by Danish Gul
April 1, a day for playing harmless pranks. Consisting of jokes and hoaxes, jokesters expose their actions by shouting ‘April fool’s’ at the recipient. Informal custom suggests April 1 is a ‘Fool’s Day’.
This year as the clock struck 12 in the night, and April 1 knocked, the comedic effect of the day was missing. The scare of Corona silenced the celebrations. However, in Kashmir, the morning sun conveyed a series of different decisions – again from Delhi, the place managing Kashmir, directly for months now.
As the fight against corona pandemic is a global mission, Delhi, continuing its Kashmir policy notified changes in domicile rules for the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, now a downgraded Union Territory. A major decision indeed, that too when assurances were given by no less than Prime Minister, as claimed by Apni Party leaders. They had even said, “PM Modi’s heart beats for Kashmir.”
The standing instructions came from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), almost eight months after the Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status and divided into two Union Territories.
Contrary to the expectations of the newly emerging political forces, the law changed everything for Kashmir. Now anybody residing in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years or more will be eligible for government jobs. It also provides that anyone who has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in class 10th or 12th examination in J&K is eligible for domicile certificate of the UT. Domicile certificate, commonly known as ‘State Subject’ certificate was once most sought after document. It was a gate pass for natives of this place and hold others back. This now has gone into history and maybe someday would become part of folklore.
Politics is a great game. Let the players play it their way. But the future of Kashmir even if we consider land and jobs only has been decimated. The promises of a secure future with the complete integration with India fell flat as they have written the verdict.
Kashmir is a landlocked region – geographically volatile, politically uncertain and economically unstable. With its own set of problems, the population faces difficult dynamics. In this scenario of suffering, making the entry open for mainland India is an assault to survival.
Jammu and Kashmir though had the special provision of different nature, but there are other states in India as well with some provisions. These provisions have been provided under the constitution of India, listed in Articles 371 and 371(A-J). With different types of clauses, the states having special provisions are; Maharashtra, Gujarat, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa.
Isolating Kashmir on this front is isolating.
Leaving the onslaught of the scary virus aside, Kashmir is facing its own economic distress. The curfews, hartaal, flood, earthquake have been superimposing this place for long now. Every year the academic session is curtailed to bare minimum conduct of examinations. No year has passed by when the students had an entire year at their disposal, leaving little for them to comprehend and little less to compete. The recent reports reveal that in the last few years, Kashmir missed its name in the selection list of IAS and allied services.
If at the local level the analysis is made, Kashmir tops the list of unemployment in India with 12.13 per cent. Degrees have gone to dust. Roughly there are 3 lakh young men out without means to earn. Half of this population comes from postgraduate, PhD scholars, trained engineer and doctors and other technical fields.
As per the J&K Economic Survey 2014-15, 6.01 lakh youth were registered in various District Employment and Counselling Centres by ending September 2011, who were without jobs. The erstwhile state’s own Economic Survey Report of 2016 mentions that unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is higher than average National unemployment rate, with Jammu and Kashmir’s having 24.6 per cent population in the age of (18-29 years) unemployed which is far more than All India unemployment rate of 13.2 per cent.
Now when the changed laws of domicile were ordered, the scenario would become more appalling. The balance to compete is not in place. For Kashmir, the regular internet is missing from last over eight months, how to strike the balance.
It was the requirement of time, post scraping the special status that healing touch to take the front seat. Given the sensitivities, the land hold rights and secure jobs would have made people in general and youth in particular somewhat comfortable.
The uncertainty is inviting. Denying a decent job is even worse. When the young in Kashmir were told that government has specified only menial job for you, it eventually is maddening. When there is a sense of defeat, the outcome could be anything.
Saying it all, the timing as told by Apni Party was “ill-timed”. The primary concern right now and right away goes to the survival part of existence, but heaping insult on the injury had become a new discord. Police want to book the people who incite violence, agreed, but down the line what will a youth in Kashmir do?
Given him the way to reconcile. Allow him to live honourably. Distance the discord. If empathy is a difficult task, sympathy would not be that difficult. Restore dignity!
(Danish Gul is aspiring horticulture entrepreneur. Ideas are personal.)