The transition of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state into a union territory has been so rapid that it has ripped apart the traditional political parties in Kashmir. Slogans, narratives and notions have been dispelled. There is no autonomy or self-rule left. Politicians, who used to talk about everything from bijli, pani and sadak to Kashmir being an “issue” have lost their addresses and are making desperate attempts to make their presence felt, they are finding it hard to regain their lost ground. Prior to August 5, 2019 — when the Centre decided to abrogate J&K’s special status and divided it into two union territories — Kashmir based politicians used to claim that they are the only ones who could rule J&K and keep it with India. But the Centre’s August 5, 2019 decision shattered the myth. More than 40 leaders from different political parties, including National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, were detained. But not a single person came out on the streets to seek their release, nor did any part of J&K witness any protest against the Centre’s decision to scrap the special status of the princely state.
It has been proven beyond doubt that denizens of J&K have accepted the change in the status quo and have moved on with their lives. They have sent a clear message to the world and the extremist forces that they want to live in peace and they are not interested in any sort of rhetoric. During the past two years, New Delhi has made every attempt to inculcate the spirit of nationalism among the people of Kashmir and has expedited the development process. People too have responded by not resisting the change and seem happy with the way things are changing but a very important element seems to be missing i.e. no attempt is being made to build a narrative that can bridge the gap between New Delhi and Kashmir once for all. The narrative building is missing.
After August 5, 2019, the national flag has been hoisted across J&K, and at many places people have come forward to participate in the activities to show their love and affection towards the nation. But a lot still needs to be done. People of J&K have understood that the clock cannot be reversed and the leaders who are claiming that they will get everything back cannot be trusted. They are good actors and are once again trying to stage a drama. People of Kashmir need to come forward and become a part of the nation-building process rather than acting like mere spectators. They need to take a cue from Indians, who are settled in foreign countries, despite them being far away from their country, they have kept the culture of India alive and they proudly identify themselves as Indians.
The abrogation of Article 370 has provided New Delhi with a chance to end the uncertainty in Kashmir once for all. The complete merger of J&K with the Union of India is a clear message to one and all that no power on earth can snatch J&K from India and the people of Kashmir are like other Indians. Nor are they special, neither different. They are pure Indians. The ball is in the court of New Delhi. Leaders sitting in the national capital have to ensure that no one gets a chance again to tell Kashmiris that India hasn’t done anything for them. New Delhi has to own the people of the Valley and it needs to provide them with equal opportunities and chances to compete with the rest of the country. Kashmiris need jobs, employment avenues, and most importantly peace, which has remained elusive during the past three decades.
By now it’s clear that Kashmiris are not hatemongers and don’t believe in a separatist ideology. Kashmiris during all these years have been living under the shadow of guns. They need to be told that they are safe in their own country and no one will snatch anything from them. People of Kashmir need to be reassured that their future lies with India and they have nothing to fear for. People handling the affairs of J&K have an important role to play. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha is leading from the front and has taken revolutionary steps to put the newly carved out Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir on the right path. The narrative, which teaches inclusiveness, needs to be built so that coming generations don’t fall prey to false propaganda and hoax slogans.
The writer is a journalist, writer, youth leader and former VC JKPCC based in Kashmir and can be reached at [email protected]
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