Close to one year after the abolition of special status in Jammu and Kashmir, till date many views have been put forward about the new changes and the expected result. Reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate new Union Territories has faced a deep resentment from many parts especially Kashmir. Kashmir may not see it as a solution to their long pending political issue but for Jammu and Ladakh, it means a protection from Kashmir monopoly. While it fulfilled the long-term pending demand of Ladakh region, it was seen as end of Jammu’s marginalization.
The reorganization has thus not only induced shock but also brings a ray of hope to many. It has reinvented a new political, social and economic discourse, which is a major goal of the ruling party at the Centre. Two major motives of the current ruling party at the Centre are: firstly, eroding the monopoly of certain political actors in J&K and secondly, falsifying the old notion that special status cannot be abrogated or it is the only instrument to govern it.
This is why, apart from criticism, there are various positive aspects also that need exploration to understand the outcome of last year’s action. After the special status was scrapped, the Centre hardly needs concurrence of state government to extend its laws to Jammu and Kashmir. Every law implemented to other states will automatically extend to these new territories. People may differ in perceiving and responding to the changes but are united in expecting a better socio-economic and political alternative.
The chronic issues to be addressed here are to explore the values of new law that could be also achieved under previous local laws. In the political arena, the popular leaders known for monopolistic power will lose their legitimacy and grip and have to adapt to new political conditions i.e. competition and new opposition. They must now quit the old appeasement of either protecting the special status or opposing the same respectively and other routine tactics to win the hearts of the people. The cult-based leadership has to compete with new emerging leaders of the respective regions. Now onwards, the rift among the parties/leaders on special status that had influenced the socio-economic and political discourse for years becomes meaningless.
There is an insignificant relationship between exclusive special powers and development and significant role of political will in any case of reconstructing the society. The new era of politics will be on daily common issues namely unemployment, corruption, SC/ST, Education, Health and above all governance issues that got marginalised previously. Contrary to previous binaries of Jammu versus Kashmir, Kashmir versus Ladakh or the contestations of sub-regions with the main region, every eligible person will be treated equally as a citizen of India and they can connect on common grounds for lodging and redressing their grievances regarding any discriminatory or unjust policy like the domicile issue. The unnecessary rhetoric of divisions will become insignificant and irrelevant to resolve any issue in this new fully open and integrated system. A common linkage is thus possible among the people beyond their religious affiliations.
Keeping in view the sensitivity of people of every oppressed region or section and their local issues, the leaders also need to come with some realistic manifestos and ensure good governance in different spheres of human life. The safeguards for women, Dalits, Tribals, etc, which despite separate constitution could not get protected, will also dominate the new political discourse. All of them are expected to become more vocal and assertive in implementing the newly extended laws to the Union Territory as the insecurities among the minorities like Hindus, Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Buddhists, Gujjars, and Gorkhas will fade away and like rest of the country, the SCs and STs will get equal and same constitutional protection under newly organized union territories. Another expectation is that there will be a great shift in local grass-root level politics, through strengthening of Panchayati Raj to ease out the various existing socio-economic and political lobbies in rural J&K. And as a consequence, the village Panchayats can be an instrumental also in reshaping the region’s politics.
There is also a scope of psychological reunification between the people Jammu and Kashmir and other Indians. A pro-people voice against administrative injustice should now not be deemed as anti-national and anti-India under the complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India. At the end, it can be mentioned that the reorganization of state would provide a sense of equality before law and equal protection of law to every citizen of the state irrespective of their caste, community, region, religion, gender and level etc.
(Author is a Senior Research Fellow, at Central University of Jammu, J&K)