Kashmir for Sale

The latest central notification by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government permitting persons of other Indian states to purchase non-agricultural land in Jammu and Kashmir has caused wide resentment. The BJP's argument is that it will facilitate greater integration of Jammu and Kashmir with rest of India. But the point is that integration is not something that can be forcibly imposed on the people without taking their consent. Not so long ago, the BJP tried to impose Hindi on the whole of India in the name of national integration, but had to retract, sensing the overwhelming reaction against the move.

The Indian Constitution, despite its many shortcomings, for example on reduction of inequality among various classes, contains some safeguards on this point. Article 371(A) honours Nagaland's customs on land transfer. Similar provisions are there for Mizoram and Sikkim. The Chotanagpur Tenancy Act gives some protection to tribals of Santhal Parganas in respect of land transfer. But the central government wants to snatch away these rights from Jammu and Kashmir.

The result is for everyone to see. Not only the people of Kashmir are vocal , but even the Dogra community of Hindu-dominated Jammu also has risen in protest. This protest is not unjustified, because the apprehension by Dogras of losing their identity is not without foundation. It is interesting that many of those residents of Jammu who had earlier supported the scrapping of Article 370 are now vocal against the new land laws. Mehbooba Mufti is not altogether wrong when she says that the Centre can launch cultural wars against Kashmiris and Dogras, but is afraid of fighting China. The manner in which the BJP government is licking the feet of the USA in order to contain China seems to vindicate Mufti's assertion. It cannot fight China by standing on its own feet, and hence desperately needs the backing of the USA. Everybody, except some dogmatic illusionists, knows that the latter will extract the price of this patronage to the full.

The Dogra community of Jammu seems no less indignant than Kashmiris in its rejection of the Centre's notification. So, one is inclined to think that the Centre, despite its politics of communal polarisation, has succeeded in bringing the Hindus and Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir together. This shows that the politics of communal polarisation is counterproductive at least as far as the frontier states are concerned. To the Dogras of Jammu, the Dogra identity is more important than their Hindu identity; they are not going to sacrifice their Dogra identity in favour of the latter, which essentially means upper-caste identity . It is a matter of time that corporate houses will come in a big way to 'develop' Kashmir.

Kashmiris are protesting against Modi's authoritarian decision to do away with whatever safeguards they used to enjoy in respect of land alienation. New Delhi's anti-people policy has given new lease of life to the separatist forces despite 'encounter killings' of hardcore mujahedeens. India's security forces have killed over 200 militants in Jammu & Kashmir in 2020. On November 01,2020,they killed the top Hizbul Mujahedeen commander (Dr) Saifullah Mir.

Until last year, Indian citizens were not allowed to buy property in Kashmir. But in August 2019, prime minister Narendra Modi scrapped the state's special status, annulled its separate constitution, split the region into two federal units and one Union Territory.

As a counter move Pakistan's prime minster Imran Khan is all set to declare the area of Gilgit-Baltistan—which is part of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK)—the fifth province of Pakistan. The policy in effect is accepting the two-Kashmir formula without really announcing it publicly. For all practical purposes Kashmir has long been partitioned into two states, administered by two sovereign governments. Both New Delhi and Islamabad refuse to recognise the hard reality.

Not that the people of Gilgit and Baltistan are welcoming Imran Khan's illegal exercise, rather a feudal exercise to annex small feudal entities. They are up in arms against Islamabad's unilateral decision of integrating the illegally occupied region with the rest of Pakistan. China being an all weather friend of Pakistan finds nothing wrong in Imran Khan's gross illegality, violating UN resolutions and several bilateral agreements. In truth the rulers in Islamabad have no locusstandi over the region, otherwise a disputed territory since 1947.

Strangely enough, political opposition in India has been in a state of calculated hibernation. These days they hardly take to streets despite Modi's systematic attempt to destroy constitution. The behaviour of the main opposition party—Congress Party—is anything but intriguing. For one thing they are not unhappy over Modi's Kashmir policy. So it seems. What the Gandhians and Nehru family clan could not do in seven decades the Modi brigade has done it in a decade. In a sense they are covert apologists of Modi's Kashmir adventure. When Article 370 was abrogated last year some Congressmen were too eloquent to support Modi for his 'courage'. One thing is certain that Modi is going to reap enormous electoral dividends because of Kashmir quagmire he has created.

Kashmir is now on auction. Only Kashmiris have no say over how to decide their fate. ooo     


Vol. 53, No. 26, Dec 28 2020 - Jan 2 2021