IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

A year on, Article 370 and Kashmir mythmaking 

4th August, 2020 Polity


  • Kashmir has been a favourite site of our national mythmaking; myths that have over the years assumed larger-than-life manifestations in our collective psyche. Kashmir has most things that popular myths are made of: mesmerising beauty, cross-border terror, deep states and their agents, war and heroism.
  • Myths about Kashmir are not created by the right wing alone but by successive Indian governments over several decades, enthusiastically embellished by a vibrant, popular culture.

Demonising Kashmir

  • Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement last year on the floor of Parliament that Article 370 was the root cause of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is a widely accepted sentiment. Article 370 was neither responsible for terrorism in the Valley nor has its removal ensured a reduction in terrorism. If anything, Article 370 continues to remain very much a part of a solution to the Kashmir conundrum.
  • The constitutional provision is also held responsible for ruining J&K, stalling its development and preventing proper health care and blocking industries. J&K, as a matter of fact, has been doing much better than most other Indian States and one of the reasons for this was the land reforms carried out in the State in the early 1950s.
  • While private enterprises could set up industries in the former State on leased land, as they have over the years, acquisition of land by public sector enterprises from outside the State was never a problem.
  • Private investors do not set up shop in Kashmir due to militancy, which is a product of an existing conflict; not because of Articles 370 or 35A.

Funding truths

  • The oft-cited counter-argument is that if J&K is doing better than the other Indian States, it is because of the massive amounts of funds provided by New Delhi.
  • Economist and former State Finance Minister of J&K Haseeb Drabu make a distinction between funds that went to the J&K government and those that went into economic development in the State.
  • The J&K government’s revenue deficit has traditionally been taken care of by New Delhi: J&K, for historical reasons, has had a bloated bureaucracy in comparison to other States and their salaries and pensions have been financed by the central government.
  • Then there are routine transfers of funds from the Centre to J&K just as transfers take place from New Delhi to other States.
  • Finally, J&K also received funds thanks to its status as a special category State, which again is a case with several other Indian States.
  • The Kashmir conflict is a function of complex historical grievances, politico-ethnic demands, increasing religious radicalisation and Pakistan’s unrelenting interference in the Kashmir Valley. It would be simplistic to imagine that such a multi-layered and complex conflict can be resolved by the stroke of a pen effecting a constitutional change or providing an economic package.

The deep impact

  • This overwhelming mythmaking on Kashmir has had unfortunate implications on how we understand and treat Kashmir and Kashmiris.
  • No matter Kashmir was easily India’s most securitised State with various central institutions and agencies undermining not only what was left of Article 370 prior to August last year but also impeding the elected government’s power in the former State.
  • Yet another popular perception about ‘Kashmiris as troublemakers and sympathisers of terror’ has led to a noticeable increase in the mistreatment of Kashmiri Muslims in the rest of the country.

Hard realities

  • Most indicators of violence in Kashmir have shown an uptick despite the double lockdown that Kashmir is under today.
  • Mainstream Kashmiri politicians today are as unhappy and disgruntled as the separatist politicians and the restive youngsters in South Kashmir. And Pakistan has left no stone unturned to aid and abet violence in the Valley. For Rawalpindi, all bets are off on Kashmir. India’s national interest hardly benefits from such a toxic situation.
  • New Delhi’s Kashmir policy today is caught between a rock and a hard place: there is no indication that the path that it chose in August 2019 would lead to peace and development in the Valley, nor can it revert to pre-2019 August status quo, which would be political suicide for the BJP.