The main causes of the Kashmir problem stem from the past. They include preventing Indian forces from completely evicting Pakistani invaders from Kashmir, referring Kashmir to the United Nations, agreeing to a plebiscite and the promulgation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India. Kashmir could not be integrated into India because of Article 370 and its offshoot, Article 35A. A sinister provision was included in Article 370 which mentioned that any change in the article was feasible only after concurrence of the Jammu & Kashmir assembly.
Article 370 has provisions that no outsider can purchase immovable property in the state and several Indian laws, including the Anti-Defection Law, Wealth Tax, Gift Tax & Urban Land Ceiling Act, are not applicable in J&K. Presidents rule cannot be imposed in the state without the governor’s consent. Although Article 370 was included in the constitution as a temporary provision, either no sincere effort was made over the last 70 years to revoke it, or the efforts were sabotaged by pro-separatists and residents of the Valley.
Opponents threaten that if these articles are removed, not only J&K, but several other parts of India will witness demonstrations and violent protests. The Valley will become uncontrollable and relations between Kashmir and India will end with the state becoming independent. A misconception has been spread that if these articles are removed, people from other states will purchase most of the prime land and the local residents will become landless and homeless.
Inhabitants of the Jammu and Ladakh regions are in favour of removing Articles 370, which gives special autonomous status to J&K, and 35A, which safeguards the demographic status of the state. The government should immediately start a debate about the benefits and drawbacks of these provisions in the Indian Constitution. Public debates will expose the leaders and political parties who support retention of these Articles, which have hampered the progress of the state. Inhabitants of the Valley will also understand that the main reason for massive unemployment and poverty is that no investment is coming into the Valley because of these articles which prohibit outsiders from owning land or property in the state.
The J&K economy is dependent on agriculture, horticulture and tourism. The younger generation is not interested in agriculture and horticulture, which require hard labour and do not provide expected returns. The tourism industry, which generates employment for a large number of young Kashmiris, lies in shambles.
Kashmir needs a long term strategy which will include containment of terrorism, revocation of Articles 370 and 35A and employment generation programmes. Fundamentalism or extremism were unknown in the state, but separatists, with the assistance of Pakistan’s rogue Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), injected fundamentalism in the Valley. Large numbers of madrassas and mosques have been established and many clerics in these religious institutions preach extremism. Intelligence operatives should cultivate assets in these religious places and those who preach extremism should be dealt with stringently.
There cannot be peace in the valley unless Articles 370 and 35A are repealed and these articles cannot be revoked unless the J&K state legislature passes the bill. The present strength of the state legislature is 111, of which 24 seats are for what is Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Hence the effective strength of the legislature is 87 seats. Of these 87 seats, 46 seats are from the Valley, while Jammu and Ladakh have 41 seats.
The present division of seats is incorrect as the total area of Jammu and Ladakh is 84.26 % while Kashmir has an area of 15.73% only. In the same way, the combined population of Jammu and Ladakh is around 45%, while the Valley has around 55% of the population. The 226,000 refugees who came from Pakistan after partition and live in Jammu were excluded from the census as they were not given citizenship rights.
These figures are from the 2011 census. 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the Valley and are now settled in Jammu, raising its population, while the population of Kashmir has decreased. There should, therefore, be delimitation in the state and there should be a re-division of seats in the assembly. Once seats in the Valley are reduced, articles 370 and 35A can be revoked.
However, security forces must continue with ‘Operation All Out’ and terrorists must be exterminated. Borders should be sealed to the extent possible to ensure minimum infiltration. Besides ‘action agents,’ the ‘support’ agents (over ground workers) should also be either arrested or annihilated. Without support agents, it will be difficult for terrorists to carry out terrorist activities. Government must make efforts to ensure that financial assistance to terrorists is stopped. There should be no negotiations with Pakistan though Prime Minister Imran Khan is sending feelers to initiate talks but not making any promises to stop assistance to terrorist outfits and arrest terrorist leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar.
Once Articles 370 and 35A are removed, industrialists should put up industries and the government should make detailed plans to develop the state. Once peace is restored, tourism will rise and generate employment and the resentment of young people will end slowly but steadily.