Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
The Lt Governor of Jammu & Kashmir(J&K), Manoj Sinha gave an interview recently about J&K to the journalist Nistula Hebbar which was published in The Hindu.
In my opinion, what the LG is saying is empty talk and hot air. The truth is that whereas in most other Indian states there is the civilian rule, in J&K, where there are about 8 lac Indian army and paramilitary troops, there is defacto military rule, while civilian rule under the Lt Governor is only a facade. To give an illustration, the earlier LG Murmu announced there will be a restoration of 4G internet, and soon thereafter he was removed, ( just as US Defence Secretary Macnamara was removed during the Vietnam War because he opposed the US army’s proposals ) My guess is the army strongly objected to the restoration of 4G internet. So it is the writ of the army which really runs in J&K, though a sham is maintained that there is the civilian rule. No basic change can be made in J&K without the army’s approval.
The J&K economy has gone down and will go further downhill. It is estimated that since August 5, 2019, J&K has lost 60,000 crore rupees, and half a million jobs were lost. The tourism industry has collapsed, and hotels and houseboats are largely empty.
It was announced that since restrictions on buying land for outsiders under Article 35A have been removed, so now businessmen from outside will buy land and set up industries and businesses, thus providing employment to local Kashmiris. But who will buy land and set up industries when bullets are flying around? Militancy continues in Kashmir and is bound to increase, because when you gag up people by denying democratic rights like freedom of speech and freedom of the media, and deprive people the right to free and fair elections, you are inevitably driving people, particularly the youth, towards militancy.
Downgrading J&K from a state to a union territory was an insult to the people of a state with 12 million inhabitants when states with much smaller populations remain states, e.g. Sikkim which has less than a million people.
It is in the nature of things that there will be grievances among the people, and therefore there have to be fora for peaceful ventilation of their grievances, otherwise, they will be ventilated violently. In J&K these fora have disappeared. Freedom of speech and of the media does not exist, and the proposed panchayat and district council elections will be rigged to produce the results desired by the authorities and the army. Consequently, militancy is bound to grow. Every other day there are incidents of encounters between Kashmiri militants and Indian security forces. The truth is that due to the ill-conceived policies of our government over decades the people of Kashmir have become almost totally alienated and bitterly hostile to India.
Our government is too short-sighted to understand this, and I am afraid a Vietnam type guerilla war situation will develop in the times to come.
In 1908 some revolutionaries in Bengal threw bombs at some British officials which killed them. Shortly thereafter, the great Indian freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote in his newspaper Kesari that while he condemned the use of violence, it is inevitable when freedom and dissent are suppressed. He wrote, ” When the authorities begin to overawe the people without any good reason, and when the people are reduced to despondency by unduly frightening them, then the sound of the bomb is spontaneously produced to convey to the authorities that the people have reached the limit of their tolerance to repression “.
One wishes the Indian Government had listened to the wise words of Tilak.
Democracy and freedom is vital for the restoration of peace in Kashmir, but perhaps the Indian Government, on the advice of the army authorities, think that this will only give a handle to militants to attack our troops. So the deadlock and impasse will continue, while things get worse