Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Article 370 May Finally Deliver Justice to Those Who Need It the Most

The Redrawn Map (Courtesy: India Today)

In 1947, the violence singing Hindus in the newly created West Pakistan had forced a whole bunch of them across the border with the then independent state of Jammu and Kashmir. The forces of then Maharaja Hari Singh halted their progress, and had started to deliberate on the potential rehabilitation, given cultural affinities, when the invasion of the Pakistani army irregulars happened, leading to an imbroglio on their status that was never resolved completely. They got the right to vote for the Lok Sabha elections, but under the then extant Article 370 and the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, they had no resident status in the state. Their only crime perhaps was to choose to be Indians.

Cut to the 1950s, with the renewed status of the Wazir-e-Azam of Jammu and Kashmir of Sheikh Abdullah, and Valmikis were called into the state to be sanitation workers. Incidentally, the idea must have spawned from how Pakistan even today only hires Valmikis left behind as sanitation workers in government offices, and discriminates as a policy of the state against them. Generations passed, but they never got the status of state residents. And they continued to be discriminated against by a state that did nothing else but pretend to be an Islamic state within India.

This article 370 whittling down by the Narendra Modi government has finally given a shot to people like these, giving them a shot at being fully integrated into the Indian state, and not be homeless even after seventy one years. Such open discrimination was allowed in this country only because we wanted to allow a bunch of Islamists to continue their hegemony in India – a position that can only dubbed as shameless. Those who pretend otherwise cannot hide their faces on the reality of the Kashmir valley, a miniscule geographical region within the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, on how Islamists within the region were allowed to run riot in the state unabated. The so called Jammu Kashmir National Conference changed its name only in the 1940s – it was a breakaway of the Muslim Conference that decided to be more militant in its approach to overthrow the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. Subsequent actions within the state were undertaken, whenever a ‘democratically elected government’ came through – land was taken away from Kashmiri Pandits deliberately in the garb of land reforms and targeted them to the point of driving them out of the Valley entirely; the state allowed Pakistani citizens to be declared residents of the state, and penalized cultural relations between Jammu Hindus with those of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, just because they were Hindus; they deliberately tried to alter demography of both Jammu and Ladakh regions just so to ensure that Islamic hegemony could be the overall mandate. Islamists were deliberately allowed Islamism to be the state policy through education and literally tried to blackmail India on so many occasions. Rights were never given to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the state, and a State Minority Commission was never created. Sheikh Abdullah and his men deliberately played the Islamism card so often, one can not even recall now. Let me quote Shakir Mir from the Wire for those who may doubt me: 

More worrisome was also the renewed attempt by NC leaders to arouse pro-Pakistan emotions to undercut the popular anger against the party. During the election campaign, “Mirza Afzal Beg used to carry a lump of Pakistani rock salt in his pocket wrapped in a green handkerchief,” writes Victoria Schofield in Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and Roots of Unending War. “As his speech reached its climax, he would take out salt with a dramatic gesture and exhibit it to his audience indicating thereby that ‘if his party won, Pakistan would not be far away’.”

Frankly, I am tired that there has been so much tacit acceptance of an Islamic state for so long in this country. Allowing a state within a state, which will decide what laws apply to the state residents instead of seeing if they alleviate problems of people, just so that an Islamist agenda can be continued, should be condemned roundly. People forget how the Kashmir valley Islamists had behaved when Pandit Ramchandra Kak, the Prime Minister under Maharaja Hari Singh was treated in the Valley when Abdullah came to power. He was paraded, tied to a donkey, his face blackened, and faeces was thrown at him. He was called Kafir, and was eventually thrown into exile, where he died a death in dire poverty – his assets, whatever little, were snatched away from him as punishment of being an administrator of a Kafir state. 


Jammu and Ladakh, turn by turn, had to wait for the breadcrumbs being thrown at them, their punishment essentially being their avowed support to the state of India, calling themselves Indians first before anything else. Samples can be seen in the conveniently forgotten histories of crushed movements like Jammu Praja Parishad and the Ladakh autonomous council movements. They were expected to live like second class citizens in their own country, in their own home, only because they did not ascribe to the Islamist supremacist ideology strongly advocated by the political families that dominated the Kashmir valley and Jammu and Kashmir politics for more than seven decades.


Why does it matter to me? Some of these West Pakistan refugees are my relatives, and perhaps, they will finally get a roof on their heads after a long time of pleading, and waiting for people with hopes. They have had enough from that erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, that treated them as second class citizens in their own country. Perhaps, them, like many others, will finally get some modicum of justice in a country that they chose to be a part of, to get their demands addressed by a state they made their home out of their own volition.

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