- The Foreign Minister was speaking at an interactive session in New York
- Mr Jaishankar said many restrictions in the region have been rolled back
- Government had ended special status for Jammu and Kashmir in August
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said Kashmir was "in a mess" before the government decided to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. The security restrictions since that move was announced on August 5 was to prevent the loss of lives, he said at an interaction in New York, where world leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi are gathered for the UN General Assembly session.
"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 (after the Article 370 decision) without the loss of life and restrictions were intended to do that," he said at the interactive session with Frank G. Wisner, a former US Ambassador to India.
"As many as 42,000 people were killed in the last 30 years. The level of intimidation had reached a height, where senior police officers were lynched on the 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 emphasised.
Mr Jaishankar said the situation in the region has now stabilised and many restrictions have been rolled back; landlines and some mobile towers have been restored and economic activity has resumed, he said.
"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 victimized 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.
"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," Mr Jaishankar explained.
The presidential proclamations were very rapid in the initial years, he said, 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. Hundred important progressive laws of India did not apply to Kashmir," said the Foreign Minister.
The temporary provision in the Constitution "allowed a set of narrow elite to arbitrage Article 370 for monopolising political power and creating a close loop politics," according to him.
"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.