In the last one year, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has been transformed into a Union Territory where institutions and people have been left worried with each new legislation and constitutional change brought into effect. From disempowerment of native officials in the administration to change in permanent residentship and opening land banks for anyone, Jammu and Kashmir has been brought on edge.
To protest one year of this change, people in Kashmir observed a one-day shutdown on 31 October, expressing their dissent against New Delhi’s harsh policies. While unionist political parties are raising cries over the restoration of limited autonomy, turn times back to pre-August 2019, people are watching these changes in anger.
In Kashmir, history has witnessed that such policies by New Delhi have not brought peace to the conflict-ridden region. Imposing political disempowerment and the use of force against any dissenting voices has only complicated the situation further. Whether it was jailing Sheikh Abdullah or rigging of 1987 elections, New Delhi had to come back to the political table to begin political engagement with Srinagar as well as Islamabad.
For the last three decades, the people of Kashmir have lived between the bullets and stones, as peaceful talks didn’t resolve the pending dispute. It is important for New Delhi, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government of today, to understand this and take appropriate steps in listening to people’s sentiments.
In the last year, not much has changed in terms of bringing peace to Kashmir and allowing people to express their views freely. This is to say that the actions of the last one year have not been productive; rather we are witnessing chaos, rise in militancy, or institutional disempowerment. New Delhi needs to act fast and politically; the road to peace in Jammu and Kashmir is through political engagement and not rigorous policies without taking the native population into confidence.