re we alive or are we dying? Should we laugh, or do we have to cry? The problem has existed for thirty years in the mind of a typical Kashmiri.
We’ve lost lives, generations, culture and most importantly time.
No one of us has had a chance to be truly content in the last thirty years. Grief became the standard and life became dull.
We’re working, we’re going around, we’re dreaming about politics and we’re sleeping. Only when politics is not being watched does the media appear to be the only escape.
The culture of living in Kashmir has been infiltrated by killings, encounters, attacks and political reactions. The diversity of Kashmir that was significantly impacted by the mass exodus of Pundits from Kashmir has made Kashmir’s largely unique population highly vulnerable to any state intervention.
The People’s alliance has been quite vocal lately and are desperate to curate a mass uprising against the central action.
The otherwise charged political atmosphere in the valley seems to have calmed down as no political uprising seems to be on cards.
The most feared moment that would undoubtedly cause a mass reaction was the abrogation of article 370. But, to everyone’s surprise, a very quiet response came to the front.
Management of the potential situation of law and order was commendable at the level of an international MP team visiting Kashmir that had never existed before. The day’s events were as natural as they could be.
Over the past year the central government has been developing various plans and policies for the growth of J&K. We have a new criterion of domicile that has made the criterion of residency more reasonable and just.
We have an increasingly active Panchayati Raj system through which J&K’s representative structure has become diverse. We have an employment policy where 25,000 jobs have already been confirmed and 25,000 are in the pipeline. The reaction to COVID 19 is so robust that Srinagar airport is the only airport that carries out the arriving passengers’ COVID test.
The administration is listening to the public’s suggestions and complaints, and work is being done to improve the region’s power production, which would make J&K energy sufficient and also become a source of earnings through energy sales.
The new land laws that have opened up a portion of J&K’s land for sale are another development that has grabbed the news headlines and seems to have agitated Kashmir’s Gupkari gang.
The concern is strong and there are allegations that the laws would change the region’s demographics and thus affect the region’s Muslim majority character. Over the years, the entire burden of economic growth in the UT has been on the state.
A detailed industrial policy for the old position could never be worked out by governments at the state level and most of the PSUs under them were running on enormous losses.
The losses were so high that even the workers’ wages could not be provided on time. The reliance was solely on central grants and the rationale of any request that might be made matched the excuse of the circumstances. J&K Cements and SRTC were prime instances of industrial failure.
The land could not be sold to outsiders for the construction of industrial infrastructure and there was no fixed process for J&K for non-local private development financing. Natural resources remained under utilised and economic potential remained unexplored in other sectors as well. J&K had been a burden on the center in its entirety and would be a sink in taxpayer money from the rest of India.
In J&K’s way of development, the zero work culture, skill-less education, corruption, red-tapism, unavailability of land to non-local citizens for industrial growth and political tensions remained major obstacles. In 1991, India went for LPG reforms, but this was J&K’s peak insurgency.
It took at least 12 years for any form of normalcy to return to the valley afterward. A fresh controversy against the allocation of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board began in Kashmir just six years after the 2002 elections.
The Yatra, which is so crucial to Kashmir’s tourism industry, was totally denied any importance. The PDP withdrew its support for the coalition it was part of over this issue and the government collapsed.
In order to restore normalcy, the onus was again on the center and the land allotment could be materialised after a counter uprising in Jammu.
As the Muslims knew the importance and position of the Yatra in the hearts of the Hindu brethren, this was something that was unexpected from the Kashmiri population.
This was a showdown of Kashmiri’s touch me not nature, which was made to be afraid of any land ceding as an attack on the Kashmir land.
When it came to discussing the region’s growth, the land at J&K remained untouchable and infallible.
Globalization is a concept that the commoners in Kashmir, who consume products from outside every day and pay a price that could be halved if those products were manufactured in J&K, have not even looked at.
But Pakistan’s proxies and Kashmir’s family rulers have converted the land into something so sacred that a hype about any new land law is expected to grab eyeballs if not a mass reaction. Now that a step towards the development of an industrial infrastructure (not owned by the state) is finally being taken, the Gupkar parties are in a mood of sabotage by giving it the colour of a conspiracy against Kashmiris that J&K is on sale.
Don’t they know a sale has customers paying money at what they’re buying? If the buyer pays the debt for a commodity, what is the issue?
The issue is the fear of a shift in demography. J&K has thirteen million residents, most of which are Muslim. Kashmir has a largely Muslim community, and for 30 years now one large minority has not found a way back home. For any resident of the rest of India, such a distinct environment and culture is very difficult to adapt to. The whole premise of new land law is to draw investment for industrial investment from J&K.
Investment would naturally lead to jobs, and employment would lead to a rise in people’s living standards.
People will have work to be proud of and new inventions. Educational institutions may exist that would encourage local students to study in their own area and sectors where they can work without having to move to earn or study. By setting up their shops near industrial complexes, unqualified individuals can get jobs and earn handsomely.
Kashmir’s “touch me not” manifestation is just in the interest of beneficiaries of the conflict who want Kashmir to stay in the dark ages and keep it surrounded by political tension and terrorism.
They can go on vacation to foreign lands themselves and live the life they want, but they want to keep the common Kashmiri devoid of the advantages of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
Today, borders are meaningless and the political foxes want to depict the limits around J&K as the advantages to commoners.
It is time to open up and enter into a positive exchange with the rest of the world and evolve.
Land has no value, and talent is the only thing that is respected now. It’s time to sharpen our abilities and for a worthy life to take a leap towards multiculturalism and modernism. In our favour, we are smart enough to make deals, it’s all about having confidence in our ability.
Neither the Abdullahs nor the Muftis have any knowledge of what is protected by them. They are neither protecting the land nor the people.
They foster resource wastage and Kashmir’s brain drain. We’ve got thousands of engineers and MBAs who go out to work for peanuts.
By establishing a comprehensive and educationally integrated industry in J&K that would maintain Kashmir’s talent and skills in Kashmir, there is an urgent need to hold the place together.
The only tangible solution is to shed away the thorns of “touch me not” attitude and ushering into the globalized and privatized scheme of living.
(The writer, Mir Junaid, is the president of Jammu Kashmir Workers Party and a lawyer. The opinion expressed is of the writer. He can be reached on Twitter @MirJunaidJKWP)