In a historic move on Tuesday, the Parliament passed the bill to bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two different union territories. This was after the parliament ratified the resolution to revoke article 370 of the constitution. While this may seem like a massive achievement earned overnight, the Narendra Modi led BJP government laid the ground work for years to execute the move in perfection, without major political or security challenges. The events in the last five years made the unprecedented move more politically acceptable than it ever was and that is why it received overwhelming support from most parties in India.
The Modi government in its first tenure itself made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir is one of their highly prioritized agendas. This was clear by the numerous trips to the valley by Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders which had gained pace in the 2nd term.
However, even ahead of this, in 1998, when the BJP came to the power at the Centre and Modi was appointed party in-charge for Jammu and Kashmir, he ensured that a strong base is formed for the saffron party in the valley. From then onwards, the BJP paid a special emphasis on strengthening its base at the grassroots level in the state.
This was rewarded in 2014, wherein BJP emerged with 25 seats in the 87-member Assembly and had the largest vote share. In the hung assembly, BJP allied with PDP and formed the government, all while keeping the end goal of abrogating Article 370 in mind.
PDP, being an inherently pro-separatist party, was against BJP’s plans from the beginning itself. Their pro-separatist outlook did not heed well with BJP’s integration policy and eventually, the inevitable differences cropped up. BJP on its part, never gave PDP the free hand to rule and this was not acceptable to the Mehbooba Mufti led PDP. On top of it, BJP adopted a muscular policy against the separatists and terrorists, a policy that was unacceptable to the PDP, which eventually led to the falling of the government in the state. PDP broke their alliance and what ensued in Jammu and Kashmir, was President’s rule and thereafter, the governor’s rule under Satya Pal Malik.
However, the BJP remained vigilant. They further strengthened their muscular policy against terrorists and continued with the anti-terror campaign. The party refused to hold talks with the separatists and aggressively dealt with terrorists in the valley.
For this, the centre gave the army a free hand to deal with the terrorists in Operation All-out. After the death of Burhan Wani in 2016, with led to unrest in the valley and subsequent militant attacks in the region such as the Amarnath Yatra terror attack on July 10, in which several people were killed, the Indian security forces with the consent of the ministry of home affairs (MHA) launched the Operation All out. This was launched against numerous militant groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Al-Badr. The operation was based on meticulous planning and intelligence-gathering aimed to flush out the terrorists from the Kashmir valley.
Moreover, the NIA also sought strict action against the Hurriyat leaders and Pakistani separatist leaders to curb terror financing in the state. For this, the houses of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, Zaffar Bhat and Masarat Alam were raided, along with raiding the houses of moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the son of pro-Pakistani separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. These people were then called for questioning over cases relating to terror sponsoring. In 2019, the government banned JKLF. The terror financing machinery was thus, cut off from the roots.
This reaped rewards and the valley witnessed a surge of terrorists being taken down. According to the data published in the 2017-18 annual report by Ministry of Home Affairs, 581 terrorists lost their lives between 2014 and 2017. Over and above this, over 100 militants, including 23 foreigners, have been killed in Kashmir in the first five months of 2019. Thus, the terror situation in the valley was being dealt with right from the roots.
Furthering action against terror finance, the Modi government aimed at Pakistan since it is an open secret that the state sponsor of terror focused deeply on creating unrest in India and especially in Kashmir. For this, India ensured strong action on every such activity of Pakistan, which includes highlighting Pakistan’s activities in front of the financial watch dog FATF. Partly due to India’s efforts, Pakistan’s activities over terror financing now have been strictly curtailed due to the grey listing by FATF (Financial Action Task Force), which in all likelihood will soon slip into the black list. Pakistan’s funding of terror groups in Pakistan and in the Kashmir valley has thus been curtailed to a large extent.
Alongside the crackdown or terrorists, the Modi government also focused on connecting with the youth in the Kashmir valley. It was a penchant of the terrorists to involve the youth in their separatist activities, and to use them to pelt stones on the armed forces.
The government meticulously dealt with it by announcing a special package of Rs 200 crore for the youth of the state in 2016. Through this package, indoor game halls will be constructed in all the districts of the state, which will be aimed at providing facilities to the youth to play during the long winter. Moreover, the centre in 2015 had also announced Rs. 80,000-crore package, focused on building a modern, progressive and prosperous State, focusing on providing money for relief and rehabilitation of West Pakistani refugees and Kashmir pandits, roads and highways, health and tourism. All these efforts paid off as the government in June informed the Lok Sabha that local militant recruitment in Jammu and Kashmir has come down by almost 40% and the net infiltration has reduced by 43%.
With the preparations well in place, the Modi government in its second term accelerated the decision to revoke the troubling articles. As soon as he became the Home Minister, Amit Shah met the Governor in the state and strengthened the security system in Jammu and Kashmir, along with increasing the President’s rule in the state. Moreover, while introducing the J&K reservation (amendment) Bill, Amit Shah, covered the aspects of Article 370, the centre’s stand on separatists and how history has shaped the current scenario.
Ahead of actually scrapping article 370, the centre ensured that adequate security arrangements were in place so as to take care of an untoward incident. The possibility of a military offensive by Pakistan was also considered by the Modi government. While no one can point out when the preparations had actually began, the first indications had surfaced on July 25 around 100 companies of paramilitary forces were moved into the state which had sparked the speculations around the issue. Later reports had also surfaced that around 280 additional companies that make around 28000 troops in to the region. Unconfirmed reports have pitched the total number of troops at around 1.5 lakh in the state.
Looking at the safety of pilgrims on Amaranth Yatra after a terror threat, a state advisory was also issued which urged all the tourists to immediately cut short their trip and move to safer areas. With effect from midnight of the 5th of August, the day the decision was to be announced, the government imposed restrictions under section 144 CrPC in District Srinagar to remain in force until further orders. This effectively restricted movement of public, and barred public meetings and rallies in Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government also ensured that all educational institutions are closed.
Moreover, several Leaders of the Kashmir valley including Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah were also placed under preventive detention and considering the security concern in the region, mobile and internet services were also partially suspended in the region.
Thus, only after ensuring that the civilians in the valley will not be harmed by terror activities, Amit Shah announced his plan to abrogate Article 370 and 35A and also to bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The bill was announced in Rajya Sabha and passed the very same day. Since everything was carried on in utmost secrecy and the matter called for putting national interest above all, the opposition was not prepared to oppose it and the bill smoothly sailed through both the houses of the parliament. Within 24 hours, Article 370 was removed and the Reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir Bill was passed, making Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh separate union territories.
Overall, the effort to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which the Modi government had started in the first term, was achieved within a period of just 60-70 days in the second term of its government. This is all due to efficiency and meticulous planning and laying of groundwork by the Modi government in its first term. Thereafter, as soon as the government came in power in the 2nd term and the groundwork well in place, PM Modi seized the opportunity. In this entire scheme, Home Minister Amit Shah, NSA Ajit Doval and PM Modi worked in complete coherence and executed a near-impossible task perfectly.