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Can the Supreme Court ignore four years of change The Excelsior 08 Aug 2023
Addressing India Foundation’s roundtable discussion on ‘development in J and K,’ Lt Governor Manoj Sinha stated, ‘Every effort is being made to ensure that rule of law is maintained in Jammu and Kashmir. Our effort is to see to it that the common man and society live a life free of fear, corruption and drugs; and employment-rich, peacefully.’ He added that major events in the UT this year, displayed a changed scenario. These included the G20 meeting, Muharram procession being taken out after 34 years, revival of cinemas, besides unprecedented tourist footfall.
Muharram processions had been banned since the dawn of militancy, as also governments led by valley political parties obeyed directions of pro-Pak separatist leaders, suppressing sentiments of the minority Shia community. This year over 25,000 Shia’s participated in the procession. A police spokesperson stated, ‘The shadow of terrorism and petty politics of separatism made it impossible to hold such events.’ Its successful conduct including the participation of the Lt Governor indicates the progress made by the region in its quest for peace.
It also adds to frustration within Pakistan, which has seen its carefully crafted narrative on Indian forces committing human rights violation in Kashmir slipping away. A few nations boycotting the G 20 meeting in Srinagar no way displays that Pak has global support. Changes in Kashmir were highlighted by the Lt Governor when he stated, ‘Four years back, markets used to shut at 6 pm, there were no people on road and localities were deserted. Now you can see restaurants open till late in the night. People enjoy ice cream, guitar and music on the banks of Jhelum River during late hours.’
Kashmir has definitely changed. The reality is that once people get accustomed to peace, they abhor violence and separatism. Today’s Kashmir is the result of combined effort of central security agencies, including the army and CAPFs, J and K police and most importantly, the common citizen. J and K political parties have now demanded that Friday prayers be permitted at the Jama Masjid and Eid prayers at the Eidgah. There is no doubt that this will also come to pass, especially as the government is keen to restore normalcy and is working overtime to make the pro-Pak lobby irrelevant.
Added has been a change in strategy and deployment pattern to prevent infiltration. Increased employment of technology has enabled security forces to curb infiltration. The Union Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai, announced in Parliament that there has been no successful infiltration into J and K till June end this year. This despite increased attempts by Pak. Restoration of normalcy has enhanced border tourism in Kashmir. Tourists are flocking Bangus Valley, Keran, Lolab Valley, Machil, Teetwal, and Tangdhar, areas which were no-go till recently.
Crackdown on overground workers and terrorist sympathizers has reduced numbers joining terrorist groups. As per the state police only seven youth joined terrorist groups till Jun this year, of which five have already been eliminated. The counter radicalization process adopted by the state has displayed positive results. Official inputs mention that amongst the 180 youth, counselled this year in the valley, only one joined terrorism.
The Srinagar premier soccer league conducted under the aegis of the J and K Football Association and J and K Sports Council has inspired the spirit of sport amongst the youth. Srinagar, for the first time, hosted the national under 16 boy’s camp. Real Kashmir Football Club is a part of the national soccer league. The team won the IFA shield in 2020. Currently, Downtown heroes, another Srinagar team has qualified for the second division I league. Other sporting events, including local cricket leagues are gaining ground, displaying that the public desires normalcy.
However, where Pakistan is succeeding is in enhancing drug addiction in the UT though its policy of narco-terrorism. A report in parliament mentions that J and K has about 13.5 Lakh drug users. Of increasing concern is heightened dependency on heroin. Most drug addicts are within the ages of 18 to 35. It is this which must be given due importance by the state.
Pakistan, which had expected Kashmir to rise in revolt with the abrogation of article 370 was left wondering where it went wrong. It was only in Pakistan that the day commemorating the elimination of Burhan Wani and abrogation of article 370 is marked. Kashmir has forgotten or more likely is unwilling to remember those who advocated violence and ruined their lives as also is witnessing a boom with the disappearance of the article. It is to regain lost ground that Pak is desperately resorting to increased infiltration attempts.
It is in this environment that the Supreme Court is hearing a series on petitions on abrogation of article 370. The Union Home Ministry in its submission to the court justifying the abrogation of the article mentioned, ‘since 2019 the entire region has witnessed an unprecedented era of peace, progress and prosperity. Life has returned to normalcy after three decades of turmoil. Schools, colleges and other public institutions are functioning efficiently in the last almost four years.’
Its submission added, ‘For the first time in its history, a duly elected 3-tier Panchayati Raj System has been established in J and K. Elections for members of the District Development Councils were held in Jammu & Kashmir in November-December 2020.’ The people of the UT share all rights with the rest of the country. In response the CJI mentioned that the Union Home Ministry’s submission on developments have no bearing on the constitutional question.
There is no doubt on the constitutional question. However, changes witnessed by Kashmir in four years have been unprecedented. Seventy plus years of imposition of the article had left the region underdeveloped and devoid its population from central benefits. Everything cannot be black and white nor by the book. Legality is one part of the story, results on the ground and levels of satisfaction of the public are another and equally important, especially in a democracy. The SC must look at the Kashmir scenario in totality.