A tale of two territories
Delhi was governed with exemplary coordination between Centre and the state and Article 35A was nowhere in question in the epochal 1999
In the dynamic craft of governance, despite and along with political bearings that may direct, facilitate, or impede it, a territory is a broad representation of the interdependent aspects and links of governmental functioning. Irrespective of the scale of governance, exchanges with other distinct and separate political entities or within a larger unit pose significant challenges to the smooth flow of dispensing relevant procedures. The official status of a territory, beyond its definition, makes its challenges unique and resolution of disputes toilsome. Cropping up of disputes and disagreements is inevitable whether it happens secondarily or out of design. Evolving methods to keep bones of contention at bay can effectively contain any anomalies from hindrance to functioning.
The past few weeks were marked by two comparable disputes that follow directly from governance and politics emanating from the Centre. The noise surrounding the status of Article 35A and the frequent logjams that have come to distinguish the otherwise competent government of Delhi are both of the essence to assert that previously established rules and regulations can be effectively circumvented to take forward governance and development. Delhi was governed before with an exemplary show of cooperation and coordination between the Centre and the state and Article 35A was nowhere in question in the epochal 1999 when Vajpayee was getting close to resolving the Kashmir issue.
The common element in these two very distinct territories is their political status and relation with Centre. Although applicable to the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, the ruckus with regard to the abrogation of Article 35A engenders only from the Kashmir valley, the hub of politics that unfairly characterises the entire state. The Constitutional provision that specifies permanent residents of the state and prohibits acquisition of immovable property by any outsider has predictably allowed for a safe zone for the political environment to thrive independently. The persisting issues of the state at large and the valley in particular can well be addressed in ways without outright assaulting the assurance brought by 35A.
The derivation and intricacies of Article 35A which intend to protect the people of the entire state have, in fact, effectively smoke-screened the dense valley region in numerous ways to the detriment of many citizens in many regards. It may have consolidated the prominent political aspect of the state, but with regard to social and economic aspects, the severed region is resigned to stunted growth. A rampant concern from the grassroots about abrogation of 35A is threat to livelihood. The artisans and craftsmen who monopolise the globally acclaimed weaves of Kashmir fear shut-down from competition if their market opens for outsiders. The method to provide economic security in this case is not isolation but pro-people policies and aided protection while ushering the existing situation towards more prosperous trade practices - from the grassroots to healthier levels of competition.
Working out adequate Centre-state resolutions in the interest of general welfare of the people is a persisting task that turns into a challenge owing to non-concurrence of individually functioning political agencies. The raked-up issue of Delhi's statehood does not bring to fore the relevance of its exclusive statehood, it only brings to highlight the necessity of having the state and the Centre function in tandem. Atal Bihari Vajpayee has left behind a very valuable legacy. The tremendous infrastructure that embellishes the face of Delhi today was developed by the previous state government in cooperation with the Central government, and the two political outfits are arch rivals to this day.
Debating whether Article 35A should stay or go can make for some fine recreational intellectual indulgence, but the pragmatic way to analyse and resolve this blockage is to allow governance and integrated development to drown out historical blunders. Apart from the normalised lack of regard for human rights (as a result of political isolation), a range of entitlements in the form of fundamental rights cannot be fully exercised by non-resident J&K Indians at large. In a place where education is more than required and can thrive to great extents, there are restrictions to making it possible. Setting up Centrally-sponsored institutes but being unable to ensure the necessary of kind exposure and variety needed for quality education defeats the purpose of such attempts.
In the contrasting picture of Ladakh, the remarkable developments in the challengingly harsh physical conditions - from the wondrous commercialisation of sea buckthorn to awe-inspiring ice stupas - speak of progress that follows from education and general awareness for better. It is due to absence of dispute with the Centre that DRDO established the world's highest terrestrial centre as a natural cold storage to preserve rare and endangered medicinal plants. The Ladakh region has also borne the brunt of bad national decisions but the past is not allowed to haunt and hamper the present and future there.
With regard to both Delhi and Kashmir, the manner to resolve opportunistically-crafted stalemate situation is to focus on policy implementation and functioning instead of holding on to a system or historicity on the pretext of it being sacrosanct (when it can be amended!) or seeking a radical change for the purpose of unhindered functioning. If state agents function reasonably in tandem, then the political status of the territory does not matter. Delhi's statehood and Article 35A are essentially redundant issues and the only thing pushing them to the spotlight is compromised governance following from political malfunction.
(The author is Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. Views expressed are strictly personal)