has also been annulled – recently, the Central Government has held discussions with members from erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Governments. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also announced that elections would be held in Jammu and Kashmir and statehood will be restored at “an appropriate time”. Many view the 24th June meetings as the beginning of a long-drawn process towards that end.
Our assessment of the Central Government is often made on the grounds of emotion and scepticism, but a proper assessment of their actions suggest that in terms of Jammu and Kashmir, their policy has turned out to be quite successful. The region genuinely seems to be showing an upward trend, and though there is a long way to go still till we can acknowledge that the ‘Kashmir issue’ has been completely solved, the Central Government has certainly begun placing strong building blocks towards achieving this incredibly important goal – the ‘Paradise on Earth, as it is called, is slowly taking shape.
Chanda, P. (2020, January 22). IIT, IIM, AIIMS to open in J&K soon, part of Rs 80000 crore package sanctioned by Central Government. Times Now. https://www.timesnownews.com/education/article/iit-iim-aiims-to-open-at-j-k-part-of-rs-80000-crore-package-sanctioned-by-central-government/543681
Government of India. (2021). Jammu and Kashmir: Development scenario. https://niti.gov.in/planningcommission.gov.in/docs/plans/stateplan/sdr_jandk/sdr_jkexecutive.pdf
Jammu and Kashmir development. (2021). The Economic Times. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/topic/Jammu-and-Kashmir-development