On August 5th, Amit Shah announced that his freshly re- elected Hindu nationalist party will move to abolish Article 370, a provision of the Indian constitution which was drafted in 1949 and considered to be sacrosanct for a very long time, until last month. Article 370 provided the highly disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir a high level of autonomy in creating and exercising laws, except in matters of defence, external affairs and communications. By revoking the article and changing the status of J&K from a state to a union territory the central government has gained unprecedented control of the region which for the past 7 decades has been in one form or another been resisting Indian rule.
J&K has always been a highly contested land both for its diversity and beauty and also for its extremely strategic location for trade and defence, located between three major world powers: India, Pakistan and China. This comparatively small state is one of the most important geopolitical Regions in the world. The two complications that the government must address now come from both internally in India and also from our neighbours.
The first and currently ongoing is that the muslim majority state has now fall into unrest and protest fearing aggression by the right wing central government and also radical Hindus in the mainland who overwhelmingly supported Modi, who made the unification of India a key campaign promise.
In anticipation of this, the army has deployed 35000+ troops to the region to quash an uprising, the government has issued statements saying these soldiers are there to uphold peace, but several reports have surfaced of soldiers harassing, raping and oppressing locals without cause. In addition they have imposed a strict curfew, severed phone lines and put two members of prominent political families on house arrest, former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti called this the “ darkest day in Indian democracy”. This decision comes at a time of already significant tensions between Hindus and muslims in the country following a sensationalised election which had religion as one of the central campaign focuses creating a widespread and deep ideology of Hindu nationalism within the country.
The next major worry is that this move will cause higher tensions between the nuclear armed countries of India and Pakistan (and by extension China) both of whom claim authority over this land. The prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has called this an “illegal annexation” and an “ethnic cleansing” of muslims, the scary part is, he’s not entirely wrong. Even before the decision the two were on very poor diplomatic relations following attacks by “Pakistan based and supported” (as the government calls them) terrorist groups on Indian soldiers and Indian air strikes on Pakistan territory which the army says was a terrorist training camp which was used to train and launch terrorists who attacked India. Kashmir has always been a flashpoint for war, causing 4
already in the history of these countries, the problem is that now both are heavily nuclear armed and have massive foreign support.
There seems to be a large resistance from the people of J&K, who identify more with Pakistan rather than India, and rightfully so. As with Brexit, the people of J&K should’ve been allowed to discuss and vote on this matter, their thoughts should’ve been voiced before any decision was made. It’s important to note that in a democracy, so diverse and different, a government raised out of fear and chaos cannot stand and will never be legitimate in the eyes of the people.
Many people in the state are concerned as to whether they will be allowed to stay on their own land, after the passing of the new legislature, Indians will be allowed to buy land in the state, which might open up opportunities for nationalists to aggressively buy land and push out muslim communities from their own land. These are truly worrying times for the muslim population in J&K and the government immediately needs to put in place measures that protect the local communities.
We can’t govern J&K as we have all other states, because it simply isn’t like any other state. The government needs to represent all citizens, Hindus and Muslims alike. Our foremost priority should be achieving a peaceful power balance in the
state between the central and state authorities and also between Hindus and Muslims.
This has the potential to be one of the most impactful and consequential times in the history of our country. Being the future of the nation, the things we do today are going to impact us for the rest of our lives. We’re lucky that we live in a time where we know we can voice our opinions and be heard, we shouldn’t take that for granted.
Raghav Jain, 11 AICE