India’s attempts to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy are a nuclear flash-point

India’s attempts to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy are a nuclear flash-point

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New Delhi’s trust gap with the Kashmiri people has been widening over the years, because of a number of critical promises broken and discarded by India.
For one, 70 years ago, India made a solemn pledge to the people of Kashmir and to the world that the question of state accession to India or Pakistan would be decided through a United Nations supervised referendum. It never carried out that solemn promise and began arguing that state election results showed the people of Kashmir wanted to live within the Indian Union, even though a New Delhi supervised election was hardly ever a substitute for an international, independent plebiscite.
To assuage the anxiety of the Kashmiri people, the Indian state inserted a special article in its Constitution: Article 370, which gave tangible autonomy to the State of Jammu & Kashmir as it could exclusively exercise all governmental powers except for foreign relations, defense, and communications. In its latest unilateral move, the Indian government decided to scrap this article which means the special legal status of Kashmir will be gone before long. In a parallel move, the Indian government also decided to bifurcate the state, making Ladakh which borders China, an entity independent of Srinagar.
The article was made part of the Constitution at the recommendation of the Kashmir Constituent Assembly. And it can be removed from the statute through an identical reverse procedure. So far, Kashmiri and Indian courts have not accepted the demand to abrogate the article. 
Initially, the head of state and chief minister were called Sadar-e-Riasat and Prime Minister and would fly their own Kashmir flag at their official residences. Later on, both these distinctions were revoked by India because the government felt that for optics’ sake, Kashmir should look no different from other Indian provinces.
Article 35-A was appended to the Indian Constitution in 1954. It states that non-Kashmiris cannot buy land or property in Kashmir. Similarly, outsiders were not allowed to settle permanently in Kashmir and were not entitled to permanent jobs in the state. Its purpose was to protect the demographic composition in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Unsurprisingly, the current Hindu nationalist BJP government in India penned the abrogation of these articles down in their manifesto and made an election pledge to do away with them, sending shockwaves through Kashmiris.

Javed Hafeez

 

The Indian parliament’s revoking of 35-A means that India wants to replicate in Kashmir the Israeli model of changing demographics on the West Bank. The argument is that if Kashmiris could settle anywhere in India, the reverse should also be permissible. Current BJP leadership says both articles are “lopsided” and that they are correcting a “historic mistake.” And Amit Shah, the Home Minister, and a known Hindu chauvinist has moved a bill to that effect in parliament.
Unsurprisingly, the current Hindu nationalist BJP government in India penned the abrogation of these articles down in their manifesto and made an election pledge to do away with them, sending shockwaves through Kashmiris.
Indian administered Kashmir is the most militarized area in the world with close to 700,000 Indian troops. As if those were not enough, thousands of additional troops were brought in recently under the pretext of providing security to a Hindu religious festival. Huge reinforcements of paramilitary forces are being flown into Kashmir this week. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is due in Srinagar for his second visit in a week.
Over the decades, successive Indian governments have tried to dilute Kashmir’s autonomy. But the incumbent BJP government has taken the extreme measure of scrapping the autonomous status entirely. It is attempting to lure the Kashmiris by dangling the ‘carrot’ of huge resultant investments from India and abroad. 
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son in law, tried to entice the Palestinians with a similar carrot in Bahrain and called for an ‘economic peace plan’ in June. The Palestinians were not lured, and similarly, neither are the Kashmiris.
Anti-India violence has been on the rise in occupied Kashmir and the massive violation of human rights has not escaped the UN’s watch. 
In a recent, 43 page report on the subject released last month, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights records “a pattern of impunity” in occupying Indian security forces. The report goes on to say that the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act has made accountability for human rights violations in Kashmir “virtually non-existent.” 
The number of security-related deaths in 2018 was the highest in recent years at 586. And yet, the use of savage force by India has not been able to dampen Kashmir’s struggle for freedom.
The BJP government in New Delhi believes its popularity ratings will soar if Kashmir is completely merged with India, and today’s announcement that scraps the region’s special legal status has sent shockwaves through all of Kashmir. 
Veteran Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Gillani sent out a distress call on Twitter, calling to Muslims around the world. Even moderate and pro-India leaders like Omer Abdullah and Mahbooba Mufti have been put under house arrest. 
This shows every single Kashmiri has been alienated by today’s blatant move in India, which violates international legalities. Kashmir has long been a most dangerous nuclear flashpoint, but current developments are the most ominous they’ve ever been.

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