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A Dismantled State: The Untold Story of Kashmir After Article 370

The government of India revoked Article 370 soon after they came to power for the second term in 2019. On the 5th of August 2019, the government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy and split the state into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh. I remember there was a huge movement of security forces a few days before the announcement; tourists were told to leave J&K and Amarnath yatra was called off. Jammu and Kashmir was converted into a security cantonment, with security forces everywhere. Once the abrogation of Article 370 was announced the media as usual hailed it as a masterstroke. There were debates and shows for days to come to let people know how beneficial a step it is for India and the people of J&K. The reality was far from it and mostly unknown as J&K was under complete communication embargo and it still is.

The book, “Dismantled State – The Untold Story of Kashmir After Article 370” by Anuradha Bhasin tries to find out what has changed for J&K and its people post 5th of August. Those who have read and have an idea about the autonomous status of J&K know very well that Article 370 was just there for its namesake.

“Ninety-four of ninety-seven entries in the Union List were applicable to Jammu and Kashmir, 260 out of the 395 Articles of the Constitution, as well as seven out of twelve schedules of the Indian Constitution, were extended to the state before Article 370 was completely abrogated on 5 August 2019.”

So, what has changed after Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir? No one is allowed to ask this question. Anyone who asks this question is termed as anti-national. The author tells us that the government has muzzled the voice of common people by brute force and suppressed the media completely in Kashmir Valley. So, for the rest of India, it is very difficult to understand the situation in Kashmir. They are entertained by the mainstream media with the news of normalcy in Kashmir.

Thousands of people were imprisoned in various jails across the country before and after the abrogation of Article 370. The mainstream politicians of J&K were put on house arrest for months. This created a fear psychosis among the people of Kashmir. People realized if the top leaders and ex-chief ministers could be arrested do they stand any chance? As opposed to the mainstream narrative of normalcy people were angry and scared that the security forces could pick anyone and put them behind bars and that too anywhere in India.

“Once trapped in the cycle of summons, beating, and harassment, there is little escape. Humiliation, harassment, and tyranny are constants in the extremely vulnerable world of those who are caught in the vicious cycle, and community solidarity begins to peter out.”

The author gives some first-hand accounts of what people have endured post-Article 370 abrogation. Life in Kashmir Valley is very different, people are used to living under the shadow of security forces, crackdowns, search and cordon, internet shutdowns, and other disruptions. After 5 August 2019, the frequency and intensity of everything increased. Kashmir has seen the longest communication blackout. The entire valley was cut off from the rest of the India and world, impacting everybody’s life.

There were many changes done to the land laws of J&K making it easy for the corporations to set up industries for the “development” of J&K. Many legislations specific to J&K are either quashed or amended to benefit the people in power. The author says new laws, “enable large-scale conversion of agricultural and forest land and offer innumerable ways in which land can now be forcibly acquired with much greater ease than before”. This sure is one of the advantages of abrogation of Article 370.

The abrogation is hailed as unifying J&K with India, claiming that it is now fully integrated with India. All the justifications and benefits given by the government of India are falling flat. People of Kashmir are feeling more alienated than before and people of Jammu and Ladakh are also feeling cheated. The people of Jammu are not happy with the new domicile rules that give access to jobs and other resources to people from all over India. The people of Ladakh are also not happy, as they are still to get the special status promised to them.

The book argues with facts that the abrogation of Article 370 did not yield as much as claimed by the government and media. On the contrary people of J&K are feeling betrayed and disempowered. Sure, J&K saw a tourist boom in the years 2021 and 2022, and the security situation has also improved since 2019. However, the author says this does not reflect the mood of the people of Kashmir and the reality is entirely different. A very well-written capturing a historical and blunderous event in the history of J&K and its impact on the people of the state.

About The Author

Anuradha Bhasin has been a journalist for over three decades, and is executive editor of Kashmir Times, Jammu and Kashmir’s oldest English daily. Her massive body of work on the Kashmir conflict, human rights and politics includes newspaper reports and articles that have appeared in national and international publications. She has also written short and monograph-length research papers and contributed chapters to anthologies. She is a Commonwealth Fellow, 2016, and currently a John S. Knight fellow (2022-2023) at Stanford University, California.

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