Conflict Alerts # 135, 5 August 2020
In the news
5 August 2020 marks the completion of one year of the new "J&K." On 5 August 2019, the federal government made crucial changes – constitutional and administrative, to the State of J&K, as it existed since 1954. New Delhi removed two important Constitutional provisions – Article 370 and Article 35-A, that provided special status to J&K.
Administratively, the State was divided into Union Territories. Ladakh has been separated from the erstwhile J&K State and had been made an independent Union Territory administered directly by the federal government, as some of the other UTs are. The two regions – Jammu and Kashmir, have been made into another Union Territory, thus removing the status of Statehood.
Issues at large
First, the issue of too much and too little. While the supporters of the 5 August 2019 decision within the erstwhile J&K and outside it consider one year as too little to analyze the impact, the opponents – within and outside the former J&K State consider, the last one year as too much in terms of political and security restrictions. While the first section is expecting more needs to be done, the second section finds it suffocating, and wants to return to 4 August 2019.
Second, the issue of opposition and support to the 5 August 2019 decision. Within Kashmir Valley, there has been no credible support to the federal government's decision, and the follow up administrative actions since then – that includes the detention of political leaders, restrictions on free movement and the right to assemble, limited internet and related actions. On the other hand, there is widespread support to the decision in Ladakh and the Jammu region. Outside J&K, there is widespread support to the decision in the rest of India; though, a section within the civil society and political parties call for an open debate on the 5 August decision, and the future of J&K.
Third, the issue of security approach, especially in Kashmir Valley. The State in the last one year is looking at maintaining the security situation in the Valley; hence, the success is counted by the number of militants neutralized and the absence of protests. More military and para-military troops have been deployed in the Valley to prevent any assembly of people coming together in the streets. Jammu region remains relatively free from the above restrictions, while Ladakh is largely free.
Fourth, detention and access to the internet, as the two most crucial issues. While the State has been insisting that the political leaders who were detained in August 2019 have been released, the opposition in Kashmir Valley and outside still consider that a large number of political leaders, especially belonging to the PDP including the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is still under detention. According to Times of India, referring another report, 6,600 have been arrested during the last one year, that includes 400 plus are political leaders (of which 300 have been released). Another major concern is the absence of internet connectivity; while the State believes the restriction is important to maintain the security situation, the opposition considers it as against the fundamental rights. Though the State argues that there has been a restoration, the opposition considers it as a farce and says the internet is intermittent and the speed is too less, with 2G.
Fifth, the issue of violence and counter militancy operations. During the last one year, there has been increased violence, especially in Kashmir Valley, led by the militants. They have targeted the security forces, political leaders, civilians and local leaders. The number of militants killed in 2020 has also been high. According to the Director-General of Police, during January-June 2020, 128 terrorists were killed, of which "70 belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen, 20 each were from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the rest were from other terrorist outfits." (Quoted in The Tribune, 30 June 2020)
As one year gets completed, the State has to look towards an exit strategy.
The status quo – in terms of security restrictions, detentions and limited connectivity has to lead to a broader stable politics, with regular politicking. There has to be a more considerable debate at three levels – within J&K, in the Parliament, and between the two.