Without taking the democratic voice of Jammu and Kashmir on board, laws are abrogated, made and enforced forcefully by some way or the other. Being an anthropologist, I always look for the views of people and listen to their discussions, so I can say for sure that the Government of India has lost even the negligible space it had in the hearts of Kashmiri youth.
I personally believed that the Government of India will not attack the reservations and scholarships provided to the deserving people in Jammu and Kashmir. Hence, I and many others were not much bothered about the abrogation of Article 370, especially as the government had made promises of development and economic investment. Unfortunately, since the abrogation of Article 3970 in August last year, the government has only been breaking its promises. First, 10% EWS reservation was introduced, even though it had no practical applicability in Kashmir. Then the internet blockade was extended, political leaders were kept detained, and now the new definition of domiciles has been introduced. There is absolutely no knowing or transparency about what the government is doing or will do next. Sometimes they say that there was corruption in J&K Bank and so the recruitment notifications and exams were cancelled. But they don’t disclose who did what corruption and what action was taken against them. At other times our State Human Rights Commission and State Information Commission are disbanded and it is said that transparency will be brought through the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Where is the transparency in the introduction of new laws and rules in Jammu and Kashmir? Where, indeed, is the democracy in Jammu and Kashmir?
On the one side the government of India introduced the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) for students of Jammu and Kashmir to study in outside state colleges and universities, and on the other side the same government is bringing laws to take away the employment opportunities of the youth. I sometimes feel that the PMSSS was a trap for Kashmiri students to make them fetch degrees from different colleges and universities outside and then be mentally frustrated at home after returning to the valley. There is no employment opportunity in Kashmir and most of the businesses fail because of the hartals, curfews, natural disasters and the non-democratic approach of the Indian government towards Kashmir.
I personally feel that the 4G internet ban is not being lifted to keep a lid on the deeds of the government and they are taking full benefit of the Covid-19 crisis, because the affected Kashmiri youth cannot react either through social media or through democratic street protests. Also, every voice raised in protest is labelled as that of terrorists. Everyone who protests is detained and put in jail.
Kashmiris deserve reservation and protection though domicile rights because of their distinct culture as well as the lack of opportunities they suffer from as compared to people in other states. But the ethnocentric approach of the Indian elite towards Kashmir does not let them understand the feelings and pain of the Kashmiris. As an anthropologist I can say that the new definition of domicile is wrong, and the government is stealing the rights of people of J&K and giving these to rulers/ officials’ children in Kashmir. Kashmir needs at least 40 years of development to compete with other states and then such laws can be brought. The Government of India must reconsider its decision and take the discriminatory domicile law back.
The writer is a research scholar of Social Anthropology. firstname.lastname@example.org