Naya Kashmir: Ideas for Peace and Development

Sachiv Sharma*

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s 1952 call of “Ek desh mein do vidhan, do pradhan, do nishan nahin chalenge” (one nation cannot accept two constitutions, two heads of state and two flags). That was the call years ago and on 11 December 2023, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the power of the President of India to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This abrogation in August 2019 led to the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir into Union Territories Jammu & Kashmir and Leh, which also denuded the state of its special privileges. The top court said that Article 370 was only a temporary provision to facilitate the accession of the erstwhile princely state to the Union of India during a time fraught with internal strife and external aggression.

Abrogation of Article 370 has brought an epistemological change in the environment of Jammu and Kashmir, as Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of “will to power’’ which was accessible to few families has now been opened up to every individual not only of the state but for the whole country. Naya Kashmir has witnessed socio-economic development in both the new UTs i.e. Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh. Empowerment of people, removal of unjust Laws, bringing equity and fairness to those discriminated against who are now getting their due along with comprehensive development are few of the important changes that are ushering both the new Union Territories towards the path of peace and progress.

With the conduct of elections of Panchayati Raj Institutions such as Panches and Sarpanches, Block Development Councils and District Development Councils, the 3-tier system of grassroots-level democracy has now been established in Jammu & Kashmir. This has led to the strengthening of the democracy of India as well as the vision of our Prime Minister which includes “Sabka Sath Sabka Vishwas Sabka Prayas’’. People in the valley have witnessed major economic development with the coming up of two AIIMS in the state (one in Jammu, the other in Srinagar), new IIT Jammu, IIM Jammu and many more developments as new investments have ushered a new discourse in the region.

Tourism has been boomed since Article 370 abrogation which has led to new jobs, opportunities for the people and inclusion of youth in the mainstream society as minimal or no violence has been witnessed since then and no more “Bandhs’’ on the death of any terrorist. A major surge has been in the education sector as a lot of new students have enrolled in education, which has further amplified by the government initiative as new schemes have been launched for aligning this progress with “Viksit Bharat’’ which has held the principle of making India a developed country by 2047. Resettlement Policies Efforts are made to address issues related to displaced communities, such as Kashmiri Pandits, by formulating resettlement policies and rehabilitation measures to facilitate their return to the region. This is a major step towards constructing the idea of Naya Kashmir which believes in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’’ which has been in the roots of our culture and tradition.

The removal of Article 370, which gave Jammu and Kashmir unique autonomy status, has in fact caused a major change in the sociopolitical landscape of the area. The Indian government took this action to promote investment and development in the area while also fostering closer integration between Kashmir and the rest of the country. It has, nevertheless, also sparked
legitimate worries about how Kashmir’s distinct identity, cultural legacy, and demographic makeup will be preserved.

The immediate result of Article 370’s revocation was the elimination of obstacles to investment and development initiatives in Kashmir. There has been a noticeable rise in public and private sector activities targeted at promoting infrastructure, industry, tourism, and other sectors since the area is now governed by Indian federal rules and regulations. This has resulted in the creation of new job opportunities and economic growth prospects for the local community, which were previously hampered by restrictions on land ownership and investment.

Despite these beneficial accomplishments, Kashmiris have expressed concern over the potential degradation of their cultural identity and history. Kashmir has a rich history, distinct culture, and traditions that have evolved over time. The fear is that growing integration with the rest of India would dilute these traditional features as outside influences become more prevalent. This worry is especially significant given the historical and political background of Kashmir’s relationship with India, which has been fraught with war and tension. Furthermore, there are concerns about the demographic shifts that could result from further integration and development in Kashmir. Article 370 conferred special status to the region, which includes restrictions to protect its demographic composition, primarily by limiting land ownership and residency rights. With these safeguards removed, there is concern that an inflow of foreigners, especially non-Kashmiri Indians, may disrupt the demographic balance and marginalize the indigenous community. This anxiety stems from Kashmiris’ historical grievances as well as their sense of
discrimination and marginalization.

Concerns about the loss of land rights and economic possibilities to outsiders have sparked heated discussion and political discourse in Kashmir. Many Kashmiri political leaders and activists have highlighted these concerns as key to their resistance to the repeal of Article 370. The Indian government has tried to convince Kashmiris that their rights and cultural identity will be upheld in response to these worries. A number of initiatives have been announced, including the creation of domicile legislation to protect residency rights and guarantees of inclusive development. Major landmark developments have been there to uphold the trust of the people as the 9.028 kilometres long Syama Prasad Mookerjee Tunnel (also known as the Chenani-Nashri Tunnel), is the longest road tunnel in India and the highest railway bridge in the world – the Chenab bridge – also contribute to the factor of landmark developments projects. People like Sheetal Devi who received the Arjuna Award are a symbol of women empowerment. Even new education policy also helps to preserve culture and tradition in an institutionalised manner.

The revival of the Dogri language is critical due to past neglect. Past events have reduced its use, risking its survival. Concrete actions must be taken to promote Dogri through educational initiatives, cultural programs, and government backing in order to maintain its rich legacy and assure a prosperous future. Many more steps are in order and are needed for a more inclusive approach so that each and every section of the population has been taken care of. Even the increase in quota for the Schedule Tribe population is a major step to include Gujjar, and Bakarwal people in the mainstream population and to increase their participation.

The Quote of Mahatma Gandhi fits here very well which says “Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”

*University of Delhi


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