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NEW J&K
8/3/2020 11:50:03 PM
Satwant Singh Rissam

August 5, 2019 changed politics, geography and landscape of Jammu and Kashmir as two new Union Territories were created in India. This political stroke was totally astonishing for Kashmiris while Jammuites (mostly BJP supporters) applauded the move. For seven decades J&K had special status and today it’s having special spot on Indian map. This bifurcation was followed by a lockdown, internet blockade and arrests/detention of politicians. While much of it was hurting people in Kashmir, BJP supporters welcomed it with cheer in Jammu.
In short, it was a watershed moment. A year down the line both regions witnessed changes brought by changed constitutional position. Although terror related incidents continued in Kashmir and there were political casualties also but militants in large number were killed, separatists groups appear to have disintegrated. Similarly, back to village programmes; BDC polls; reservation for Paharis and people from International Border in Jammu were some steps taken to strengthen social and democratic institutions.
Nevertheless, first year of UT status has raised new concerns and apprehensions in the minds of Jammuites. Before this constitutional reform was done there was a perception that Jammu won’t suffer due to it. However, since then this perception turned opposite and started haunting businessmen of Jammu. With absence of tourists, its impact was clearly visible on the empty shops in main markets of Jammu which are entirely dependent on tourists. In addition to it, the story of the people in Jammu dealing with Kashmiri shawls, papier-mache products and wood carvings became same because they all were left without sellers.
The picture of fruit and dry fruit sellers in Jammu, too, was not rosy. Last year in October, we witnessed how after militant attacks on apple traders and on truck drivers coming into Kashmir, Jammu fruit dealers faced grim situation as their investment of crores of rupees got stuck in Kashmir. Moreover, hotel and taxi owners are another segment which has hit ground and continue to suffer for last one year. Jammu region again celebrated when toll on imports from other states was abolished. Like other things, business houses in Jammu expected prosperity from this abolition.
On the contrary, they have started developing a fear of losing businesses in long term because of their inability to compete with cheaper goods coming from outside. Suspension of high-speed internet killed many businesses. The internet connectivity was restored in shape of 2G services but that didn’t help the entrepreneurs.
In comparison to Jammu such things lasted long in Kashmir. Most of the restrictions were lifted in Jammu much earlier than Kashmir. But it’s quite clear that there is high interdependence between both regions because even after a year common man’s life continues to suffer on both sides. With new domicile rules under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020 another debate has risen here that in years to come people from whole country will dispossess locals of many opportunities. Besides, this debate has created a sense of insecurity in youth as they apprehend that outsiders will also stake a claim on seats in professional colleges and jobs. BJP understands all these new apprehensions and is working hard to smoothen it in Jammu. BJP could now bank on the delimitation process which may complete by next year. The fresh voters in shape of West Pakistan refugees, Gorkhas, Valmikis and other new domiciles who have gained rights because of the abrogation of special status may rescue BJP politically.
In this new J&K, the opposition parties aren’t visible and they haven’t responded well to popular issues of public. Things are clear that these parties are facing challenges in post Article 370 era. Politically Congress is facing leadership crisis in J&K as its leaders are switching sides, Mehbooba Mufti is still defiant and continues to face PSA, NC has made clear that revoking Article 370 didn’t usher in any development in J&K and hence appears to continue its fight in court. Bukhari led Apni Party isn’t being given any importance by local bureaucracy which they themselves have made clear through their anti-government press conference recently. In total, J&K in past one year has seen many good, bad changes socially and politically. And now, the whole situation is in the freeze mode due to corona pandemic. Considering all circumstances BJP still is in full control and command. There is hanging hope from them to fix the old wrongs or it won’t go on long just by taking shield of abrogation move.
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