By Farooq Wani
Now that Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik has been awarded life sentence for terror funding by a NIA court under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019 (UAPA-2019) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) after he pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges filed against him by law enforcement agencies, the question in everybody’s mind is, ‘what next?’
As this judgment has been both hailed and criticised in equal measure, it’s a bit premature to accurately determine its fallout as regards its short and long-term impact on the Indian establishment and the society at large. However, ordering a thorough investigation against the JKLF chief and vigourously pursuing the case to secure his conviction does suggest a paradigm shift in New Delhi’s decades-old ‘kid’s glove’ approach towards Kashmiri separatists. It’s also a clear indication that the center is no longer keen to enter into any dialogue with All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC).
Given the fact that Malik is the man who pioneered the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir more than three decades ago, and then in 1994, gave up violence in favour of a non-violent movement for ‘self-determination’ in Kashmir, his trial and subsequent sentencing is no ordinary run-of-the mill incident. During his trial, the JKLF chief consistently maintained that terrorism-related charges levelled against him were “concocted, fabricated and politically motivated”. However, he refused to contest those very charges and gave clear indications that he was ready to accept the “consequences of his crime”.
In defending himself, Malik said, “If I have been involved in any terrorist activity or violence in 28 years; if Indian intelligence proves this, then I will retire from politics. I will accept the hanging.” He also made it a point to emphasise that “With seven Prime Ministers, I have worked.” However, his claims did not cut any ice with the judiciary, and while he can appeal against the quantum of punishment awarded to him, Malik can’t plead against his conviction as the charges levelled against him have been proved beyond any doubts.
Predictably, voices from across the border have been strident. Dismissing the legal proceedings against Malik as a “sham trial”, Islamabad has even gone to the extent of issuing a diplomatic demarche questioning the locus standi of the case and suggesting that the litigation methods used were aimed at “extinguishing the Kashmiri desire for freedom”. Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also called upon the international community to raise its voice against Malik’s conviction, but his ridiculous appeal has drawn a blank.
The Modi led NDA government has been firm while dealing with separatism, and has come down heavily not only on its leadership but also against politicians capable of disturbing the peace or fomenting law and order problems. Its seriousness can be gauged from the continued detention of senior Kashmiri separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (Hurriyat Conference) and Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi. Politicians, including former chief ministers like Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have also experienced spells of house arrest over the past three years.
By side-lining APHC, and avoiding appeasement of political parties like National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it’s also apparent that the center is confident that its inclusive development and growth-related schemes and programmes for various sectors in J&K conceived under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and being faithfully implemented by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha will help in bringing back normalcy to Kashmir. There is reason to be optimistic because after years of neglect, the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are in need of both peace and prosperity, which can only be achieved through development and community partnerships at different levels.
In the last five years, the central government and the UT administrations have worked hand-in-hand with other stakeholders to realise these twin aims. That the UT government has confirmed receiving proposals worth over Rs.51, 000 crores as investment, suggests that the region is well on its way towards creating an investment friendly and development-oriented environment. In January 2021, a new industrial developmental scheme of Rs.28, 400 crore was announced to encourage new investment and to take industrial development to the grassroot block level. This new policy will be applicable till 2037 and has the potential to generate 2.37 lakh jobs. Most of these proposals are already in fast-track mode.
The J&K government has also notified the J&K Industrial Policy, J&K Private Industrial Estate Development Policy and J&K Industrial Land Allotment Policy. Six agreements were signed at Dubai Expo recently to bring investments in real estate, infrastructure, tourism, healthcare and manpower employment sectors. Several UAE-based businesses have also inked MoU with Jammu & Kashmir.
The rural sector is the backbone of Jammu and Kashmir economy and Lt Governor Sinha has rightly emphasised that all policies and development plans must accord higher priority to rural development as the road to the UT’s prosperity has to pass through its villages. “Each and every policy must improve the lives of people living in villages,” Sinha had said earlier this month. He also noted that Jammu and Kashmir has “transitioned from a dormant commercial destination to a region of opportunity and investment.”
The Indian Army too has contributed immensely in terms of ensuring a more stabilised and secure environment, besides promoting citizen-friendly initiatives in education and sports. Exemplary synergy between the civil administration and army has accelerated developmental initiatives and enabled constructive engagement of youth.
J&K’s narrative has changed tremendously following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution in August 2019 and the dividends of peace and development have started reaching the people. Since return of normalcy doesn’t suit some vested interests, the need of the hour is to guard against misinformation and remain fully motivated and committed to preserve and sustain peace, as well as take the development process forward.
(The author is Editor – Brighter Kashmir, TV commentator, political analyst and columnist. Email:—–firstname.lastname@example.org Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited)