Kashmir’s peculiar identity has influenced its politics, both mainstream and separatists in past as well as in present. Identities are crucial for determining the future course of political process. Slogans like freedom, self rule and autonomy share one thing in common, all want to preserve the Kashmiri Identity. People feel alienated when governments try to mutilate their identities.
The alienation of Kashmiris against their governments is not new but is there since ages. During Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule the alienation was heightened by two reasons: 1. For Muslims there was no share for them in government jobs, partly because of their educational backwardness and more importantly by the State’s interest in keeping them backward. 2. For Dogras and Pandits the continuing presence of ‘outsiders’ in government services became a factor for their alienation. Perhaps this alienation theory is generally put forward for explaining two important developments in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) politics: one, the formation of Muslim Conference which became the launching pad for freedom movement in J&K. Second the alienation of Pandits and Dogras led to a movement known as “Kashmir for Kashmiris”. This movement, no doubt was meant to secure the interests of Pandit community but it also opened a way for participation of Muslims in government and military services. This forceful agitation forced Maharaja Hari Singh to make a law defining a “Hereditary State Subject”, forbidding the employment of non-state subjects in the public service; they were also not allowed to purchase land.
The people of the State agitated for the protection of their bona fide rights against the superior competing interests of the non-residents of the State. The government of the day recognized this resentment and promulgated a Notification in 1927 by which a strict definition of the term ‘State Subject’ was provided. The ownership of land was the means envisaged in the legislation, but anyone who received permission to own land could also claim the status; making the provision meaningless. In Delhi Agreement of 1952 Sheikh Abdullah and the Government of India agreed that the State legislature shall have the power to define and regulate the rights and privileges of the permanent residents of the State, more especially in regard to acquisition of immovable property, appointment to services and like matters.
This special status in terms of State Subject is thought to be the greatest barrier in the fullest integration of the State with India. So to neutralize the effect of this special status four killer policies have been designed by the BJP Government to mutilate the identity of J&K by piercing her special status. These four killer policies are dealt with as under:
1. Establishing Sainik Colonies: The fresh controversy generated by the proposal of allotment of land for the establishment of Sainik colony in Srinagar has placed the identity issue at front. In April, 2015, the Rajya Sainik Board (RSB) headed by Governor N N Vohra, approved establishment of a Sainik colony in Srinagar close to the airport. In a note to the Home department, the RSB said 173 kanals of land had been identified for a Sainik colony and approval had been sought from then Chief Minister, Mufti Sayeed. Now her daughter Mehbooba Mufti is doing it for the Centre. This tactical move is a well chalked out strategy to consolidate India’s hold on Jammu and Kashmir. These soldiers will act both as settlers and also as soldiers to safeguard Indian interests in the State. The move is to Indianise what looks to be a non-Indian society. Hurriyait Conference has vowed to oppose any such move tooth and nail. Terming the establishing of Sainik colonies in Kashmir “killing of the Kashmiri nation” Chairman Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani cautioned the people either resist or breathe your last. He said that there was no moral or legal justification in settling the former Indian army men in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir leaving aside the 28 states of India. Geelani dubbed it an open aggression and hooliganism and to counter this aggression he promised of a strategy to gather a national consensus on the issue.
Geelani further said that the settling of Sainik colonies is more serious issue than the transferring the land to the Shrine Board in 2008. The government was forced to revoke its order to transferring 40 kanals of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. However, there are other several lakh kanals under the illegal possession of Indian security agencies which are yet to be evacuated. The figure given in the State Legislative Assembly on August 24, 2009 however reveals that army grabs 10,54,721 lakh kanals of land out of which 8 lakh and 55 thousand kanals are held illegally and 1,99,314 kanals occupied by the agencies on the basis of lease, licenses and acquisitions under the provision of Land Acquisition Act. Kashmir Valley tops the list with 5,33455.78 kanals followed by Jammu with 3,21951.4 kanals.
2. Settlement of West Pakistani refugees: As we know that during the partition of the subcontinent lakhs of Hindus and Sikhs migrated from Pakistan to different states of India. A sizable number migrated to Jammu and settled in border areas. According to figure presented in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in 2012, 4,745 families, comprising 21,979 people, had migrated from Pakistan to J&K. the West Pakistan refugee Action Committee says that the present population of these refugees is 2,50,000. Of them, 95 per cent are schedule castes, while rest are Rajputs and Brahmins. They have been granted Indian citizenship but not the citizenship of the State. The controversy started when a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) recommended that the State should give voting and citizenship rights to these refugees. The Committee was constituted just before the last Assembly elections just because the BJP had made the settlement of these refugees its poll plank. It was outlined by the PDP-BJP government to take measures for the sustenance and livelihood of these refugees. Muzafar Hussain Beg (MP) has said that the West Pakistani Refugee living in the J&K should be tackled on humanitarian grounds and a middle path be designed and adopted to give them a new hope.
