Last week, Kashmir was in news at various platforms, nationally and internationally. It echoed in the Indian Parliament quite loudly. And it found a mention in the US State Department’s tweet welcoming resumption of 4G mobile internet in India’s J&K. Despite Pakistan’s objections, the tweet and its contents stayed unchanged. That was a significant thing to happen, and the the real meaning of the clarification offered by the state department spokesperson Ned Price that there was “no change in the US policy on Kashmir” was understood by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, for he knew that the US has determined its course on Kashmir and the unchanged tweet made things clearer than the clarification by Price. Pakistan, going by its past practice, will do something that will make things sensitive and difficult in J&K.
In Lok Sabha, Home Minister Amit Shah advised that the members should not make statements on the communal lines with regard to J&K as it is the “sensitive “place .
His statement needs to be understood in proper perspective. The point that Home Minister made was in response to Hyderabad M P Asadudin Owaisi’s comparison of the officers in J&K on the basis of their religion. His thesis was that Muslims were not getting their share in the services as per their ratio in J&K. It is a sensitive issue,. The Home Minister advised Owaisi and others of his ilk not to draw such comparisons because it runs against the spirit of the service rules, more so when Jammu and Kashmir is a very sensitive place. “Such statements have the potential to trigger more violence and cause disruption of peace.”
J&K was always regarded as a sensitive place because its highly critical geo-strategic location in South Asia and the historical ups and downs that it has witnessed before and after the Independence.
That, of course, is one of the reasons that J&K evokes the term sensitive in relation to its geography and demography. Its geography, too, has undergone severe changes since 1947 – Pakistan is having a large territory under its control, and if Ladakh, which was part of the state until October 31, 2019, is to be taken under consideration,;China is under control of 43,000 sq. kms of land.
Cartographers’ imagination is on test as they are unsure about the new political and geographical maps that they may be asked to draw. The ground situation is not what the lines on map tell. The situation that China had created for India in Ladakh for more than 10 months manifested this. There is no harm in being realistic.
At the moment, let’s reflect on Home Minister’s call for no politics over the sensitive region of J&K – region is the best suited word in the absence of the state and the reservations over the acceptance of the Union territory status to which it has been designated since August 5, 2019.
Jammu and Kashmir has historically been sensitive. Take any cutoff date, it has always been a place about which the caution has been advised. Its geographical location in itself is hyper sensitive. It is eyed by China and Pakistan and the world powers have always been interested in exploiting the situation here.
Home Minister’s worries on the discourse of measuring the proportion of the men and officers in Jammu and Kashmir on communal lines were well-founded as the communal divisions in this place have already done grievous damage to the area and people. This is not an acknowledgement of fact by the Home Minister as an individual, but as a man who is responsible for everything that happens here since August 5, 2019; decisions, that brought J&K directly under his ministry’s control.
The sensitivity is not a term to be read in isolation. It has a deep connect with the identity of the people and place. The identity politics is being aired by all those who believe that their identity is under threat. These fears are now finding newer expressions and enhancing the sensitiveness of the place in question.
Jason Cons of University of Texas described the sensitivity as a “ political process that both regulates knowledge about sensitive spaces, structures and actions and possibilities within them.” In his essay,” A politics of sensitivity” , written especially among the people living between India and Bangladesh borders, Cons said, “ Sensitivity, as such is best understood not as a descriptive term, but rather as a process that marks sensitive areas as somehow ‘exceptional’, or beyond the bounds of normal practice in both discursive and concrete ways.”
Going by this definition and looking at what is at stake in Jammu and Kashmir, first and foremost thing that we should know is, what is happening in the state/ UT , the politics of identity and sensitivity is on rise. It is not confined to any particular region, sub region or religion. This is a fact of life. There are other issues involved with it, which make the things more precarious.
There is assertion of different identities and some elements are pursuing the supremacist agenda and others are seeking further division of J&K on the communal and regional lines. These elements are making things not only more sensitive but also creating space for the expansion of radicalism. The clash of ideologically motivated forces of radicalism pose a serious danger to the region, and its fall out could affect areas beyond its boundaries.
It is perhaps in this context that Amit Shah emphasized on sensitive place terminology for J&K .