NOTWITHSTANDING the contesting claims by the contending stakeholders, Kashmir, over the past five or six years, has been witnessing a ground-breaking shift, and all, for good reason. Without going into the constitutionality or legality of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution by the BJP government in 2019, one could clearly assess how the situation on ground has changed.
This was stated by renowned author and journalist Bashir Assad in a conference in London on August 5, 2023 on the occasion of commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India.
While speaking on the occasion, Bashir Assad said that two important events could be attributed to the shift in Kashmir. First, it was the infamous agitation of 2016 in the aftermath of the killing of a terrorist commander – Burhan Wani – in July 2016.
The violent agitation consumed hundreds of lives in police retaliation; hundreds more were left injured and properties damaged on a massive scale. The narrative propagated by the adversaries was that of ‘abhi nahin to kabhi nahin’ (now or never). The intention was to scale up the violence to a level so as to bring the State to its knees. Every attempt was made to hurt the State. However, by the end of October, it only turned out to be a self-driven goal, self-destructive and self-defeating.
People started feeling the jolts of the violence and the undercurrents immediately set in. It was for the first in the three decades of violent turmoil that people started questioning the legitimacy of the violent narrative driven by the hardliner separatist, the hawkish Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The agitation of 2016 finally demolished the larger-than-life image of Geelani and other separatists who were fishing in troubled waters for the last 30 long years without being answerable to anyone. The people got disillusioned with the separatism and separatist leaders. The 2016 violent agitation was actually the turning point. The separatists were now on public scanner.
Two, the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5, 2019 by the Parliament was the final nail in the coffin. Though it came as a shock because of the hype created around the Article by the political class of Kashmir, but the immunity to absorb this surprising development was already there, owing to the disillusionment with the separatist narrative.
This is something very interesting which we should appreciate. People had lost hope in separatism after the events of 2016 and there was no question of going back to violence.
That said, the post abrogation administrative measures of tightening the noose around the separatists, blocking hawala channels used for fuelling the unrest in Kashmir, demolishing the terror ecosystem, identifying the terror apologists and cleansing of the system changed the scenario altogether.
There were attempts by Pakistan and its progenies to internationalise the events. However, it could not find many takers as the global community incidentally had more challenging situations. The issues the West and the East were facing were far graver than the noises around Kashmir and eventually were lost in the din.
However, the western media consistently tried to fix New Delhi for what it terms ‘suppressing the voices’ in Kashmir.
Bashir Assad said that Article 370 which had suffered so many erosions, was hardly existent. It was just a tool in the hands of political elites for emotional exploitation of the people of Kashmir.
That said, there are some legitimate concerns which need to be addressed to remove the misgivings and it is incumbent upon the government of the day to give the sense of security and belongingness to the people of Kashmir. Bashir Assad described abrogation of Article 370 as a momentous step taken by the central government with respect to Kashmir.
In his well articulated speech, Bashir pointed, “The era of separatism is over in Kashmir. Gone are the days when people like Syed Ali Shah Geelani were handling Kashmir affairs through their indoctrination and forceful protest calendars”.
Bashir Assad added, “There is behavioural transformation in Kashmir, more than anything else. People have been behaving responsibly. The undercurrent has been there since 2016; people had started realising the futility of violence, there was this deep realisation that the violence had destroyed two generations and peace must be given a chance to save the third generation.
The abrogation of Article 370 has, at least, led to the discrediting of the separatists and the separatist narrative. People have also been watching the events unfolding in Pakistan since the last many years very carefully.
A failed state which could not save its own people cannot be the saviour of Kashmir and the Kashmiris! Because Kashmiris are aspirational people, there is a shift in the thought process. They want to explore the huge opportunities which this vast nation offers.”
Post abrogation, Kashmir is also witnessing a sea change in the administrative response to the issues of socio-economic concern.
Bashir added, “I am not against the transition of separatists into mainstream and for accepting the idea of India but I have my strong reservation towards those mainstream leaders who want separatists to be stakeholders in electoral machinations. Visiting the separatists and portraying them as messiahs of the society is an orthodox stunt which has no takers after the events of 2019”.
He reiterated that the annulment of Article 370 has restored order in Jammu and Kashmir and has cleansed the system which was hijacked by subversive elements. With the separatist structure coming to a close, the people are living a peaceful life without any pressure from inside or across the Border.
“The abrogation of Article 370 was an unprecedented move by the Union Government as it broke away the active terror system in the Valley and the emanating threats. It contained violence and helped establish boom in the economy of Kashmir. Now there are greater opportunities for economic upliftment in the Valley,” he said.
“Kashmir has a history of being moderate and peaceful. Kashmir offered the world the culture of Sufism and diversity. It has an inclusive history and plurality. Today, with the abrogation, the thought process has been mainstreaming and the idea of a peaceful Kashmir is for all to see,” added Bashir.
The event was attended by a number of dignitaries from London including British MP Bob Blackman, Lord Rami Ranger, Stefan Voloseni, Chuni Lal Chawda, Krishna Bhan and Dr. Vijay Sazawal from the US-Kashmir Forum.
Bashir Assad is a renowned author from the Valley who has written a number of books on the politics of Kashmir. His latest ones include ‘Kashmir Beyond Article 370’ and ‘K File’ in which he enlightens about the stereotypical narrative of Kashmir running on a grinding machine of disinformation and concocted accounts, unrelentingly flowing across from the Border. His emphasis remains on the new discourse and narrative from Kashmir. He is an avid articulator of new perspectives and the socio-politico economic boom happening in Kashmir after the annulment of Article 370.
His ideology reflected in his speech in which he maintained that the beneficiaries of the new Constitutional changes in J&K shall be all of us – us as in our loved ones, our society – all of Kashmir that wants to live an abundant, enriched and peaceful life away from the dance of gun-trotting, penetrating hands from Pakistan.