“Azadi” To “Special Status”


(There seems to be a deliberate hype for retaining the so called “Special Status” in order to dilute the universal demand for total freedom called “Azadi”!)

Some people have opined that the Central Government has deliberately shifted the focus of Kashmir agitation from “Azadi” to “Special Status”. Almost all so called mainstream political parties are totally worked up by the proposed abrogation of the so called special status enjoyed by the J & K State by virtue of Article 370 and the Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution. They are behaving as if they have had no role in bringing Kashmir to present pass! In fact, all these mainstream parties are guilty of diluting Kashmir’s “Special Status” all through the years they ruled Kashmir with the Central Government’s consent and support. These parties have been agitating in such a manner that would give an impression as if Kashmir has really enjoyed a “Special Status” all these years. The so called “Special Status” had gone for a six on the 9th of August, 1953 when the principal supporter of the accession had been dethroned and imprisoned in the worst ever violation of the Indian Constitution. The “tunnel” of Article 370 has been used all these years to impose all the Indian laws in J & K. There is hardly anything left of the so called autonomy. This was possible only through the local collaborators who helped in the virtual integration of the State into the Indian Union. Nothing has ever happened in Kashmir in any sphere of activity without the consent of the Central Government. As regards the State Subject Law, it was enacted by the former Maharaja of Kashmir in 1927 to safeguard not only the rights of the Muslims but of Hindus both from Kashmir and Jammu. He was apprehensive that without the permanent residence safeguard the people of the whole state who were very poor, would be swept away by the Punjabis with their money!

As regards a demographic change of the whole state, it has already happened in 1947 itself. The brutal and savage massacres of Muslims in Jammu carried out under the diabolical plans of Hindu extremist from within and outside the state reduced the Muslim majority considerably. Moreover, the West Pakistan refugees settled in Jammu are for all practical purposes part of the local population. The only thing they lack is certain rights for employment, owning land and voting in Assembly elections. When one considers their rights, one cannot forget the rights of the Muslims displaced to Pakistan in 1947 and even afterwards. For that there is already the Resettlement Act passed by the State Assembly which has been kept in limbo!

One has to understand that the core sentiment and yearning for freedom locally called “Azadi” is universal in Kashmir regardless of outer political aspirations. This yearning has been there for last four centuries or so or precisely from 1586 when the Independent and Sovereign Kingdom of Kashmir was annexed by the Mughals to their empire by treachery. After four centuries of external slavery there was an awakening in the twenties and thirties of the last century. A strong movement for “Azadi” started which got mixed up in the sub-continental contradictions due to the confusion and insincerity of the leaders. Subsequently, Kashmir has remained in uncertainty even though the day to day life carried on. However, for last two and a half decades there has been total alienation of the new generation of Kashmiris from the Indian mainstream. The youth have been clamouring for total and absolute freedom. The Pakistani sentiment, the Pak flags and the rise of pro-Pak militants is because Kashmiris are facing a Hindu India which they find easy to confront and beat with pro-Islamic and pro-Pak actions. A number of surveys conducted by some neutral organisations have clearly shown that given a choice, the majority of Kashmiris will opt for total Independence.

One of the main fears of the local population over the years has been that they would be swallowed up by the Indian mainstream. As long as the so called autonomy even if only in name was there, the people had a psychological satisfaction that they will not get drowned in the Indian mainstream. However, the BJP tirade on the so called special status has not only woken up all the Kashmiris but has generated extreme fear and apprehension among them regarding their future. It is for the first time all parties from all ideologies seem to be converging against this diabolical move of the Hindutva Brigade.However, there is a catch here. The new generation of Kashmiris some of whom are dying everyday does not follow any leaders or parties. They seem to have one point programme of getting total freedom. They consider Kashmir to be a colony and the Army as an occupation Army. The mass support of these new young militants has given rise to a totally new type of militancy. A few armed youth being followed and supported by unarmed masses even during encounters with the forces! Common people just armed with stones have been facing Army bullets  to save armed militants during cordon and search operations of the Army andthe militants have many times escaped the dragnet due to people’s mass participation in preventing Army’s cordon and search operations.

The Prime Minister in his Independence Day address declared that the Kashmiris would be won by embracing them and not by bullets! These are very nice words and sublime sentiments. Well, that is not what is actually happening on the ground! Either he is totally unaware of the ground situation or he is being too naïve! Kashmiris have now become totally used to such nice phrases over the years and no one is going to take him seriously after Vajpayee’s “Insaniyat”and “Jhamooriyat” went up in smoke! Incidentally, Geelani is also seeking Kashmir solution through “Insaniyat”, “Jhamooriyat” and “Kashmiriyat”! But the million dollar question is how and who is going to approach the irreconcilable new generation of Kashmiris constituting almost 60% of the population? They are neither bothered about Article 370 nor about Article 35-A, but have only one slogan everywhere: “Go India, Go Back” and “We want Freedom”!

Mohammad Ashraf,  I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir


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