Valley’s Special Status Scrapped Kashmir turning into India’s Palestine By Salman Riaz
India is being ruled by a Hindu ultra-nationalist party of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2014 and extremist Narendra Modi has transformed the political and social fabric of the country. The minority groups especially the Muslims and low caste Hindus (Dalits) are victims of Hindutva terrorism. Armed mobs charged with Hindu nationalism frequently attacked on minority groups and batten them to death. The BJP once again secured victory in Indian election of 2019 and the party manifesto promised to revoke the Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. Modi has scrapped Jammu-Kashmir’s 70-year-old autonomous rights after less than 70 days to resuming power. The Article 370 came into effect in 1949 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir for making laws to govern the entity except foreign relations, defense, finance, and communications. Hindu nationalists have long wanted to reshape the region. Now they are getting their chance. Ultimately, they want to turn into Kashmir as another Palestine.
On 5 August, New Delhi ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian Constitution by revoking Articles 370 and 35A. At the same time, it set up India’s only Muslim-majority state to be split into two union territories—the mountainous region of Ladakh and the Kashmir Valley with the state’s Jammu region. J&K is a Union Territory now with legislature while Ladakh is an independent Union Territory without any legislature. Hours before the move, the valley was put under strict curfew with internet, landline, and mobile phone services and cable television all blocked at once. And One day before the move, prominent leaders of Kashmir including National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti were house arrest. Even more than fifty thousand additional Army and paramilitary deployed in Valley before some days to apply Indian government rule.
The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison under military control. The Central Government has responded by flooding J&K with more and more soldiers. The small region – slightly smaller than the United Kingdom – is already occupied by a bare minimum of 500,000 troops. Since late July 2019, India has deployed nearly another 50,000 troops.
It seems clear that revoking Article 35A will change the nature of Kashmir. For now, it is Muslim majority—according to Indian census data from 2011, 68 percent of Jammu and Kashmir’s 12.5 million people were Muslims. With the local government no longer able to bar outsiders from land ownership, New Delhi could presumably encourage the migration of Hindus to the region in the same way China has supported the growth of Han Chinese populations in Tibet.
The Indian state’s current move could change Kashmir’s ethnic mix. Doing so has been a long-standing demand of the militant Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is widely seen as the parent organization of BJP. In 2002, after decades of using the demand of ending Kashmir’s special status as a central slogan of the Hindu nationalist movement, the RSS passed a resolution that clearly laid out its vision for reorganizing the state in a way that would favor Hindus. The move was accompanied by a similar resolution by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, another organization in the RSS family, which demanded that the “five Hindu-dominated districts of Jammu should be made a separate state, a union territory be carved out of areas northeast of the Jhelum River in the Kashmir Valley for settling Hindus there and Ladakh be given the status of a union territory.”
Now such demands have been enacted in law. Ladakh, comprising an equal number of Buddhists and Muslims, will be governed by the BJP-led central government. Under that administration, Muslims will surely feel increasingly alienated just like those in other parts of India. Over time, it would be easy to change the balance between Buddhists and Muslims by allowing some Hindus from mainland India to buy property there. In the new union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the approximately half-million Indian soldiers already there may buy land and property immediately. Change could soon come on a much larger scale; the government has already announced that it would hold an international investment summit in Kashmir in October.
Even if the ongoing political violence discourages ordinary Hindus from buying property in the Kashmir Valley, they could still migrate to the union territory’s Hindu-dominated area of Jammu. As a result, Jammu would outweigh the valley electoral, which would very likely hand the territory’s government to the BJP. Further territorial delimitations, which India’s home minister has already hinted at, could further change the calculus of the new legislative assembly. In the legislative assembly of the previous state of Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu had 37 seats, Kashmir 46, and Ladakh 4.
Kashmir is India’s Palestine
India and Israel both are led by religious extremists and each of them have also occupied the territory of an indigenous Muslim minority for over seven decades in what’s recognized by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Both are causing of the world’s longest-running unresolved conflicts.
What India is doing to Kashmir would be the same as if Israel already had over half a million troops in the Palestinian Authority, imposed a curfew there prior to arresting its leaders, removed its relative ‘autonomy,’ and then unilaterally decoupled the Gaza strip from the West Bank by making them separate administrative districts. Not only is that, but the revocation of Article 35A in occupied Kashmir tantamount in the Palestinian context to opening the floodgates for unrestricted Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
Israel would certainly be condemned for resorting to ‘weapons of mass migration’ as part of its demographic warfare against the Palestinians in that case, yet few are saying anything about India actually doing the same to the Kashmiri in real life as part of its long-term plan to change the composition of this UNSC-recognized disputed territory. The international reaction to what New Delhi just did will directly influence Tel Aviv’s actions in the future, which is another reason why this is so important.
