The historic Supreme Court verdict on December 11, 2023, affirming the validity of the abrogation of Article 370, marks the definitive closure of a troubling chapter in India’s history. This chapter, casting doubt on India’s territorial integrity and affecting security, not only discriminated by law but also deprived the people of Jammu & Kashmir of the complete benefits of Indian citizenship as per the Constitution.
Article 370, a source of the security and socio-political challenges in Kashmir, served as a tool for local leaders to fuel separatism, enabling external powers like Pakistan to exploit existing fault lines. According to the Supreme Court, Jammu & Kashmir lost its sovereignty upon accession to India, and Article 370 was only a temporary provision. This unanimous verdict from the five-judge bench firmly resolves all questions regarding the status of Jammu & Kashmir as an integral part of India.
In the grand scheme of events, the seamless execution of a task untouched for over seven decades became a reality in 2019, with the Supreme Court’s final dismissal of all petitions challenging the abrogation four and a half years later. Since 2019, Kashmir has witnessed a transformation — stone-pelting has faded, infrastructural development has flourished, and tourism has thrived. Despite lingering Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, security forces assert that those resorting to violence in the Valley have a limited shelf life.
Today, the Tricolour proudly flies over Lal Chowk as Independence Day is celebrated, marking a stark contrast to its turbulent past. Movie halls are reemerging, symbolising a significant shift in a region where cinemas were once destroyed under the pretext of religious objections. Contrary to warnings from leaders like Farooq Abdullah, who predicted turmoil post-Article 370 abrogation, Kashmir remained calm after 2019. The echoes of violent unrest in 2016 and 2010 led by figures like Burhan Wani and the Hurriyat now seem like distant, unpleasant memories.
The scenario in Kashmir isn’t entirely normal, but it marks a significant step towards integrating the valley with the rest of India. This underscores the impact of sincere intentions, exemplified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s resolve to address the supposedly insurmountable Kashmir issue.
Despite the international liberal and Wahhabi ecosystem spreading misinformation against him, Modi remained undeterred in steering the problem towards resolution. Post the 2019 abrogation, international voices opposing the government grew louder, constructing a narrative of a majoritarian India oppressing minorities. However, the Supreme Court’s verdict on the 2019 action refuted such claims, placing Article 370 in an irreversible state.
It is anticipated that demands for “azaadi” (freedom) for Kashmir within India will diminish. Even when former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asserts his party’s respect for the Supreme Court verdict but expresses intent to bring back Article 370, it appears as posturing, diverging from the mainstream politician’s role of ensuring prosperity for Jammu & Kashmir.
The lack of unrest in Kashmir in recent years indicates a desire for progress. The Supreme Court’s verdict, met with silence in the Valley, sends a clear message to Kashmiri politicians: refrain from pandering to separatist sentiments and focus on fostering a normal life, free from strife and violence, for the people.
The call for reconciliation and healing, as emphasised by the Supreme Court, is timely. However, any proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission must ensure justice not only for those based in the valley who may have suffered from state and non-state excesses but also for the lakhs of people abruptly driven out of the valley.
The crucial question arises: Does reconciliation extend to enabling these individuals or their descendants to return to Kashmir and rebuild their lives in a secure environment? This remains a challenging inquiry with no immediate answer, as various adversarial interests seek to maintain Kashmir as a hotbed of terror and extremism. Recent targeted attacks on Kashmiri Pandits underscore the ongoing efforts to instill fear in their hearts, making the path ahead difficult. Nonetheless, it signifies a noteworthy beginning.
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