August 5 will now be a very important day in the Indian history. It may not be as important as August 15 when India won its Independence but its relevance for the new India and more specifically the BJP cannot be underestimated. Last year on this day the Centre read down Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated the state into two Union territories. The reading down of the special status and the dismemberment of a state into two UTs is also a first in the Indian history. On this day again, this year, the BJP will also fulfil one of its longest electoral promises of building a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. Backed with a favourable Supreme Court decision the BJP moved with lightning speed during a pandemic to lay the foundation of the Ram Mandir on the same day as it abolished J&K’s special status. It shows how important and auspicious the BJP considers August 5. It is almost as if the BJP is already preparing for 2024 Parliament elections with August 5 as a spring board.
But amidst all the hype and joy in mainland there is also a word of caution. If BJP and its support base are to be believed August 5 2019 was the day when Jammu and Kashmir was rid of all the evils, be it the separatist sentiment, militancy or lack of governance. The Centre went into an overdrive claiming that a foundation a new and ‘Naya Kashmir’ had been laid and within months the situation would undergo a sea change for the good. One year later Kashmir continues to be under curbs as the Centre and BJP hail the events of August 5 2019. While the legality and constitutionality of the steps taken by New Delhi are subject matter of various writ petitions that country’s top court is seized with, questions are being raised from different quarters about many other measures announced by the centre during the last one year. Leave Kashmir apart, even people from Jammu and Ladakh regions, who were the votaries of the abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile state, have started expressing their disappointment over the way things are moving. Be that provisions of domicile law or the tall talks of development or for that matter non reservations of jobs for the original inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir, all have drawn flak from the people at large.
That the Government itself admitted that it had to impose curfew fearing protests and law and order situation proves that things in Kashmir have not gone as per the script. Internet speed is still restricted, economy is in tatters, unemployment is at an all-time high. The investment by big corporates continues to be a chimera but most worryingly a vast majority of the population in Kashmir is at a general unease, their miseries compounded by the Covid crisis.
On the security front while violence may have gone down but local recruitment has gone up with 2019 and 2020 so far being one of the years with the highest casualties. While one can grudgingly agree that many of the developmental promises made post 370 abrogation could not be fulfilled because of Covid but it is also a reality that more than development, Kashmir needs a political outreach. At the peak of the unrest 2016 one of India’s most prominent sociologists wrote in a national daily that in Kashmir India needed to act as a big brother who had more to give than take. Since August 5 2019 New Delhi is Kashmir’s big brother who thinks that the younger sibling is spoilt and needs to be disciplined, more by stick than by love. So far it has only made the younger once more cynical, inward and hopeless. Maybe the time has come for the stick to be dropped and conversation to be initiated.