What could change in Kashmir?
Under the article 370, the centre needs the state government’s concurrence to apply laws — except in defense, foreign affairs, finance and communications. It means the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians. Under this provision, Indian citizens from other states could not purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir. Article 35A allowed the state legislature to define the Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residents.
After Kashmir’s special status is gone, people from anywhere in India are able to buy property and permanently settle in the state. This has fuelled fear in the mind of Kashmiris — they think it would lead to the state’s demographic transformation from majority Muslim to majority Hindu. After the revocation of 370, there will be no separate constitution for J&K and its citizens. There will be no separate flag for J&K and it will be at par with the entire country. The Fundamental Rights of the people of J&K will be the same as enjoyed by the Indian citizens of other states. There will be no separate laws for the citizens of J&K. It will be the same as the rest of the country. Central laws can directly be applied and it can declare financial emergencies under article 360 in J&K. The Parliament can implement any law without the state’s approval which also includes changing the state’s name and its boundaries.
UN Declared Plebiscite is the only solution
Before taking into consideration the implications of revoking of Article 370 and 35A, it is important to trace the genesis of Kashmir dispute and its special status. Pakistan and India emerged as sovereign states on 14th and 15th August 1947. The partition plan was devised by Lord Louis Mountbatten on 3rd June 1947 dividing Indian subcontinent into two separate sovereign states and giving special right to peripheral autonomous princely states to join either India or Pakistan. The annexation plan was followed by the rule of religious, linguistic, geographic and cultural proximity.
The Jammu & Kashmir is a Muslim majority state having geo-strategic importance for India and Pakistan. Being a Muslim majority state having close geographic, cultural, religious and economic affinity, it was considered that Kashmir would become part of Pakistan, but Maharaja Harri Singh, a Hindu ruler acceded the territory with New Delhi without paying due attention to wishes of indigenous peoples. The decision was rejected by the local masses and a movement was started for independence and annexation with Pakistan. When the Maharaja used brutal force against liberation forces asking help from New Delhi after signing the Instrument of Accession, Pakistan became the party of this dispute and first Indo-Pak war broke out.
Consequently, the seeds of perpetual enmity sowed in South Asia over the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir, which is still a nuclear threshold putting billions of lives in danger. After losing grounds in Jammu & Kashmir, India brought the issue into the United Nations Security Council for reconciliation, and with the help of UN a cease fire agreement was enforced between two states on 1st January 1949. The UNSC resolution of 21 April 1948, one of the Principal UN resolutions on Kashmir stated that “both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite”. The resolution of UN affirms that India and Pakistan has accepted the UN role as a mediator and agreed to resolve it through the wishes of peoples of Jammu & Kashmir. Since then, Pakistan has frequently reiterated its commitment for a free and impartial plebiscite, but India always rejected the notion by claiming Kashmir as an integral part of Indian Union.
There are two possible scenarios after abrogation of Article 370. First, if Pakistan along the help of international community effectively built pressure on India, then it can save the Muslims of Indian Occupied Kashmir. But, if Pakistan fails in its attempts, the Muslim community in Occupied Kashmir will be primary subject of Indian brutality. Second, scenario is the UN plebiscite in Kashmir after successful demographic transformation in Jammu & Kashmir.
The abrogation of Article 370 exposed that India has made its mind to hold the long awaited plebiscite in the state after ensuring feasible conditions. The presidential order has enabled Indian parliament to make laws for Kashmir and opened the doors for non-state residents to settle and purchase land in Kashmir. The decision is a blue print of Indian government’s plan of large scale demographic change and ethnic cleansing of Muslims.
Under the Hindutva doctrine, the Indian government has launched the operation of ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Muslims, which ultimately transform them into minority group. Meanwhile, the BJP government will construct special enclaves for Hindu extremists and help them to settle in the state. The Indian troops will kill thousands of Kashmiri Muslims in the name of law and order maintenance and major leaders of Muslim community will also be target of Indian brutality. Modi Government has successfully weaponised the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit, Kashmir’s Hindu minority, from the valley in 1989. They want Kashmir to be a rallying point for a Hindu nation.
Writer: Journalist and Geopolitical Analyst