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Millennium Post

Hitches ahead

Hitches ahead

A spree of public interest orders, nocturnal crackdown, immediate and massive deployment of paramilitary forces – all constitute a huge governmental intervention in matters of national. The Centre sprung into action as it issued a series of orders with immediate effect with emergency deployment of additional companies in what seemed like a precautionary measure to probable ruckus that may brew in the Valley. As the locals stood startled caught in a storm of frenzy, the separatists were detained in nocturnal operations; inviting abject criticism from local leaders questioning the rationality of such an arbitrary move. Though these steps pique general curiosity across the nation, they most-certainly instill fear in the minds of locals as they herald adversity. Following the incidents of Pulwama which left the nation discomposed, the government went on a diplomatic offensive to isolate Pakistan and blacklist JeM. Anti-Kashmiri sentiment was reported on the secular soil and disturbed the social fabric – threatening the security of Kashmiris and Muslims. The Supreme Court had to intervene and urge Chief Secretaries and DGPs of various states to handle social unrest with precision. Pulwama has not just left the nation with a grievous loss but also stimulated Kashmir-centric discussions across the nation. Now while the layman debates on the ensuing arguments of lapses in intelligence, the unrelenting notorious neighbour, befitting retribution, security overhaul and so on, the Centre has ascended above these to bring Article 35-A into the equation. With the general elections in sight, Centre's eye on Article 35-A becomes a dubious bone of contention. The link between government measures being carried out in J&K and pending hearing of Article 35-A in the SC this week is less likely to be a fallacy. The developments in the Valley pile on the unsettled Kashmiri psyche. While discussions in Delhi hover over the special rights to permanent residency in J&K arising from Article 35-A, those in Kashmir cite apprehensions of turmoil. Arrests of extremists and dozens of Jamaat-e-Islami cadres have instigated public fear while sporadic protests and confrontations between locals and forces have further aggravated the chaos. It does not look like Kashmir is being comforted post Pulwama in any sense for Centre's machinations have only complicated matters. The wider debate is arguably the pertinence of 35-A, but in the aftermath of Pulwama, the government has overlooked that aspect. Incorporated into Constitution in 1954 by an order of President Rajendra Prasad acting on the advice of the Nehru Cabinet, the Article has been mentioned to have bypassed the Parliamentary route. The argument over why that was done or why does Article 35-A still exists certainly cannot supersede the question of 35-A's scrutiny at a time when the state is already on the edge. Delving into the 35-A debate which prohibits people from outside of J&K from buying or owning immovable property, settling permanently or becoming beneficiaries of state-sponsored scholarship schemes draws out two important aspects. One how the very incorporation, at the time, was done in the wake of the sensitive situation prevailing over the Valley back then which was never resolved; and two, how this is integral from the nation's perspective when looked on Kashmir through the Constitution's lens. 35-A deprives an outsider (with respect to Kashmir) of the right to live there, in a way, and simultaneously alienates Kashmir, and its residents, from the general regulations which effectively stitch this country together. Though that is ignorable considering how J&K has always been a separate discussion in the national democratic narrative of our country given the state's separate constitution. In this context, the relevance of Article 35-A is a bit justified since Centre's pursuit has the undertone of bringing Kashmir closer to India than ever. Part of the whole special status conferred to J&K has always sparked the question of how the state has been floating in incessant conflict since Independence. The rise of separatists, insurgencies, PoK, wars, indoctrination of youth and consequential terror manifestations in the lanes of the Valley have always kept Kashmir at the edge. In the wake of all that, debating over 35-A may not be a divisionary ploy or an absurd move, yet the timing of it raises more questions than answers. The Supreme Court's non-public proceedings on the issue of Article 35-A possess the potential to complicate the situation in the Valley as expected opposition from separatists over the tampering with the special status was a case evident. Peace may be pushed even further should Article 35-A be revoked through an ordinance that government may resort to, irrespective of SC response. In such a scenario, Kashmir might suffer through aggravated unrest as the country moves towards Lok Sabha polls. In this context, and considering the fresh worry regarding the state, Kashmir might just become more politicised than ever, eclipsing other national issues and directing the mandate's attention towards the muddier waters that need cleansing, subtly sidelining a fact that it has always been muddier – if not this much.

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