Voices in the mainstream and separatist camps are against giving them citizenship rights, saying it will not only alter the disputed nature of the State but will also bring demographic changes in the State. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that Baig’s statement is portraying his lust for power. The statement has no political, legal or moral standing. He added that if Beig is concerned about the refugees and their rehabilitation, he should ask the government of India to settle them elsewhere in the country. However, National Conference termed the PDP Mp’s remarks as absurd. The party termed it a ploy of the PDP to show sympathy towards the BJP with whom they are forging an alliance. NC holds this policy of the PDP and BJP as dangerous for the unity of the State. Looking at the reaction to the statement the PDP quickly distanced itself by terming them Beig’s personal ideas.
3. Settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in Separate colonies: The settlement of Kashmiri pandits has emerged as one of the most significant and most complicated issue. The BJP, who has cashed the issue in the recent Assembly elections by reaping a good harvest in Jammu, has come up with the policy of separate townships for the Kashmiri Pandits. The policy has generated a mixed response from the people and political parties both – those who favour the accession with India and those who seek Azadi. Congress and national Conference have criticised the move so has separatists. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has rejected the idea by calling it unjustified. Although, initially, PDP hinted to rejected any Israel type settlement of the pandit community but it is now beyound any doubt that the issue is on cards. The BJP-PDP coalition is hell bend to bring a change in the demography of the State and the policy of composite townships is regarded as a move from the same string of thought. Kashmiris are not against the return of pandits to their homeland at their respective places as they consider Kashmiriyat incomplete without them but separate townships, they hold; is a nefarious design that surely will pollute the DNA that holds peculiar Kashmiri identity intact. This is the reason people of Kashmir oppose any such move.
A great heat in the controversy was added by the recent statement of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in which she said that asking Kashmiri migrant pandits to restart their lives in their native places in the Valley is like putting pigeons among cats. Alas! She, in capacity of the first Chief Minister (CM) of Jammu and Kashmir has uttered such a silly remark about the people of Kashmir. The remarks are generally taken as disgusting and utterly humiliating for the inhabitants of the Valley (Muslims in particular) for it not only intends to defame the cultural ethos of the Valley but also malign and mutilate the very identity of the majority community. Kashmiriyat, which was a harping line of the PDP has been blurred and is no more visible amidst the saffron colour. The statement is potentially of a huge magnitude in creating wide fault lines both cultural and religious. Projecting Kashmiris as cats – having killing instincts, are barbaric against their co-inhabitants who do not share their religion, beasty, nasty, is nothing but simply effect of safronization of the PDP. All such sinister traits are alien to the Kashmiri DNA. Though she tried to clarufy herself by trying to create a demarkating line between good and bad cats.
4. New Industrial Policy: The policy has been formulated by the Industries and Commerce Department and approved by the State Administrative Council which met on March 15, 2016 under the chairmanship of Governor N.N. Vohra. Apparently the policy aims to attract over Rs, 2000 crore investment every year but there are definitely some hidden agendas behind the policy principles. The new industrial policy allows non-state subjects to get on lease the land for setting up industries outside the industrial estates. The policy does not fix any upper ceiling of the land to be leased out but the maximum land lease period is fixed at 90 years. Separatist leader Aasiya Andrabi said, “An industrial policy inviting hundreds of Indian business tycoons and industrialists conform a well thought sequence of events and conspiracies aimed at changing the demography of Jammu and Kashmir”. She further said that the policy will have disastrous consequences for the state as thousands of acres of land will be handed over to outside industrialists for setting up industries; later workforce in huge numbers will be called from outside and such a development will mean that by 2026, the consequences of demographic changes would be evident.
The recent Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) scams have made the people of the State believe that something is going wrong in the government circles. The State Subject Inquiry Commissions’ report, where it holds that about 1300 PRC’s are under scanner, is shocking. The Chairman of the Commission A. Q. Parry has said that they recommended cancellation of PRC’s in these cases and confiscation of property. Parry said that it was shocking that non-state subject IAS officers were also issuing PRC’s which is a clear violation of rules and law of the land. ‘In around 20 cases, non-subject officers who are not competent authority for issuing the certificates have issued the documents’ he said.
Right from the day the State acceded to India; the central leadership desired the complete merger of the State with the Indian Union at par with other States. The erosion of autonomy is a living example of the same process. What else can the people do rather suspect that it may be a well established process to mutilate their separate identity. The cries for the abrogation of Article 370 are loud and its deletion is on cards of the BJP government.
Although opposition to all the four above mentioned killer policies has come from different quarters but what is important to watch is, can political parties join hands to deter this onslaught on Kashmiri identity or are we heading towards Amarnath Part 2nd?
The Author teaches Political Science and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org