Kashmir was a mess before August 5: S Jaishankar on Article 370

New York: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday outlined that before abrogation of Article 370 Jammu and Kashmir was in a mess while adding that the restrictions were imposed in the region to prevent loss of lives following the stripping of special status.

He said that the Indian government's first concern was to ensure that there was no loss of lives due to violence and demonstrations in the region post abrogation of Article 370.

"We had the experience of 2016 when a self-advertised terrorist cult figure called Burhan Wani was killed and after that, there was a spike in violence. Our intention was to manage the situation (post Article 370) without loss of life and restrictions were intended to do that," he said.

"As many as 42,000 people were killed in the last 30 years. Level of intimidation had reached a height where senior police officers were lynched on streets of Srinagar. Journalists who wrote against separatism were assassinated, military personnel returning home for Eid were kidnapped and killed. So, Pre August 5 Kashmir was in a mess.

Difficulties in Kashmir did not start on August 5. It is supposed to be a way of dealing with those difficulties," the minister underlined.

Jaishankar said that the situation in the region has now stabilised and lots of restrictions have been rolled back including the operationalising of landlines and mobile towers and resumption of economic activity.

"Particular efforts are being made to keep the supplies normal in the state. This is a harvest season for apples. Efforts are being made to procure apples so that farmers do not get victimised by these changes," he said.

He explained how Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India after the country gained freedom in 1947 and the drafting of Article 370.

"The situation in Jammu and Kashmir was peculiar for a number of reasons as it was a border state but also they were themselves under attack at that time. They had the desire to extend the period of alignment with the rest of India in terms of the application of laws.

The Constituent Assembly recognised that it was a special case at that time," he said in an interactive session with Frank G. Wisner, a former US ambassador to India.

"The only temporary article of the constitution was drafted which was called Article 370. At that time, it was numbered as 306a. After the Constitution was adopted, there was a series of presidential proclamations under that article which started aligning the state. In the last 70 years, you had 54 of these presidential proclamations," Jaishankar added.

Outlining the reasons of the problems faced in Jammu and Kashmir after Article 370 was adopted, the minister said that the presidential proclamations were very rapid in the initial years and there was a climate of intimidation and separatism in Kashmir.

"You did not have the economic activity in Jammu and Kashmir as compared to the rest of India. There were less job opportunities and there was a more sense of alienation, separatism and therefore, a climate of terrorism across the border.

The state was in socio-economic terms less aligned with India. 100 important progressive laws of India did not apply to Kashmir," Jaishankar remarked.

The minister said that the temporary provision allowed a set of narrow elite to arbitrage Article 370 for monopolising political power and creating a close loop politics.

"They had vested interests in keeping alive separatist sentiments. You had a situation where separatist political parties were openly allied with terror groups operating out of Pakistan. They had vested interests in keeping alive separatist sentiments," he said.

India has repeatedly maintained that constitutional changes made by its government on Kashmir are strictly an internal matter, a stance supported by several countries, including those from SAARC and Arab World.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has "condemned" the move and downgraded its bilateral ties with India. Islamabad has since resorted to anti-India rhetoric and has attempted to internationalise the Kashmir issue, but to no avail.

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