Article 370 revoked: Better governance, security crucial for success as Modi govt's new plan takes effect on ground
Though the immediate concerns of the Centre's decision to revoke Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir are political and based on security, subsequently, the effects of governance and administrative changes will draw more focus
The downgradation of Jammu and Kashmir to a UT has obviously been done with a view to have greater central oversight and prevent the political community of the region ruling the roost
The very trigger for this decision of the Central Government was the plethora of intelligence inputs suggesting that Pakistan was going to attempt something big
The government has moved a sufficient number of extra armed police forces into Kashmir to take over the billets of the army in case its troops needed to reinforce the LoC
The 'terrorist grid' will no doubt be activated too, but thanks to Operation All Out, the strength is low, leadership unavailable and capability to execute high profile acts very low
The 'agitation grid' may find an initial burst of activity, but they may not be able to support an extended phase such as that witnessed in 2008-10 or 2016
The landmark historic decision by the Government of India on the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and various other connected constitutional and administrative provisions needs to be welcomed but at the same time, a cautionary note has to be conveyed. The time for discussion was the years that Jammu and Kashmir spent under the special provisions while enjoying the fruits of democracy. A majority popular government at the Centre has finally decided that things need to change, and that change will probably assist in mainstreaming the Jammu and Kashmir region with the rest of India. So be it. Once the decision has been taken and cleared on the floor of the Parliament, it becomes incumbent on the part of every citizen of India to support it. Democratically and legally speaking, provisions exist within the Constitution of India to empower an aggrieved party and give him/her the right to legally challenge a government decision. One will probably witness some of it, but again so be it. Indian democracy continues to stand tall.
While everything that has been announced continues to remain work in progress, as we witness the execution of the change, there are some aspects of immediate impact — both politically and from the security angle — that currently concern us the most. But subsequently, the effects from the governance and administrative angle will draw more focus.
Politically, the government followed a democratic route and not an arbitrary one. It studied the Constitution in great detail. The debatable issue which strikes most is the decision to give the status of Union Territory (UT) to the combined sub-regions of Jammu and Kashmir after detaching Ladakh, thus diluting the currently held status of a full-fledged state.
Is this the first down gradation of its status — from state to UT? This has obviously been done with a view to have greater central oversight and prevent the political community of the region ruling the roost. The common belief and allegation against this political community have been that it was largely responsible for feathering its own nest and retaining special status to prevent the full integration of the state into India. However, it is also the truism that many of the luminaries from this community remained loyal to India at all times of crisis and never allowed themselves to be misled by Pakistan.
At the same time, the idea of the trifurcation of the state, which was doing the rounds has been laid to rest. It is an extremely prudent decision for which the political acumen of the Central Government needs appreciation. Trifurcation would have made it look awkward internationally and given the exercise a religious colour. Now, the Jammu region and Kashmir region with their respective majorities continue to form one Union territory with their common legislature. Ladakh too is happy with its empowerment. Although Articles 370 and 35A are in the process of being revoked some demographic protection to the region could be likely through provisions akin to those existing in the hill states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand. More clarity on this will be progressively available.
UTs in India have different administrative and constitutional provisions. While some have administrative powers vested in the Lieutenant Governors, others have shared powers. This issue too will find more clarification in the coming days.
The security aspect has three areas of focus — the LoC, the hinterland terror grid and the street turbulence. A fourth could be added due to the developments in recent years and that is the communal dimension in the demographically more balanced areas such as Kishtwar and Rajouri.
The very trigger for this decision of the Central Government was the plethora of intelligence inputs suggesting that Pakistan was going to attempt something big to recapture its calibration capability and neutralise Indian actions in progress against the various networks that form the separatist and terrorist-related ecosystem.
It also wanted to escalate the security situation to hopefully draw in the proposed 'mediation' referred to by US President Donald Trump in his meeting with Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on 22 Jul 2019. The entire idea was a flawed understanding but somehow gave great confidence to Pakistan to up the ante along the Kashmir segment of the LoC, resulting in a manifold increase in infiltration attempts, targeting of Indian posts and patrols by Border Action Teams or BATs and intense exchange of artillery and mortar fire.
The LoC segment will continue to remain hot at least until the UN General Assembly session commences on 17 Sep 2019. The Indian Army has sufficient capability and competence to neutralise Pakistani military and terror activity along the LoC. There will be increased infiltration attempts and to counter them the army will probably move some of its subunits to plug the LoC. The 'terrorist grid' will no doubt be activated too, but the strength is low, leadership unavailable and capability to execute high profile acts very low. Besides, finances appear drying up. There will be a concerted effort to push in leaders. If successful, they will still take time to take control, which may expand the activation window by a couple of weeks. Thus, the initial quietness must not lull the security forces.
The 'agitation grid' which is the true manifestation of the ecosystem of Separatists may find an initial burst of activity, but once again due to the reported diluted financial support, they may not be able to support an extended phase such as that witnessed in 2008-10 or 2016 after Burhan Wani's killing. The government has moved a sufficient number of extra armed police forces into Kashmir to take over the billets of the army in case its troops needed to reinforce the LoC. There are also sufficient forces to counter any attempts at instigating communal tension in Kishtwar or Rajouri.
The question on everyone's lips is on Amarnath Yatra and whether there was justification to curtail it. Security is always free of sentiments. A successful terror strike on the yatris by a specially designated and infiltrated fedayeen squad, possibly led by a Pakistani SSG officer, would have sent Jammu and Kashmir into flames and much of India along with it. The government acted firmly and decisively. The security impact will surely be there, but it would be much less than what would have been some years ago. That is the effect of Operation All Out, the NIA's actions against financial networks and the Jammu and Kashmir CID's ongoing efforts against the rest of the ecosystem.
Finally, the real proof of all actions being correct lies in the quality of governance free of the legendary corruption of Jammu and Kashmir. Hopefully, that too will be visible very soon.
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