The decision of the Central Government to scrap special status allowed to Jammu and Kashmir and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories has predictably drawn sharp flaks from various quarters both within and outside the country. These measures have been viewed undemocratic and devoid of constitutional morality as an elected government was not in place and the state Governor, an appointee of the center enjoyed no right to represent the views of the people on such drastic changes and so on.
While these arguments may have legal basis one cannot ignore the repeated failure of the state government of Kashmir in preventing violence and abuse of power resulting in a state of perpetual lawlessness in Kashmir. I have in mind the forcible expulsion of the small Kashmiri Pandit community from the valley : Sadly this act is manifestation of what I would call the” Pakistan mindset” determined to free the land of the ” kafirs”, the non believers which exists also to a lesser extent in Bangladesh as evidenced from the steady fall in proportion of Hindus in Bangladesh to about 9% of its population as compared to 28% when East Pakistan was formed.In this background I feel that the issue is not just constitutional propriety of the central action but something more basic– the territorial expression of the present day Muslim identity politics in Kashmir valley.
I grew up in the aftermath of the Partition when discussion on why and how India was divided were a part of our lives. I recall a point made persistently by my maternal uncle late Prof Achintyananda Roy who taught English at the Manindra Chandra College, Calcutta that our leaders who negotiated the Partition didn’t quite realize that implicit in the idea of Pakistan was the right of the majority Muslims to appropriate the entire land mass and the right to expel the non believers at will. This idea of a state which the Kashmiri separatists also seems to hold is devoid of any merit as it extinguishes the rights of the others who lived in the same land for centuries. He therefore argued that India should have demanded “territorial compensation “for settlement of refugees. I feel that there is a lot of strength in this line of thinking.
The separatists should bear in mind that the ancient land, Kashmir has been integral to the ” Civilisational State” of Bharat, that is India; and the fact that about two centuries before some people in the valley embraced Islam who now form the majority – and a change faith cannot be ruled out in future does not mean that they own the valley nor have the right to evict others. They enjoy only the right of use and occupancy while the ownership rests with Bharat, the Civilisational state.
From this perspective, the action of the Central Government maybe seen as a historic step to assert the inviolability of the territorial integrity of Bharat.