Sensing that in politics, winning the battle of perception is far more important than winning the war itself, India’s government is reaching out to its global Indian diaspora directly, to clear the air on the recently scrapped Article 370 in the state of Kashmir. 

The office of the Indian High Commission to New Zealand has on Monday, September 9, shared on its social media platform, four detailed brochures which have been brought out by the Jammu and Kashmir Government on the benefits that would accrue on the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, as a result of recent decisions related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. 

Speaking to the Indian Weekender, the High Commissioner of India to New Zealand Muktesh Pardeshi said, “The government of India is reaching out to all its constituencies and stakeholders and that includes the global diaspora to explain the rationale of these important decisions taken within the parameters of the Indian constitution.”

It seems that given that the global Indian diaspora is more likely to be served with news, views and opinions that are less balanced and more-skewed unfavourably towards sensitivities of India, the government has gone on an outreach to not only spread awareness, but also possibly seek support for trying a hitherto uncharted path in solving an extremely complex issue – and indeed the scrapping of article 370 is an uncharted path. 

Several overseas Indian missions such as in neighbouring Australia, and far away from the Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, among others were also reported to have shared similar flyers on their respective social media platforms.  

The brochures provide a detailed overview of some of the burning questions that are fuelling an overly negative perception against the recent scrapping on the article 370 such as it will adversely impact the unique culture and language of Kashmir (Kashmiriat) or it is targeted against a particular religion or it is primarily meant to dilute property rights of people of Kashmir. 

The four brochures categorised under headings A Single Constitution for the Entire Country, How Will Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh will benefit?, and Why Fear?, seeks to quell a lot of queries in the general public mind around the Indian government’s decision. 

The scrapping of Article 370: A battle of perception

Ever since the much debatable Article 370 was abrogated in early August through an executive order, the government of India had received a lot of flak in the traditional western liberal media portraying the entire exercise as undemocratic and regressive. 

In this regard, it is often easy and tempting to criticise the government in question, for failing to adhere to the highest standards of civic-behaviour, with a tendency to get focussed on the accompanied security deployment and castigate the entire exercise as undemocratic.

However, what gets lost is an appreciation of genuine concerns of the authorities of preventing any unwarranted large scale violence, fuelled by cross-border based vested interests, with the assistance of unfettered access to modern communication technologies such as mobile, WhatsApp and internet.

Regulating social media and modern communication technologies, especially at the time of any crisis of grave violence or potential threat of grave violence is becoming problematic for the most modern and liberal governments.

The recent Christchurch call summit in Paris in May 2019 after the tragic terror attack in world’s most peaceful country New Zealand is a stark reminder of the important fact that states often at the receiving end of unprecedented levels of violence find unfettered access to the social media problematic.

However, regardless of this fact, and to be fair, the Indian government’s mannerism, especially the secrecy at the time of announcement of the decision could have been better.

It’s another matter that the global media, including New Zealand’s mainstream media, also failed to do due diligence in reporting on Kashmir, especially on digging the history of Article 370 in particular, and appreciate the fact that India has been fighting a three decade long foreign-sponsored cross-border terrorism.

Challenging status quo in Kashmir

While the global media is busy in raising some rightful concerns around the clampdown, which could have been possibly better, they have largely missed the point that the current government is seeking to challenge a long-existing status-quo on Kashmir issue, hopefully for the betterment of the people of Kashmir. 

“For many years in the past, the state of the Jammu & Kashmir has been the victim of anti-national propaganda and terrorist actions against innocent citizens. The article 370 and 35A became handy tools for mischievous elements to fan separatism and promote terror,” one of the brochures reads. 

“These two articles kept the state isolated and away from the development processes in the country for a long time.”

“As a result, private investment in developmental works was severely constrained. No large industries developed in the state,” the brochure further reads. 

Through these brochures, specifically directed towards the global Indian diaspora, the India’s government is also seeking to allay some common fears seen floating in global western media about the so-called threat to the unique “Kashmiri Culture.”

“The cultures and languages of Marathas, Tamilians, Gujaratis, Assamese, and others have prospered and grown. There are adequate provisions and safeguards in our constitution to ensure that the religious and cultural rights of every group and community are protected and preserved,” one of the brochures asserts. 

How far be it successful?

Understandably, it is too early to predict if this newfound urge within the Indian government to challenge the status quo to find lasting peace and solution to the Kashmir problem. 

However, it seems that India’s government is reaching out to different stakeholders, including the global Indian diaspora to at least be given a fair chance to their desire of challenging the status-quo and embarking a new path. 

“70 years with 370, A new era without 370 – let us give the new system a chance,” one of the brochures reads. 

Given the high emotions around this issue, it remains to be seen how receptive and supportive will the global Indian diaspora will be towards this government outreach.