By Naila Altaf Kayani
“A Dismantled State: The Untold Story of Kashmir After Article 370” is a captivating and insightful book by Anuradha Bhasin that delves into the complexities and implications of the revocation of special status of India occupied Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, of which the repealed Article 35-A was an important part. Bhasin, a prominent journalist and Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, a pro-Kashmir newspaper founded by her late father Shri Ved Bhasin, provides a deep analysis of the historical context, political dynamics, and human rights issues surrounding this unusual and unilateral development. Through her meticulous research and first-hand experiences, she presents a critical examination of the consequences of the Indian government’s actions and offers profound insights into the challenges faced by the disputed region and its oppressed inhabitants.
The book commences with an overview of the historical background and legal framework of Article 370, tracing its origins and the political developments that shape its significance. Bhasin presents a comprehensive account of the constitutional provision that granted Jammu and Kashmir a special status and a level of autonomy within the Indian Union. She highlights how the abrogation of Article 35-A has serious legal and political ramifications for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and how it challenges the constitutional and legal foundations of their state.
Bhasin skilfully interweaves personal narratives and stories of individuals affected by the arbitrary move to humanize the impact of New Delhi’s actions. Through interviews and conversations, she sheds light on the experiences of ordinary Kashmiris who have been silenced and marginalized in the wake of the abrogation. She provides them a platform to air their views and [thus] allows readers to gain a deeper understanding of the human rights abuses, restrictions on freedom of expression and the trauma endured by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
One of the book’s greatest strengths lies in its thoughtful examination of the media landscape in the region in post-abrogation period. Bhasin meticulously dissects the government’s tactics aimed at curtailing dissent and controlling the narrative through curbs on media and censorship. She highlights the challenges faced by the journalists in reporting truthfully and objectively, as they navigate a hostile environment where intimidation and surveillance are an order of the day. The author’s personal experience of media repression adds credibility and authenticity to her analysis, giving readers an insider’s perspective.
Another significant aspect of the book is its exploration of the impact of the new domicile laws and land alienation on the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Bhasin reveals how these laws further exacerbate the marginalization and dispossession of the Kashmiri population, as outsiders are allowed to purchase land in the region, something which was prohibited under Article 35-A. The author exposes the fears of demographic change and cultural erosion, emphasizing the importance of preserving the distinct identity and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
Additionally, the book elucidates the disillusionment and loss of trust in the political process experienced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Bhasin outlines the implications of the delimitation process, which could alter political representation and diminish the voice of the Kashmiri population. She also explores how the scrapping of Article 370 has impacted peace-building efforts and the prospects of resolving the Kashmir conflict through peaceful means.
Throughout the book, Bhasin makes a compelling case for addressing the human rights issues and political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. She emphasizes the need for inclusivity and meaningful engagement with all stakeholders, urging the Indian government to recognize the importance of preserving the region’s distinctive identity and exploring peaceful solutions to the conflict.
If there is one minor criticism, it’s that the book occasionally becomes too detailed and overly focused on specific legal arguments which might make the readers less familiar with the subject matter lose their interest. However, the author’s ability to set forth complex concepts in an accessible manner, coupled with her storytelling approach, largely compensates for this minor flaw.
To sum up, Bhasin’s pedantic scrutinization, personal experiences and observations and impressive storytelling technique combine to create a powerfully compelling narrative and make “A Dismantled State” an essential, timely and must-read treatise, not only for those who are specifically eager to grasp the complexities of the disputed Himalayan region but also for the rest who are concerned about the constitutional and human rights as well as the fragility of democracy in the face of unbridled power in any part of the world.
The reviewer is a Muzaffarabad based social and political analyst and human rights campaigner. She tweets @NylaKayani