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What about the Kashmiris?

  • Published at 12:04 am August 18th, 2019
Photo: AFP

Kashmir continued to be sandwiched between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan

The Indian government’s entire exercise of revoking article 370, in a single day, has not only altered India’s relationship with its only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, but also wrecked the idea of a legal contract between people and those who govern them. 

The revocation of the special status for Jammu and Kashmir was a long-standing demand of India’s Hindu nationalists. The Modi government’s scrapping of article 370 has had been a pet issue of BJP. 

The crude obsession of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is that the article 370 formed the very basis of Kashmir’s complex relationship with India as it endowed the region of Jammu and Kashmir with special autonomy and safeguarded the self-determination of Kashmiris. 

The nullification of article 35A with article 370 may further alienate the Kashmiris as it empowered the J&K legislature to define the permanent residents of the state, and their special rights and privileges. 

Therefore, abrogation of article 35A may lay the foundation for a demographic change in the region. In the absence of Art 35A, Kashmir may witness widespread immigration of Hindus into the valley that eventually will create the hegemony of majority Hindus and spoil the socio-political agency of the existing Kashmiri Muslims in the valley. 

Irfan Nooruddin, a professor at Georgetown University in a conversation with Foreign Policy magazine warned: “The separatists will get a great boost. It gives them a talking point -- we’ve been telling you for all this time that the Indian government doesn’t see you as one of them and doesn’t respect Kashmiri identity.” 

Home Minister Amit Shah targeted India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for the partition of India and the blunders in Kashmir. Shah roared in the lower house of the Indian Parliament: “Had Jawaharlal Nehru trusted the then Home Minister Sardar Patel, we would not have seen the situation exacerbate to this extent.” 

Eminent Kashmir expert AG Noorani refuted Shah in a recent article: “If Kashmir is a part of India, it is almost entirely because of Nehru. He had the foresight to forge an understanding with its tallest leader, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, in the 1930s.

As far back as in May 1947, he wrote a detailed memorandum to the Viceroy Mountbatten staking a claim to Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the Partition. The BJP’s ancestor, the Jan Sangh, was interested only in Jammu and its proxy, the Praja Parishad.” 

However, this most recent decision has not only dismantled the Nehruvian notion of peaceful solution of Kashmir but it brought back the idea of communal resettlement to the fore and resurrected the Partition dilemma.

BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat, Kashmiriyat” formed the foundation for peace in Kashmir which has effectively been dismembered by Modi.

Although, amusingly enough, Modi on his 72nd Independence Day speech said that the BJP government would follow Vajpayee’s idea of peace in Kashmir.

Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta in a recent column subtly exposes the Indian State: “Even if article 370 were to be scrapped, the proposal to alter Jammu and Kashmir’s status to Union Territory, even if temporarily, is designed to humiliate an already subjugated population. The optics of this measure is not integration, it is humiliation.” 

Thereby, the whole process of the revocation of article 370 took a move closer to the saffronization of Kashmir and made a complete mockery of the secular-plural values enshrined in the Indian Constitution. 

A sense of fear hangs over the locked down Kashmir valley since August 5.

The Kashmiris’ dissent against the arbitrary decision of the Modi government to wipe out Kashmir’s special autonomy has been clamped down with the imposition of Section 144. 

This saw the immediate arrest of former chief ministers of the state. In the process, BJP-led central government has exhibited scant regard for its own constitutional ethos and UN resolutions.

Kashmir remains same as the region was before, a conflict zone with heavy presence of forces even after the abrogation of article 370. Prime Minister Modi, in a televised speech on Thursday, reassured Kashmiris with more peaceful and prosperous days ahead.

Ironically enough, most Kashmiris could not watch television due to the communication shutdown.

The New York Times reported from the lockdown: “Tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators were moving through the streets of Srinagar, chanting freedom slogans and waving Kashmiri flags when Indian forces opened fire on them.” 

Schools have been closed, essential daily commodities are running out, hundreds of Kashmiri activists are arrested while Modi was sowing hope for a so-called “Naya Kashmir.”

India has not only betrayed Kashmiris with unilateral revocation of the special status but also has disowned the federal arrangements of the constitution and paved the way to transform India into a Hindu nation. 

The Modi government’s gamble with article 370 is no less than an onslaught on the idea of liberal democracy that India has preached and practiced since its independence. The undemocratic and unconstitutional method of the BJP government has inflicted havoc and pain on the self-determination of the Kashmiris. Consecutively, Kashmir has turned into a tinderbox.

The cheerleaders of Akhand Bharat might rejoice at the removal of article 370 for imposing Hindutva icon, Savarkar’s idea of Indian nationalism (“Hindustan, Hindi, Hindudom”) but showing absolute disregard to cultural differences may lead to catastrophic consequences on the idea of India. 

Kashmiris have historically suffered the most and lived through constant fear. India has surely in the whole process of forceful assimilation with India, failed the democratic desires of Kashmiris and left the distinct culture of Kashmiriyat far behind. 

Kashmir continues to remain sandwiched between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. 

Subhajit Naskar writes from India and is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at Jadavpur University, Kolkata.