Sabahat Ali Wani offers a raw account of the complex ground realities that have manifested after the abrogation of Article 370. She emphasises on the need for an open conversation on the same, in order to safeguard the rights of Kashmiris.
As a Kashmiri woman, I write this piece to step away from the Indian academic culture, where studying Kashmir is equivalent to brutally dissecting it as a part of an experiment in a grand Indian social science exercise. Before even starting, I reckon that the question of not mentioning ‘Jammu’ and ‘Kashmiri Pandits’ is going to make me less of a Kashmiri in the eyes of the woke Indian community desiring an exhibition of Kashmiriyat and on the other hand, their mention in my writing will stimulate an ultra-masculine nationalist bloc to celebrate my association with the Indian side and satisfy their desire to have rescued, protected and conquered a Kashmiri woman. Honestly speaking, it's a double-edged sword and the two edges will either result in an awkward compromise or a narrow escape and, I reject both.
The abrogation of Article 370 is considered as the changing point in the history of Indian politics as the integration of Kashmir with India has always been central to Indian Nationalism. Historically, the integration discourse relies upon the guarantee of Article 370 and Asymmetrical Federalism to the state of J&K (now Union Territory) and any change to that would have positioned Kashmir in an antagonistic relationship with India. On the contrary, the nationalist crew of the Hindu right defined such an arrangement as an ‘incomplete integration’ and a ‘republic within a republic’ and then, carefully placed Article 370 and its revocation within the embryo of their election manifesto. It would not be wrong to say that both of these sides, perpetuating the idea of abusive secularism and ultra-nationalism respectively have failed and conveniently ignored the exact political question concerning Kashmir i.e. the right to self-determination.
It must be noted that the help-harm ratio of the abrogation of Article 370 should have been calculated, assessed and debated before its occurrence. But, such calculations happen in so-called normal situations and not under an illegal occupation, where Kashmir is treated as an experimental lab and Kashmiris as lab rats. If we are to analyze the "helping" aspect of the abrogation, the question still stands that to whom is this help given? Who are the recipients of this help and what does this help constitute of? I would say that this help is not for Kashmiris but is meant to be sold to the people outside Kashmir by erasing the Kashmiri narratives through more military deployment, internet shutdowns, arrests, custodial killings, enforced disappearances and sanctioned violence. This ‘help’ is the occupier’s rhetoric that is selective, selfish, and above all, purely colonial in nature.
One of the most important reasons that the Indian government gave to justify the abrogation of Article 370 was based on the idea of ‘empowering Kashmiri women’. The same Kashmiri women, who were objectified and auctioned as 'gori ladkiyan' (fair women) for marriage across political and social media platforms after the revocation happened. The violence committed against the Kashmiri women is immense and unceasing as they are at the centre of the Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri patriarchal gazes. The Indian gaze that aims at the so-called liberation of Kashmiri women from the barbaric, orthodox and violent Muslim men, the Pakistani gaze that desires to save Muslim women from a Hindu majority state and the Kashmiri male gaze itself, which has stripped Kashmiri women of their rights to decide the dynamics of the ongoing freedom movement in the valley and have invisiblised them. So, any revocation or political compromise to empower Kashmiri women would not undo the abuse and constant trauma experienced, remembered and passed on by the women of Kashmir from generations.
After the abrogation of Article 370, assessing the growth and development in J&K has been the most insensitive and uncompassionate form of reporting and documentation because most of these approaches are devoid of any narratives concerning the people who populate the wrecked landscape. The internet shutdowns and their unannounced nature, mental health crisis and its incomprehensibility to the common Kashmiri folk, disappearing people and the never-ending threat of ethnic cleansing should be captured in its most graphic essence rather than mopped under the rug of subjectivity. All these emotional truths and the reduction of Kashmiri bodies to nothing but slaves must be given sufficient ink and adequate space so that they can reject, refuse and resist the hijacking of their voices by the occupier state.
Furthermore, the crippling economy and a non-existent educational system, where the curriculum is designed to erase atrocities committed against the Kashmiri communities are other failures of the whole act that was quite pompous in its arrival and even gloated about its potential to change Kashmir as a whole. Recently, we have witnessed the cries of regional political parties to restore Article 370 and the claims from the Indian government too that its restoration will happen when Kashmir is ‘normal’ again. It's clear that the Article 370 will not be restored in J&K as long as it serves the political purpose of the Indian government and will be used as a political game card by both regional and national parties till the very end while they continue ignoring and shutting down the people of Kashmir.
Coming back to the above question, I would say that it demands an answer to all the other pre-existing issues concerning Kashmir without which any answer to this question is incomplete and unjust to even utter, let alone be debated. What I am trying to communicate here is that the Kashmiri bodies which have been heavily militarized will never be aided by a mere abrogation or even its restoration because their necks are under an army boot and more or less pressure to these necks will not liberate them from the dehumanization and the collective dishonor. Until and unless the exact question encircling the lives of Kashmiris is recognized and answered, the tumultuous condition of the valley will persist and will result in more destruction and enormous loss of lives. It important to understand Kashmir first and let Kashmiris speak without any threat to their life, family, and livelihood.