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At Litfest, Echoes Of Kashmir & Beyond


What’s literature, or a literature festival, without politics? And what’s politics in these present times without a discussion on the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir?

In keeping with its tradition of giving a platform to ideas and debate on the most important issues affecting us, the Times Litfest Delhi, the capital’s premier literary meet, began its latest edition on Saturday with a session on the future of the Valley.

Former Union minister and Congress leader Salman Khurshid argued the decision was badly implemented. “Article 370 was an attempt to ensure Kashmir remains a part of India psychologically and in every other way. But its abrogation had the opposite effect,” he said.

BJD, which supported the Modi government’s move, indicated it was not entirely comfortable with how things were playing out. BJD MP Pinaki Misra said his party believed the decision to abrogate Article 370 was long overdue but acknowledged the problem lay in the implementation. “This government is extraordinary on grand announcements, but it’s the fine brushwork that is lacking. We are still waiting to see whether there is a sequitur plan in place to handle the blowback and emotional repercussions,” Misra said. “This is a government that relies on the oratorical magic of the PM and the strong arm of the HM (home minister) and is shorn of talent on all other fronts.”

BJP’s Jay Panda countered by saying Article 370 was not just temporary but also the only article in the Constitution with a temporary tag. “What is happening today is the unfinished part of the Partition of India,” he said. Panda said the clampdown in Kashmir was only a transitional phase and things would change. “To comments about the clampdown on communication, my response is that right to life is more important than the right to communication,” he said.

But BJP ally JD(U) expressed its reservation about the government’s move. JD(U) MP Pawan Verma said, “It is a specious argument that all militancy was because of Article 370. There has been a tendency in the last few months where even a constructive critique of the government makes you an anti-national or supporter of Pakistan.”

“What we see is a frozen peace. Not normalcy. In the world’s largest democracy, let us not compare ourselves with Pakistan and Hong Kong. We have to have a roadmap beyond the attempt to prove normalcy,” he added.

The most strident support for the government’s move came from former diplomat Kanwal Sibal. “The ambient situation made it imperative for the government to do something,” he said, adding autonomy was used by leaders to “radicalise the Valley”.

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