Other day I was listening to a Pakistani journalist candidly speaking about a controversial Indian student activist of the Jawaharlal Nehru University namely Shehla Rashid who is well known for her anti-India tirade and open support to condemned terrorists and their nefarious activities in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. In essence what he said was that Ms. Rashid is fortunate that she is an Indian national. She abuses her country at national and international forums every off and on, openly praises and supports convicted terrorists like Afzal Guru responsible for the attack on the Indian Parliament yet freely roams around in any part of the country without any fear or restrictions. Had she been a Pakistani citizen, she would not dare to return to her country again to live as a free citizen after speaking against the motherland.
This is the beauty and, at the same time, fallacy of the Indian democracy that the fundamental rights of the citizens are given paramount importance and flow from the Constitution itself. Freedom of speech and expression is something most debated and misused among the liberties available to the common Indian citizen. So long such freedom is exercised to defend personal rights or speak against the wrongdoings of individuals, groups or even state, it is well justified but when this crosses the limits of decency and decorum in furtherance of vested self-interests of people, the very right becomes a drag on the very Constitution, people and nation. Unfortunately, even supposedly most responsible people including politicians, intellectuals and media persons are so often found flaunting and faltering, and thereby working against the interests of the very nation.
Article 370 of Constitution providing special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir following its accession to India in 1947 was controversial from the very beginning so much so that Dr BR Ambedkar, often cited as father of the Constitution, is known to have strongly opposed this provision citing its fallacies and ill effects on the nation. However, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who personally handled Kashmir matters, had his way in not only including this article but also adding another pernicious provision of Article 35A through a Presidential order in 1954. He might have his own reasons and justification but many of his cabinet colleagues had serious reservations about this provision. These Articles not only remained as hurdle in integration of the state with the Indian Union but also prevented implementation of schemes of the Centre and their genuine intervention to maintain peace and prosperity in the region.
Therefore, it is not surprising that recently when the legislation was passed in both houses of Parliament in August 2019, the occasion was rejoiced and celebrated by the entire nation but for one major political party and a few splinter political groups and individuals. The unfortunate part remains that the Indian National Congress, which carries the legacy of freedom struggle and governance of the country for the maximum period following the independence, has shrunk to represent as the bastion of one political family, their interests and legacy of one iconic leader. And far more disturbing feature is that many false and acrimonious utterances of the leader(s) of the Congress are being exploited by the enemy nation to further its cause at international forums including the United Nations.
The fact that the Kashmir is under restrictions following the legislation is being constantly debated and resented by these people. The normalcy in day to day life and restoration of internet, mobile services and free movement needs no over emphasis, and to some extent concerns raised for this is not entirely unjustified. However, this also reminds the saga of Kashmiri Burhan Wani, who was young, smart, bold and social media savvy but was a fugitive and hardcore terrorist. Consequently, the security forces killed him in 2016, a nemesis that any other terrorist will end with the same fate. Separatists and even mainstream political parties in Valley tried to project his death as that of a martyr, consequently, thousands of people participated in his funeral. Security restrictions were not in place, so miscreants and rumour mongers had their way leading to protests and violence that took a toll of over hundred lives and thousands of injuries in the Valley. Finally, the curfew was imposed, internet and mobile services were shut for over fifty days and restoration of normalcy took many months.
As in the past, Pakistan, the Western media, some political parties and English speaking elites of the country are indulged in a tirade against the Government in an endeavor to demonize it for every move in the troubled region. In fact, Pakistan has resorted to a war cry these days and almost every alternate day, we hear their Prime Minister and other leaders giving public utterances with a threat of war and use of nuclear weapons. Let’s remember that besides Kashmir, many other parts in the country with a troubled history have had curfews, civil restrictions and shutdown of internet and mobile services in the past. So it is not something unusual to take preventive measures in Kashmir to keep miscreants at bay in their designs of fomenting trouble, thereby preventing any loss to life and property of the people. Therefore, people opposing security restrictions must be patient and allow the Union Territory administration and security forces the requisite time to maintain peace and order that will ensure normalcy in due course.