by Promod Puri
The revocation of Article 370, which covered the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir by giving it significant autonomy, has been received with protests from the Kashmir region while both Jammu and Ladakh are quieter over the issue.
Did not Jammu and Ladakh savor the special status too? Of course, they did. But the tranquil scene in these two regions has a message in it. However, that message is insignificant. What is significant and newsworthy is the hostile and volatile atmosphere in the Kashmir region.
The international media and political pundits in both the academic and journalistic circles have focussed on the technicalities involved in removing Article 370 as well as warning of some catastrophe in this already unstable region by disturbing the status quo.
Moreover, in their explanation and subsequent analysis, only the psyche of the Kashmiri mind reflects on representing the entire state. What Jammu and Ladakh people think is being ignored. But that is not new. The mindset bias is always inspired by what happens in the Valley.
In a fair and objective study, the Jammu and Ladakh perspective over Article 370 removal deserves as much attention as that portrayed for Kashmir.
The article 370 ever since it became part of the unique feature of the state granting more powers to it than to any other state in the Union of India, has not united the three regions, namely Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. They were different from each other for centuries, and they remain different up to now.
Bridges to connect the medley were seldom attempted. For example, nobody in Jammu can speak or understand Kashmiri language or for that matter Ladakh’s Bodhi language. No inter-racial marriages among the three regions of the state either.
Article 370 gave enough powers to the state without interference from the Delhi regime. The same powers could be used to establish an independent political and bureaucratic mechanism geared towards the diverse nature of its three regions.
The J and K regimes over the years did not give regional autonomies to its three regions. Whereas, it attained significant autonomy from the Centre. The intactness of the state was comprehended to create a composite personality out of its social, religious, and linguistic diversities.
It was a post-independence experiment in creating a workable political homogeneity out of its multi-facet heterogeneity. But this exercise has failed.
Article 370 became irrelevant as for as regional autonomies were concerned. It has not worked because of the distinct linguistic and cultural multiplicities within the state. Moreover, Article 370, despite its autonomous values, is pointless in front of the human psychological fact where the dominance of one group always prevails, even though the constitutional guaranties ensure equality.
But Article 370 cannot be rejected.
Basically, there is nothing wrong with Article 370, rather I support it. Even to the extent that this kind of provision should be granted to every state in India. Autonomy is the key which can guarantee the unity of India by respecting its linguistic and cultural diversities.
Keeping the Kashmir experience aside, it is more viable in those states of India where commonality of language and culture exists. The merits of Article 370 lie in its granting more freedoms to individual states in the monolithic situation.
India is a nation of nations. And each of these nations or the states has its own uniformity in terms of language and culture. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the demographics are distinctly different in its vast geographical and diverse landscape.
Article 370 can be and should be reintroduced in Jammu and Kashmir when eventually, these two regions become separate states based on their individual identities.
(Promod Puri hails from Jammu, now living in Vancouver, Canada. He is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions.)