Kashmir is a political dispute rooted in history no one can deny, but what is perhaps not widely and well understood is how government policy — both local and from New Delhi, if the two can ever be considered separate — is directed at making the logic of demands for its resolution based on the universal principle of right to self-determination progressively untenable. The first phase of achieving this objective was implemented by extending Indian institutional jurisdiction and authority of the parliament to Kashmir, unconstitutionally via a subservient legislature. This phase was severely disrupted following the challenge the popular armed rebellion of 1990 posed to India’s rule. But the process of defeating the movement for political rights in Kashmir was slowly energised in the second and continuing phase, first by installing half a million soldiers on the ground, which was later used to enforce elections in order to dress up the military occupation in ‘democracy’.
Kashmir, during its brief moment of relative independence post 1947, started off well by implementing a certain degree of equitable distribution of land among its citizens. The revolutionary act perhaps empowered the people to slowly build a movement, finally resulting in a rebellion against a disempowering State and for wresting control over their political destiny. A nation is the land and its people, and freedom should mean harnessing these resources for the welfare of its citizens. An examination of the policy thrust by successive governments, both in Srinagar and New Delhi, reveals a process that has consistently sought to disconnect the people from their own resources and increase their dependence on economic forces outside their control. While local agriculture has been rendered a far less self-sustaining enterprise than it could be, feverish promotion of tourism has remained a constant focus of all the governments, increasing the people’s vulnerability and dependence on the ever-increasing number of Indian visitors.
On top of all this, consider the ideas behind setting up sainik colonies, separate settlements for Kashmiri Pandits as opposed to an integrated social approach, land already under the occupation of armed forces, the complete takeover of the state’s hydropower resources, and now the industrial policy that could have the potential of offering big chunks of land to Indian enterprises. We don’t know what a government review of the policy will yield, but the idea behind all these entrenched policies appears to have a single purpose, to reduce the life-giving value of the natural resources for the people, and simultaneously increase their dependence on foreign entities that are allowed to harness them. Resistance should mean to understand and meaningfully respond to this blatant State policy violence.