A “State” of panic

On August 5, what seemed to be just another day in the breathtakingly beautiful valleys of Kashmir, everyone went about their regular chores. Children went to school, others went to work on their daily duties, the security forces may have been a little more visible but even that was normal. One did not have the slightest idea of the political volcano that was about to erupt.

That afternoon in the Parliamentary session in New Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status, ending 70 years of history.

The picturesque landscape masks a story that has its roots in the age-old conflict between India and Pakistan. This tug-of-war has remained unresolved till date, with neither of the countries willing to loosen their grip on the disputed territory. Both nations have firmly stood their ground, adamant about not giving in. In the midst of the serene landscapes, tension has constantly been bubbling beneath the surface. Political unrest has been a salient feature of the place, in spite of its tremendous potential and possibilities

Jammu & Kashmir has a very unique identity of its own, especially owing to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which was a “temporary provision” ensuring special status and treatment to its citizens. Prevailing since 1949, this Article ensured autonomy and a life that was not subject to much of the regulation governing the rest of the country. J&K even had a Constitution of its own. On Monday this situation went for a toss.

In a Parliamentary session that was about to change the history of India, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that the Modi Government 2.0 had decided to declare defunct Article 370 and repeal clause 35(a) of the Indian Constitution. The Upper House of Parliament was taken aback at this sudden turn of events and the views of the members of the house remained divided, but even the Opposition came around.

Although part of its election promises, the ease with which Article 370 was overturned was unexpected, to say the least. No doubt it helped that senior political leaders were incapacitated through house arrests the night before.. These included People’s Conference leader, Sajad Gani Lone along with former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, further increasing conjectures about the major decision.

Nor was Mr. Shah the slightest bit affected when senior Congress leader and member of the Opposition P. Chidambaram described the decision as ‘catastrophic’ and said, “You may think you have scored a victory, but you are wrong, and history will prove you to be wrong. Future generations will realize what a grave mistake this house is making today.”

Journalism Students Devang Badiani & Surbhi Aggarwal podcast on Article 370

What does this mean for the people of Kashmir? The scrapping of Article 370 and 35(a) indicates that the people of Jammu and Kashmir, would now no longer be able to enjoy the special privileges they did under the ‘temporary provision’ of the articles. The Indian tricolour would be the sole mark of patriotism, just like for the rest of the country. This decision also serves as a big boon for those looking to buy property and set up industries in the green valley, paving the way for more jobs. The citizens of Kashmir will now benefit from the opportunity to exercise their rights under the RTI Act. Most importantly, Kashmir has now been given an opportunity to make its way up the ladder of growth through the ‘Right to Education’ act which will now be implemented as law.

The views and opinions of the general public regarding this controversial decision are, as expected, conflicting. With the majority of them not wishing to voice their opinions for fear of being roped into a controversy, some, however, have taken to social media to express their sentiments. What Kashmiris feel about the whole issue is still largely unknown, because of the clampdown on the internet and the lack of a platform right now for social media.

Generally, however, social media is significantly critical about the move, and this is balanced by those unambiguously describing it as long overdue.

How long will it take for this volcanic eruption to cool (if it ever does)? Will this solve the long-standing issues regarding terrorism and territorial dispute? Is this a permanent solution?

In the last 48 hours, a tumultuous series of events have unfolded that have deeply impacted the lives of the natives of Kashmir. There is a sense of fear among the residents. The children huddle in the shelter of their homes, shops have downed their shutters and the army continues to be on the watch.

Written by Journalism students: Krystelle D’Souza, Sr.Laveena D’Souza, Shruti Vanjare and Ananya Endow


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