Friday, May 20, 2022
Outlook.com

Geography Becomes History: Will Abrogation of Article 370 Bring Peace to Kashmir?

A Home ministry document on the future ahead for Kashmir foresees a long and bloody struggle, one that the people of India must go through for the integration of Kashmir

Geography Becomes History: Will Abrogation of Article 370 Bring Peace to Kashmir?
Geography Becomes History: Will Abrogation of Article 370 Bring Peace to Kashmir? Photograph by Getty Images

No bugles pierced the silence in Srinagar perhaps, but the symbolism carried all the awe and solemnity of a world-historic transfer of power. A little after 7 pm on August 6, 2019, when Parliament passed the resolution that turned Article 370 into a dead letter, the office of Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik quietly removed the red state flag from his table, leaving the tricolour as the lone sentinel. It will be the same everywhere else in the two newly anointed Union territories—Jammu and Kashmir (a physically truncated, and staturally diminished version of the state that adorned geography textbooks) and Ladakh. If things go according to one plan—if the ground can be kept calm—a grander, more triumphal and full-size re-enactment may be expected on August 15, with Union home minister Amit Shah doing the honours right there on Lal Chowk.

That there exists a healthy quantum of doubt on that ­sequence of events, at least as we go to press, speaks of the other side of reality. The red flags that represented the ‘special identity’ of the erstwhile state may have been rolled up and removed, but it will probably be a long while before the tricolour can be unfurled without the presence of thousands of security personnel anywhere in the state—sorry, make that Union territory, a phrase that has gained a new depth of meaning in the last week. Over one lakh troops ­patrol Kashmir (unofficial estimates peg it at much more.) As you read this, tanks are out in the streets of Srinagar, and columns of heavily armed personnel file by in breathless streets. Section 144 is in place—so no assembly of five or more people. Schools are shut. Internet, mobile services, cable TV services, landlines: blocked. State political leaders: under house arrest. Even by Kashmir’s chequered and trauma-filled past, this looks to be a new chapter—and a long haul. There’s no timeline, as of now, for this total ­shutdown. Out on the LoC, Bofors guns are in readiness.

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