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Politics

The Modi Government's 'New Era' for J&K is Nothing to Celebrate

Instead of issuing a white paper on the changes and developmental initiatives it has introduced in J&K during the past 24 months, the government has put out a 76-page booklet aimed at misleading people across the country.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and Union government are celebrating the completion of two years of their autocratically fashioned and unconstitutional dilution of Articles 370 and 35 A of the constitution. We, as citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, would have loved it if the powers that be had issued a white paper on what changes and new developmental initiatives they have introduced in J&K during the past 24 months. Instead, what we have been handed is a comic book meant to mislead people across the country.

In its compilation of lies and propaganda, the government brings up West Pakistani refugees (WPRs) and Valmikis and claims that the articles which safeguarded the rights of 1.25 crore people in J&K were scrapped in order to issue 55,931 certificates to the WPRs, 2,754 to the Valmikis and 789 to Gorkhas. Leaving aside the fact that there were other, less destructive ways of giving domicile certificates to these sections, the Union government has failed to list any concrete measures for the existing state subjects of J&K.

Instead, the 76-page booklet titled “Jammu and Kashmir Marching To A New Era”, issued by the J&K government, lists the tourism and hospitality sector, education, sports and property rights as its achievements.

It shamelessly claims credit for abolishing the historic J&K Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, introduced and implemented by Sheikh Abdullah in 1950. The Act, decades ago, secured the future of the most downtrodden peasants across J&K. The document boasts about the tulip festival, musical events and wazwan feasts as achievements. Needless to say, everyone knows where the credit for tulips, music and wazwaan actually belongs.

The tourism sector has seen and continues to witness its lowest point for the past two years – worsened by the impact of COVID-19 – and no sops in form of tax waivers were announced. The government mentions the vaccination of 80% of tourism workers as its shot in the arm for this sector. But tourism sector workers did not get any special treatment: in J&K, 90% of the people above 45 years of age have been vaccinated due to the hard work of health care workers who have always proven their commitment in the most testing of times.

The document further claims that the government has started 50 new colleges and added 20,000 additional college seats in one year alone – “the largest single addition in 70 years.” Education and its dissemination require manpower and the sector is one of the largest employers in J&K. However, in the past two years, this sector has become a throbbing wound for people here, as even with this “largest single addition in 70 years”, jobs have only shrunk. This is a government that has hardly put up any employment opportunities for people across India, let alone J&K. Are the 50 new colleges going to translate into jobs for locals? This is not the only sector that has suffered the jolt of distribution and division.

Using superlatives and ornamental adjectives, the government has coined “Mission Youth – the first of its kind initiative for Skill development”. Youth in J&K have been under duress and some respite was provided over the years to many by the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI), common service centres and polytechnic colleges where jobs and income-oriented skills are being imparted for years now. But recent schemes that promised employment have failed dismally and have in fact resulted in well-known cases of distress and exploitation. In 2009, the then Omar Abdullah led government launched the Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for the Youth (SKEWPY) in collaboration with the EDI, with youth as the focus rather than the propaganda.

The only thing this government has excelled in the last two years is the weakening of J&K’s economy, the justice system and the worsening of the security situation. Has militancy decreased since Article 370 was diluted? Are fewer youth joining militant ranks? How many new jobs have been added? The rhetoric about ending corruption has been translated into unlawful termination and the end of justice-seeking mechanisms.

Repeating and advertising a bundle of lies do not and will not take the government anywhere but further down the path of terminal alienation. In the past 70 years, never ever has J&K been as far away from New Delhi as it did after that announcement by Amit Shah in the Parliament on August 5, 2019.  Two years later, that is hardly any cause for celebration.

Imran Nabi Dar is a spokesperson of the Jammu Kashmi National Conference. He can be reached on Twitter @ImranNDar.