Event ReportsPublished on Oct 13, 2016
J&K is a fractured state estranged from the rest of the nation constitutionally, Article 370 elevates the state in the scheme of Indian federalism,
Governance issues to blame for alienation in J&K, says expert

Jammu & Kashmir is a fractured whole.  Estranged from the rest of the nation constitutionally, Article 370 elevates the state in the scheme of Indian federalism, consequently instilling a sense of exclusivity in its populace. While it is common to consider the State as a political whole, internally Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are three distinct entities culturally, socially and in many ways even share varying political aspirations. The Government policy and developmental interventions also vary widely in these three regions.

Despite the huge financial support from Centre, the state machinery has failed to find stable ground. The government (state) is slow, indecisive, and ambivalent and is typical of a functional anarchy, according to Dr Gopalji Malviya, formerly Head of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras. Dr Malviya also went on to help set up the Department of Defence Studies in Jammu University, of which he was the Dean in the formative years.

Initiating a discussion on “Statecraft and Security in J&K: Collapse of Governance”, at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation, Dr. Gopalji said that the constitutional exclusivity guaranteed by Article 370 impinges on the administration and governance in the region, which is essential to maintain peace and tranquility in the region. Several social welfare legislations passed by the parliament are not adopted by the J&K legislature. In some cases they are adopted in a watered down form that undermines the effectiveness of social and economic transformation envisaged by the policy.

< style="color: #163449;">Elephant in the room

Commenting on the diversity of the region, Dr. Gopalji said that the politics of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are distinct. While the populace of both Jammu and Kashmir revel in their political exclusivity, inhabitants of Jammu are largely pro India. Ladakh is a dry, mountainous region and the population looks up to the government of India for support, sustenance and governance. The elephant in the room is Kashmir, the region which is inhabited by three politically distinct groups, the pro-India faction (which is the majority), the self-styled ‘Azad-Kashmir’, or anti-India separatist camp, and the pro-Pakistan group.

A pampered state government, compounded by dysfunctional district administration, has lead to abysmally low levels of education, employment and economic activity in the region, according to Dr. Gopalji. This has resulted in the indoctrination of youth along political and religious lines. These misled youth, funded and supported by cross border miscreants, indulge in anti-India sloganeering and stone pelting, causing challenges to internal security in the region.

< style="color: #163449;">Respect for army

Shedding light on the political situation in the region, from his experiences, Dr. Gopalji noted that J&K is still on its feet mainly due to the army. The army provides food, blankets, tents, electricity and other basic necessities to nearly 600 border villages in Kashmir Valley. Contrary to the popular media portrayal, the Army is respected and highly revered in Kashmir.

The political landscape in J&K has undergone a significant transformation since 1992. The state administration today relies heavily on the army, not just in law and order but also seeking support in civil administration such as disaster management, road construction, even police supplies such as snow coats etc. The state administration has become virtually insulated from the public, given the hostile political situation. Bureaucrats are mostly shielded away from public owing to safety concerns, this makes them inaccessible. On the flip side, the administrators fail to comprehend the on-field situation due to their disconnect, hence resulting in wrong policy prescriptions.

Elaborating further on the political situation, Dr. Gopalji said that nearly 18,000 policemen are deployed to detain and protect the separatists and terrorists in correctional facilities, resulting in a spend of almost 600 crores, much of which comes from the centre’s special package to the state. Despite being accorded special status by the centre and receiving financial aid, over and above the finance commission and erstwhile planning commission recommendations, the state government has failed to script a successful growth story in J&K.

Dr. Gopalji said investments in healthcare and education are extremely poor, and the state even lacks a proper public transport system. The sparse private transport that caters to the public is mainly concentrated in the hands of the politicians. While the education sector is getting better now (proposed AIIMs and IIT in Udampur), there is no FDI or private investment in education, industry or services.  It is complete failure of statecraft.  J&K is a pampered child living on financial aid packages doled out by the centre, refusing to quell separatist tendencies and holding the union government to ransom, opined Dr. Gopalji.

< style="color: #163449;">Stone-pelting, pellet-guns

Speaking on concerns of national security, Dr. Gopalji noted that loose statements issued by Indian politicians such a Khannaiya and Mayawati on the conduct of the army (in Kashmir) and criticism on the Centre’s stand/response to the situation in J&K, is cherry picked by the Pakistan media to fuel separatist agitations. Political leaders must exercise caution and restraint in their talks, ensuring their condemnation and disapproval (of the government) does not impinge on the security of India.

Commenting on the recent stone pelting issue, Dr. Gopalji said that it has become an effective mechanism to disrupt internal security and peace in the region. Stone-pelting as a means of protest was first started by Mushrat Alam. The terrain and topography of the region lends itself to stone pelting. Abundance of stones that could be easily transported is corroborated by high grass that offers excellent camouflage for the miscreants.

More importantly this offence does not carry any major punishment under the IPC. Hence, stone-pelting has attracted a lot of young uneducated, misdirected and indoctrinated youth harbouring discontent towards the central government. Being funded by separatist groups, this activity has become a source of revenue generation for many unemployed youth.

Responding to the question on the use of pellet guns, Dr. Gopalji said that the armed forces have been trained to use their weapons unerringly. While they have been instructed to shoot below the waist, aiming several targets afar on an unruly and unpredictable mob, it is quite difficult to ensure that the pellet fired always hits the target below the waist. Sudden movements and unexpected shifting in the crowd sometimes results in pellets hitting unintended targets on the body.

This report is prepared by Deepak Vijayaraghavan, Associate, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai

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