By Deepika Bhan
No one could ever comprehend that the so called untouchable Article 370 could ever be tinkered with. A big aura had been created around the two Articles – 370 and 35A – that the nation was almost resigned to live with the misery. It certainly took the gutsy Modi government to break the myth and puncture the false halo of 370.
Now the world knows that 370 was never a law. It was a presidential order which was never ratified by Parliament. The question arises why did the country have to wait for 70 years to get rid of the order that has caused a lot of misery to the whole nation? The question is also why was the myth created around the article 370 that it is fundamental for relation with Jammu and Kashmir?
The truth is bitter but must be told and discussed. After the accession of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947, it became increasingly clear that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, had struck a very shrewd bargain with Nehru. Abdullah created a scenario that ensured that J&K gets a special status so that the state stays much like a princely state ruled by him and his decedents. So after him it was his son Farooq Abdullah and then his grandson Omar Abdullah.
All became chief ministers of the state. And then there is the Mufti family which also gave two chief ministers to the state. Then there are a few other families/clans that also are part of the powerful group. The corridors of power in the state have been ruled by a few who also control the majority business stakes there. Most of these have properties not just in several parts of the country but also in foreign shores. So, this powerful group of close knit clans never could favour the amalgamation of the state with the rest of the country for the obvious reason of power hold.
Then in 1990s, another set of power centre came into being. The separatist lobby milked the situation and made millions. They amassed huge wealth not just in the state but also other cities and countries. All this happened even as the nation was getting squeezed to pay to maintain the valley in terms of men and money. Still, the leaders were never satisfied. ‘Being separate’ was very ‘beneficial’ for them and their symapthisers and backers at the centre. For 70 years the arrangement was working nicely.
The exclusivity due to the 370 was in fact used by Pakistan to strike the Islamic chord with in the valley. And this has been overtly manifested in the state since late 80’s. In 1990, the minority Hindus were forced out of the valley rendering the valley as one religion place only. The whole nation watched this silently. For the past 30 years no government at the centre has been able to rehabilitate them back. It has been due to article 370 that the Islamists in the valley have been able to act in a shield, radicalizing and creating anti-India sentiment in the valley.
Article 370 suited many in the valley and it suited Pakistan also. 370 was not about the saving of the land or culture, it was only about the upmanship of the Muslims in the state. Had it been for the Kashmiriyat, then the Kashmir Pandits would not have been hounded out of the valley, their homes destroyed, temples desecrated and nearly 700 killed and scores of women abducted, gang raped and brutally killed.
Article 370 was only about one religion dominance and corruption. And it also was helping Pakistan and Islamic fanatics to create a place which did not have any secular credentials or Kashmiriyat . It was only for the ease and riches of a few families in the valley.
Now that it is gone, how will these families react? They will definitely instigate and fight for their power share. It will take a while for the valley to subside but this myth of 370 stands broken. And the country will feel free now.
( The author is a senior TV Journalist based at New Delhi )