Liberty should encompass all aspects, whether political or economic. The structure of liberty is a double helix: one strand — political freedom — spirally in tandem with the other — economic freedom. Article 370 safeguarded both economic and political rights of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. According to Jean Dreze, “Contrary to the narrative propagated by ruling party and mainstream media, Article 370 had in fact helped in reducing poverty and in laying foundation of a relatively egalitarian economy in rural areas in J&K.”
The removal of Article 370 was justified by Union Home Minister Amit Shah with a long list of explanations, among which one was particularly striking: women empowerment. The Home Minister said that women in Kashmir were suffering and needed the Indian Government and Indian laws to protect them. The minister thus created a victim and messiah narrative, with Kashmiri women as the victims and Indian Government as the messiah.
Women in the valley have faced the burnt of militarisation for decades. Economic, political and social inequalities along with human rights violations are a feature of Kashmir. Sexual violence against Kashmiri women by Indian forces has always been covered up by giving the forces blanket impunity. The most heinous crimes against women in the Valley have been covered up citing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The point where AFSPA begins is where individual liberty ends.To acknowledge and understand the meaning of justice for women living under the shadow of AFSPA would help the state to recognise why removing Article 370 will never be accepted by Kashmiri women.
Also, the rush of misogynistic content in Indian commentary on Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 seems in line with the government treating Kashmiris as a people whose opinion is not worth considering. Men on TikTok were celebrating the idea of getting a Kashmiri woman. A user called Amit Modak, whose feed is loaded with paeans to Modi, posted a video with the message, “Now I will marry a Kashmiri girl.”
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Aditynath said that the decision to scrap Article 370 will make Mother India proud.
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis said that Modi government corrected a historic wrong. “They’ve truly made Kashmir an integral part of India.”
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is under house arrest at that time, slammed the move.
No women’s organisation, no women’s commission, no political party in India was supporting Kashmiri women at the time of abrogation. Thousands of indian troops were deployed in Kashmir, school colleges were shut, telephone and internet services were suspended, and regional political leaders were put in jail or placed under house arrest. No one was listening to the voice of Kashmiri people.
It is clear that the present regime is guided and controlled by the saffron brigade and is adhering to the Hindutva agenda with unprecedented fervour. The misconstrued social engineering programme of emancipation of women is nothing but a baggage of lies, a hogwash and a concoction, packed in misleading and ambiguous forms to gain a footprint in the Valley through Machiavellian tactics. Rather than integration of Kashmir and bridging the deep disconnect, ulterior motives are all there is behind the attempt to assimilate Kashmiris into the majoritarian culture.
The writer is studying for a master’s degree in Journalism at Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora.