The decision to eliminate the state of Jammu & Kashmir by legislative decree was made in absolute secrecy, and will be executed in absolute darkness.
Thousands of troops have been deployed on the streets, opposition leaders have been put under house arrest with a midnight knock on their doors, the internet has been blacked out, and phone lines have been severed.
A neat Excel sheet laid out a checklist for Kashmir’s erasure:
“Inform the President —— Done”, the checklist read, under the sub-head, titled ‘Constitutional’. “Inform the Vice President —— Done.” There was a cabinet meeting, and then the bill was brought before Parliament, where a noisy but largely ineffectual Opposition was given an hour to deliberate the redrawing of India’s political map.
If all goes as planned, and there is little sign it won’t, the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be replaced by two union territories — one with a legislature subservient to a puppet governor, and one with just a puppet governor.
What of the Kashmiris? Where do they appear in Amit Shah’s checklist? Way down on point number 14 and 15 under “Law and Order”.
While Point 14 calls for the Home Secretary to make his way down to a state that has been amputated into a colony administered by New Delhi, Point 15 reveals that colonising one’s own territories carries an attendant risk: “Possibility of violent disobedience amongst sections of uniformed personnel.”
Kashmir is the boundary condition of Indian democracy; and as of now, democracy is dead in the darkness.
Independent India has seen the creation of new states from older ones — Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand from parts of Bihar and Bengal, Uttarakhand up in the north. Union territories like Goa have become states, but this is perhaps the first time a state and its residents have simply been imagined out of existence.
So what do the Kashmiris think of all this? At the moment it is impossible to say. News from the state has simply been throttled by shutting down all lines of communication, deploying thousands of troops, and forbidding any public assembly.
As Delhi lays out Kashmir’s abbreviated future, the Kashmiris have been silenced; and in this silence we see the demise of Indian democracy.
Over the long years of insurgency and counter-insurgency, we have learnt that the atrocities committed at the nation’s margins have a way of finding their way to the centre.
Military doctrines honed in Kashmir are readily adopted in Jharkhand. A quirk of military rationing and troop provisioning brings the Border Security Force and Indo Tibet Border Patrol to camps in southern Bastar.