August 5, 2020 marks the first anniversary of the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) , a watershed moment in India ’s political history. The status quo over J&K was changed this very day in 2019. While Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which granted the special status, was a temporary constitutional provision, it had seemingly become a permanent feature. Prime Minister Narendra Modi ’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reminded us that it was not, and rightly so. The invalidation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K state into two union territories – J&K and Ladakh – has put the region on a new trajectory after decades of separatism and terrorism . Kashmir’s domination over Jammu and Ladakh has been challenged. The long-standing political structure in J&K seems to be relegated to the sidelines while new political elements take shape, although it remains to be seen how these will play out. Article 370 had been accorded biblical status by Kashmir-centric politicians since its inception, especially during elections, with National Conference (NC) dishonestly saying it was part of J&K’s accession with India. Its rival, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), would sing a similar tune. PDP chief and former J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, threatened there would be no J&K or India left if Article 370 was abrogated. The revocation also meant going against the dominant narrative in Kashmir – that it could have created a security problem and disturbed peace, with key factors being support for the Islamist-separatist movement by a large section of J&K’s Muslim population and incessant sponsoring of terrorism in the region by Pakistan. However, the Indian government’s proactive approach, which included preventive detention of politicians and separatists, has been effective. While there was outcry over the detention of so-called mainstream politicians, there is a thin line between mainstream and separatism – competitive separatism by Kashmir-centric political groups has always been at play, resulting in mayhem and loss of life over the years. Kashmir has seen a significant decrease in the violence which was fuelled by a separatist ecosystem and supported by the commentariat as a means of protest. Children of common Kashmiris would get involved in violence and stone pelting while the orchestrators would ensure their own children were unharmed. Indian security forces have successfully annihilated terrorists belonging to outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Islamic State of J&K (ISJK). There has also been a massive decline in Kashmiri youths joining terror groups. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has cracked down on networks of terror funders. After the abrogation of Article 370, laws passed by the Indian Parliament are directly applicable to J&K. Previously, laws needed ratification from the J&K legislature before implementation, creating a bottleneck. More than 100 national laws became applicable to J&K after August 5, 2019. The introduction of new domicile rules in J&K in May 2020 has been one of the government’s crucial moves. It factors in regional concerns while being inclusive by providing rights to minority Kashmiri Hindus (particularly unregistered displaced Hindus), West Pakistan refugees (who settled in Jammu around the 1947 partition riots), the Valmiki community (a scheduled caste community brought in from Punjab in 1957), the Gorkha community (originally from Nepal; part of the Dogra army), and non-J&K people who have lived or studied there. Any Indian citizen residing in J&K for 15 years is eligible. The domicile law is already present in several other Indian states and is a significant step towards integration. Earlier, J&K had a Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) which disallowed people from other parts of India state citizenship, even if they had lived there for decades. They were unable to vote in state assembly elections and denied jobs in state government, property rights, scholarships for children and government aid. Importantly, Article 370’s revocation nullified Article 35 (A) of the Constitution of India that allowed the J&K legislature to define PRC conditions. These were discriminatory towards women marrying outside the state by preventing inheritance rights to their children. India imposes ‘full curfew’ in Kashmir ahead of clampdown anniversary The Indian government has been focusing on grass roots democracy in J&K through elections which were boycotted by both mainstream parties, NC and PDP. Turnout was 74 per cent in village panchayat elections in 2018 and 98.3 per cent in block development council elections in 2019. The J&K administration also launched a ‘Back to Village’ programme to get feedback about government schemes and address grievances. Notwithstanding all these measures, J&K has been without a popularly-elected government since June 20, 2018 as a result of the fallout between BJP and PDP. It is imperative for the Modi government to create a favourable environment for elections so that representation, effective governance and public accountability are restored. Prolonged internet restrictions will not solve the insurgency problem, and will only aggravate disenchantment. While the Indian government has been effective in bringing positive changes to J&K, the communication clampdown has affected the masses. It may have been necessary in the beginning to control law and order post-abrogation, but the lack of complete internet rights after one year does not augur well for a functional democracy. It is very abstruse to keep restricting the internet using the rationale of misuse and risk to the region’s security. Prolonged internet restrictions will not solve the insurgency problem, and will only aggravate disenchantment among the people. In January 2020, the Supreme Court of India ruled that internet access is part of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India with imposition of restrictions under Article 19(2). The old political order in J&K under Article 370, supposedly adopted to bridge the gap between J&K and the rest of India, created a wedge instead, aggravating separatism in the state. It allowed a Muslim majoritarian set-up under the guise of democracy at the expense of the rights of non-Muslims, leading to discrimination against thousands of people. This further created a social, political, and economic imbalance in the region. It’s fair to say that the revocation of Article 370 (and bifurcation of former J&K state) is one of the boldest political moves by the Modi government aimed at bringing stability to the union territories of J&K and Ladakh with the involvement of marginalised stakeholders. Varad Sharma is a writer and political commentator. He is the co-editor of a book on Kashmir’s ethnic minority community titled, A Long Dream of Home: The Persecution, Exodus and Exile of Kashmiri Pandits , published by Bloomsbury India.