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File photo. Photograph by Vikar Syed for The Kashmir Walla

The Indian Parliament had never appeared as undemocratic and arrogant to me as it did on 5 August 2019. I have not and I cannot forget for a long time how the highest temple of Indian democracy betrayed not only the people of Jammu and Kashmir but also tore its own democratic principles. 

I had never thought that democracy can be that ugly as it displayed itself on that day in the shape of majoritarianism and authoritarianism. If you want to understand and feel how horrible and arrogant on that day democratic India was, put yourself in place of the people of J-K who were collectively put in an open air prison with no means to communicate with each other, forget about their communication with the outside world. 

For the first time in my living memory even the landline telephones were disconnected. People of J-K were put under the strict watch of thousands of troops—who were brought in addition to the hundreds of thousand other government forces who were already deployed in the state. 

The people in general were imprisoned in their houses and activists, students and people of all age groups from minor to adults, politicians, lawyers, prayer leaders of many masjids were taken away and put in different prisons in and outside the state. Later not even women were spared. 

Many of these people still continue to be detained in different prisons and some in their houses. All this was done because the Bharatiya Janata Party had to strip J-K off its constitutionally owned special status under the Article 370 and mutilate it into two parts, adding the insult of downgrading it from a State to a Union Territory.  It was a horrible day and I cannot forget the arrogant and evil laughter in the Parliament while my state was stripped and mutilated.

On 1 April, I got a call from a colleague asking me if the party’s statement against the newly imposed domicile law could come from me? Since I was under house arrest and was not physically present in the party office, the statement had to be drafted in the office in my absence. This was to be my first statement after the abrogation of Article 370—and it was against the domicile law. The natural thought that came to me was that this statement will reject the law itself since we do not accept the unconstitutional abrogation. I gave the approval for releasing the statement in my name, mistakenly not asking to share the draft with me before releasing it, because I was under the impression that it will be against the abrogation of Article 370 and will outrightly reject the domicile law. 

But what shocked me was that the statement in my name merely asked for the amendments in the newly framed domicile law, which effectively meant that we—the National Conference as a party—had accepted the law but wanted amendments, which ultimately meant that we had accepted the BJP’s unilateral abrogation of Article 370. 

To put it on a lighter note, since it was 1 April, I felt to have been fooled.

It’s time when I decided to express for myself of how I thought and felt about the unconstitutional abrogation of Article 370 and to express, contrary to the statement issued from the party office, that I have not forgotten the events of 5 August and that I do not accept the unconstitutional changes. I tweeted and expressed my dissent. To this day and for a long time in future I will not forget.

My feelings reminded me of an African proverb: “The axe forgets, but the tree remembers”. 

That is exactly I feel about the unconstitutional murder of J-K’s constitutional rights. I could see the proverbial “axe” in the arrogant and majoritarian parliament on that day and I and all my fellow citizens can relate to the “tree” in the proverb.

The events of 5 August 2019 were undemocratic and brutal. The Indian state mounted a coup against a population of more than 12 million. Suppressed them under the might of the state, disenfranchised them, to be honest, and stripped them off their rights while their state was mutilated. All of this was done against their wishes and will. 

Clause 3rd of the Article 370 mandated the J-K’s Constituent—not the legislative—Assembly to give concurrence for any changes in the article. No parliament could abrogate it unilaterally without the consent of the State Constituent Assembly. But to the shame of democracy which this nation has been proud of for the last seventy years, an outsider appointed by the Government of India in the capacity of a Governor serving as an appointee of the Government of India was asked to play the role of a sole representative of the 12 million people of J-K and that of the constituent assembly’s and give approval to this unconstitutional abrogation. 

Kashmir has been turned into a theatre for the Hindutva vote bank in rest of India and every strike on Kashmiris and their humiliation is to appease the Hindu vote bank. In the process, my fellow citizens in Jammu are also suffering. Irony is the softest word to attribute to it. This is what I think the Nation of India, those who believe in democratic principles, should and will one day feel ashamed of.

The author is a senior leader of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) and former cabinet minister. Until recently, he was chief spokesperson of the party.

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