When Article 370 was abolished on Aug 5 last year, I was astonished by how little I knew about my own country. If somebody had told me the day before that a full blown, fully constitutional system of legal apartheid exists in the Republic of India, I would not have believed them.
When the conspiracy of silence around these injustices was blown away in Aug 2019, I was offended by two things. First, that these injustices continued to exist for 69 years into India’s life as a democratic republic. Second, the fact that most people, including me, had never even heard of them.
Tomorrow, it will be exactly one year since that momentous occasion. True to their nature, the usual suspects have come out of the woodwork and are plying people with sob stories about how Kashmir has been suffering in the last one year.
Pay no attention to these voices. For they are not honest actors. For 70 years, they brought us heart warming stories about the childhood of Burhan Wani and Adil Ahmad Dar. Enough.
Let me list before you the five hidden forms of apartheid in Jammu and Kashmir that were ripped apart when Article 370 ceased to exist.
(1) Apartheid against Valmiki community came to an end
In 1957, members of the Valmiki community came to Kashmir on invitation from the state government. The state wanted to break up the strike of the local safai karmacharis. Even 62 years later, those people and their descendants were not allowed to take up any job other than as sweepers.
Read here the story of Eklavya, who had a PhD but was not entitled to any government job other than that of safai karamchari.
This is literally apartheid. It’s a level of injustice that sounds almost unreal. And Indian ‘secularism’ was sitting on it all these years.
Today, Eklavya is free.
(2) Apartheid against Gorkhas came to an end
About one lakh Gorkhas live in Jammu and Kashmir. Their ancestors moved there in the mid-19th century. And they still did not have the right to own land in the state. On top of that, thousands of them have served in the Indian Army.
Imagine serving in the Indian Army and still being a second class citizen of India.
This is the face of battle hardened Prem Bahadur, who served in the Gorkha regiment as far back as 1968. He has done more for the country than 99% of us. Until a year ago, he was less of a citizen of India than almost anyone else.
All these years, Prem Bahadur suffered in silence. Today, he is free.
(3) Apartheid against Jammu came to an end.
The Jammu region is home to 47% of people in J&K. But the state has never had a Chief Minister from Jammu. How is that possible?
Because the J&K Assembly was rigged at birth. In the 87 member legislative assembly, a full 46 seats were allotted to Kashmir. But Jammu was allotted only 37 seats, below its share of the population. This was a very deliberate arrangement, ensuring that Kashmiris and only Kashmiris would control the whole state. In essence, the principle of one person one vote was abandoned to appease a particular group of people.
J&K will now be a Union Territory, with most powers in the hands of the Center. The legislature of J&K will now be reconstituted and delimitation of constituencies will be done on the basis of the 2011 census.
(4) Apartheid against women came to an end
This appears to have been the only form of apartheid that was relatively well known. I don’t know if that is supposed to make it better. The Islamist patriarchy that ruled J&K controlled the life choices of women in very direct ways. A woman choosing to marry outside the state could no longer pass on her property to her children.
In India, we always speak of “motherland” and “mother tongue.” Imagine being told that you have been banished from your mother’s state and her property. When you cannot even inherit your mother’s identity, what is left?
In fact, women of J&K would receive state subject certificates emblazoned with the insulting remark “valid until marriage.” For those who cry Kaagaz Nahin Dikhayenge, how would you like to carry around an official paper stating that your citizenship is temporary, valid only until so and so?
This used to be India. Until 2019.
(5) Apartheid against homosexuals came to an end
In a Sep 2018, the Supreme Court removed penal provisions that used to treat homosexual acts as a criminal offense. The decision was welcomed almost universally, even as three Christian organizations were left carrying the torch for bigoted Victorian era views on sexuality.
Contrary to perception, the 2018 verdict did not apply to every part of India. Thanks to Article 370, homosexuality was still criminal in Jammu and Kashmir.
Not any more.
The end of Article 370 was the end of apartheid in India. We should all celebrate tomorrow. If you are a woman, this is a moment for you. If you are gay, this is a moment for you. If you belong to Jammu, this is for you. If you are from a Gorkha or Valmiki minority, this is for you.
Tomorrow, we celebrate the end of apartheid. Ten days after that, we celebrate Independence Day. August is a great month.