Kashmir northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Snow-capped mountains, mountain lakes, and fields of flowers–Kashmir is known far and wide as the “Heaven on Earth”. Kashmir was an independent country till 1947. But today, India and Pakistan occupy Kashmir in two parts. While Kashmir remains a bone of contention to both countries for decades, Pakistan and India, to the people of Kashmir both countries are illegal occupants of their land. Known to the world, the people of Kashmir introduce themselves as Kashmiri, not as Indian nor Pakistani. This sense of nationalism is gradually looming in the public affairs of Kashmir ever since it lost its independence. Neither India, nor Pakistan could assimilate Kashmir into their greater social and political dominance. This staggering fact is resulted from the experience that Pakistan did with the Bangladesh before 1971 and the oppression India is imposing on the people of Kashmir ever since it occupied the land. While the country is already a burnt place with hundreds of thousands of death tolls fighting for its independence and a multiplied number injured or displaced, India has recently waged the fire by revoking Article 35-A and 370 of its Constitution–a constitutional provision granting the region a special status in their administered territory. This led Kashmir to a proxy battlefield between India and Pakistan and, as many believe, Kashmir is the next nuclear battlefield. The story goes deeper–in order to increase the influence of India, India is pushing in a considerable number of its Hindu population to the region so that Hindu becomes the majority in Kashmir. This strategic push in may bring some drastic never-ending consequences in the region.
How Kashmir lost its independence?
Kashmir dispute dates back to 1947 during the partition of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines that led to the formation of India and Pakistan. However, there remained the problem of over 650 states, run by princes, existed within the two newly independent countries. In theory, these princely states had the option of decide which country to join, or of remaining independent. At that time, three of these states did not want to join with India nor Pakistan. They wanted to live independently. One of which is Jammu and Kashmir. The other two were Hyderabad and Junagadh. Junagadh quickly joined India in under pressure. Hyderabad was a very wealthy state. Most of the people of this state were of Hindu religion, but its king Nizam was a Muslim. Nizam wanted to merge with Pakistan. But the people wanted to join India. At that moment, India made Hyderabad a part of itself. The Jammu and Kashmir was remained independent. The situation there is just the opposite of Hyderabad, the ruler was Hindu but the majority of the people were Muslims. However, this Hindu king Hari Singh wanted to remain independent from the beginning.. But as the force started by Pakistan, they began to infiltrate a large number of people as well as the army into Kashmir. Maharaj Hari Singh saw that even though he did not want, the state was gradually becoming part of Pakistan. Then, he sought India’s help. He had an agreement with India then. It’s about October 26 in 1947. This contract is known in history as the “instrument of accession”. The first war between India-Pakistan arose because of Kashmir. This matter goes to the United Nations (UN). The UN Security Council says that the people of Jammu and Kashmir will decide whether they should merge or they should remain independent. There will be a referendum, it will determine the fate of Kashmiri people.
However, The UN gave a condition, two countries will have to withdraw their forces. But they never withdrew their army. So the referendum did not occur. As a result, India occupies 45 percent of the valley which name is Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Siachen Glacier. Pakistan occupies 35 percent which name is Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan. The remaining 20 percent was Aksai China, which is now occupied by China. Thus, Kashmir valley is divided into three parts.
In fact, India has given the state some special advantages in keeping Kashmir with itself. The issues have been included in the Constitution since the Constitution of India was introduced in 1950. Then, in 1954 dr. Rajendra Prasad issued it as a presidential order.
What is Article 370?
Article 370 was the basis of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Indian union at a time when erstwhile princely states had the choice to join either India or Pakistan after their independence from the British rule in 1947. The article, which came into effect in 1949, exempts Jammu and Kashmir state from the Indian constitution. It allows the Indian-administered region jurisdiction to make its own laws in all matters except finance, defense, foreign affairs and communications. It established a separate constitution and a separate flag and denied property rights in the region to the outsiders. That means the residents of the state live under different laws from the rest of the country in matters such as property ownership and citizenship.
What is Article 35A?
Article 35A was introduced through a presidential order in 1954 to continue the old provisions of the territory regulations under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. The article permits the local legislature in Indian-administered Kashmir to define permanent residents of the region. It forbids outsiders from permanently settling, buying lands, holding local government offices or winning education scholarships in the region. The article, referred to as the Permanent Residents Law, also bars female residents of Jammu and Kashmir from property rights in the event that they marry a person from outside the state. The provision also extends to such women’s children. While Article 35A has remained unchanged, some aspects of Article 370 have been diluted over the decades. Critics of Article 35A say the provision did not have any parliamentary sanction, and that it discriminates against women.
