"Nothing has changed!" This is the standard response you would get from those who milked and still make unsuccessful attempts at milking the resources and misleading the public of Jammu and Kashmir. Multiple and layered lobbies of the innately twisted secessionist narrative builders in Kashmir don't waste a breath before criticizing every progressive step taken by the UT administration, yet claiming, "nothing has changed."
The question is, are people buying any of their factually flawed arguments? The answer is a big no! Barring their own ilk, who have since been defanged, not a single right-thinking Kashmiri is interested in their propaganda and mindless violence.
Across the country, whenever someone even mentioned "stone-pelting," it was immediately linked to Kashmir. Since time immemorial, successive governments have utterly failed at curbing this well-established enterprise. The consequences of stone-pelting went beyond the confines of law and order. This enterprise, fed by Pakistan, bred by the infamous Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) and run on the ground in Kashmir by the secessionist conflict entrepreneurs, ruined one too many families.
This, once well-established and well-oiled stone-pelting machinery has now been rendered defunct. Kashmir has since seen no shut-down (hartaal), no more gullible youngsters falling into the trap of separatist, secessionist, and terrorist elements when it comes to stone-pelting. The very abrogation has saved the lives of numerous youngsters who otherwise would have become cannon fodder for deploying Pakistan's propaganda in the valley. In fact, the very word "separatist," which was once displayed as a badge of honor, has completely been wiped off from social discourse.
The crackdown on terror supporters and stringent legal measures taken against those found sheltering terrorists has been a blessing for the people of the valley. Every Kashmiri wants to leave behind the days of unabated bloodshed and violence. Every Kashmiri, like every other Indian, just wants peace, prosperity, and a dignified life.
Another interesting thing that can now be seen is that, once in the minority, patriotic voices in the valley are now coming out fearlessly, which during the previous regimes, was unseen and unheard of. Anyone siding with the nation would be socially ostracized, or worse, killed. More and more youngsters are realizing that peace is the only way to go.
The #HarGharTiranga (tricolor in every home) campaign saw thousands of takers in the Kashmir valley. Only three years ago, this would have been impossible as the masses out of the fear of secessionist elements and terrorists would never dare to be seen with the Indian national flag. Cut to the eve of Independence Day, millions of tricolors are aflutter across the valley. The locals are seen hoisting and posting pictures with the tricolour with pride and a sense of relief.
But still, what really changed?
It is clear that J&K's history was rewritten on August 5, 2019, when the Government of India abrogated the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two union territories âJ&K and Ladakh. With one stroke, India put Pakistan on the back-foot in all matters Kashmir, ending a 70-year-long era of favouritism, nepotism, and terrorism. It has been three years since the historic decision was taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.
In the three years since the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35-A, important decisions and objectives have been taken and fulfilled to the advantage of the people of Kashmir. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the pace of development, which was envisioned for the newly-formed UT, the J&K administration, with Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the helm, achieved remarkable feats. More than the development of the UT itself, the perception with which J&K was received prior to August 5, 2019, changed for the better.
It's a bigger victory than credited for
In reality, the regressive special status accorded by the temporary Article-370 didn't exactly bring prosperity or peace to the common Kashmiri at a pace that India was developing as a nation. There's ample data to prove this and the graves of innocent victims of terror, don't lie. Numerous shutdowns, uncontrolled mindless violence, endless corruption, and ever-so-often power cuts were just a few inconveniences Kashmiris had learned to live with prior to August 5, 2019âall byproducts of nefarious propaganda and the conflict-entrepreneur cabal in Kashmir. For decades, Kashmiris were deprived of the notion of peace, prosperity, and progress. A change was warranted, a change was the need of the hour, and it was about time.
The abrogation of Article 370 was the light at the end of the tunnel. As three years have passed since, and as India celebrates 'Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav' (an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence and the glorious history of its people, culture and achievements) the people of J&K are reaping the benefits of various schemes and state programmes deployed by both the Centre and J&K governments.
Let's look at some facts that prove, beyond doubt, that scrapping J&K's regressive special status, changed the lives of the people of J&K in ways previous administrations couldn't envision.
J&K LG Manoj Sinha's stand on terrorism of all forms was clear â "don't touch the innocents, but don't spare the guilty," and his zero-tolerance of corruption remains a continuous mission. The most recent example of this is carrying out a fair and thorough probe quickly after learning about the irregularities in the police sub-inspector recruitment. After a specially-appointed panel detected fraud, the LG simply cancelled the merit list.
In these three glorious years, J&K has also turned into an investment hub for global investors. From Dubai's Lulu Group to Emaar and the Dubai government itself, the J&K government has signed MoUs that not only signal development in the UT but also create a potential for lakhs of jobs. In fact, the administration has received INR 52,000 crore worth of investment proposals, which holds a potential to create 2.37 lakh new jobs.
Another remarkable achievement by the J&K administration is the scrapping of many discriminatory laws. One that comes to mind and has a significant impact is the denial of residency and inheritance rights to women who marry men outside J&K. In fact, it is only after the abrogation of Article 370 that the daughters of J&K are treated with equal opportunities in all fieldsâbe it administration, police, entrepreneurship or sports.
While working for the welfare of the people of J&K with various schemes and initiatives, the government also hit the terror state Pakistan where it hurts the most. All these decades, Pakistan has had the audacity to demonstrate a strong stand when it comes to Kashmir, meddling in India's internal affairs, spreading anti-India propaganda, and brainwashing youths in the name of religion, sponsoring terrorism and causing a nuisance at the Line of Control. India's masterstroke with the abrogation of Article-370 hamstrung Islamabad and its puppets in Kashmir.
Pakistan was in a panic, cornered and left out in the cold. Many attempts to discredit India's move fell flat on Islamabad's face. Throwing tantrums on international platforms didn't do much. Of course, the terror state of Pakistan knew it had no legal standing.
All in all, the Government of India, hit two birds with one stone. The abrogation of Article-370 sent a clear message to the world, and Pakistan in particular, that Kashmir and the whole of J&K is and will remain an integral part of India. This, and all the other positive changes that J&K has witnessed, didn't come by easily.
At the grassroots, however, the welfare schemes by the central government and UT administration continue to benefit the common people of J&K, which opened their eyes to reality and help scores see through the nefarious designs of Pakistan and their ilk in Kashmir. Indeed, post-August 5, 2019, J&K witnessed "teen-saal-bemisaal", but the conflict entrepreneurs will continue to parrot what their handlers in Pakistan want them to â "nothing has changed".