The Masterplan of Hindu Settlement
While Article 370 and Article 35A were in action, it was literally impossible to penetrate the barrier of outside settlement in the region. But the discreet masterplan of the current ruling BJP, which is no longer discreet its drastically biased activity, is to raise the Hindu nationalism throughout the country. That includes the settlement of Hindu population in Hindu minority regions. As Kashmir remains a crucial region where the national inclusion policy fails over decades, this prompted the BJP government to initiate a discreet settlement program in the region. When Article 370 and Article 35A are no longer in place that means no more barrier to implement the plan. As a result, Hindu population from other states can buy lands and settle their businesses in Kashmir. Settlement is the first footstep to occupy Kashmir and it’s an achievable target for India within less than a decade provided the geographical and geopolitical nature of the region. Like all other settlers around the world in the Americas, Africa, Australia, if you need to occupy any nation you need to puss-in people there, rape, marriage and finally occupy the lands. India took this policy to extend its full control over the Muslim populated Kashmir. Nearly 7 million people live in the Kashmir Valley, 97% of them Muslim, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Indian troops and armed police deployed to quell an uprising against New Delhi’s rule.
Geographically, Kashmir is a highly fertile land with abundant natural resources, and rich terrain and hilly landscape–one of the most lucrative tourist destinations in South Asia. Overnight, outside investments will flow in its tourism and resource incursion sectors. Industries will settle in abundant cheaply priced lands. The prospect of new employments will bring millions of mainstream Hindu population to permanently settle in the region. Of course, Hindus will be preferred in granting in an outside-controlled job, not local people. The region is also lucrative for industrial settlement for its closest route to many regions of China and Pakistan. Geopolitically, the region is a center of three conflicting countries, India, Pakistan and China. More control over the region means a strategic win in the geopolitics.
This resettlement policy is very similar to the Chinese government’s policy with the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and the Philistine Muslims by Israel. But the BJP also knows that India is not a one-party governing country that must depend on its almost 21 percent non-Hindu votes. It is interesting that, reportedly, many local Hindus in Kashmir are also fighting for independence along with Muslims.
The ghost of British bipartisan theory still remains. Kashmir is now called Palestine in South Asia. Both territories are dominated in the same year in 1947. The main ringleader was the British and India is going to run a robust settlement program in Kashmir that the people of Palestine has been facing since 1947.
Revoking Article 35-A and Article 370 has fulfilled the long aspirations of Hindu nationalists. They have been wanting this change since the 1950. However, the situation can be dire in the region and for the whole country as a consequence. Revoking article 370 is a red alert in India. There has been increasing concern in the northeastern states of the country since the central government of India lifted up Article 370 of the Constitution. They are worried about Article 371 of the Constitution. Several states have been given special protection in different paragraphs of Article 371 of the Constitution. According to the central government’s announcement on August 5, these states are in fear of losing that special protection. The provisions contained in those paragraphs, in most of the northeastern region, speak of protecting tribal communities and their culture. It has decentralized administration and a certain level of administrative autonomy in those states. In addition, local laws have the advantage of settling cases. Some of these laws prohibit the transfer of land to a non-state citizen. These rules are applicable in Mizoram, Nagaland and parts of Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya. Likewise Kashmir, over times northeastern region are also bumped with the rise of separate nationalisms other than Indian.
India’s next target will be the occupation of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Recently, a minister of the country Jitendra Singh said this in Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament). The Indians think Kashmir is their own land, while Pakistan thinks the Muslim majority valley is a part of their country. By this conflict a major war will began between the two countries, as analysts predict. The fear of this conflict is even greater as both countries are nuclear-powered countries.
Instability and oppression will rise terrorism in Kashmir valley. Neither Pakistan nor India can stop terrorism in this territory as the current development suggests. Al-Qaeda’s South Asia branch and the Middle East IS already increased their operations in the Indian subcontinent. They made their presence through the attacks in Sri Lankan churches by killing of 25innocent people on 21st April 2019. But now naturally Kashmir will be a focal point of transnational terrorism.
Writer: Journalist and South Asian Geopolitical Analyst