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The revoke of Article 370 will not silence Kashmiris

Masroor Ahmad

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Masroor Ahmad

 

“The Fifth of August is the blackest day of Indian democracy when its Parliament, like thieves, snatched away everything from the people of Jammu and Kashmir” (Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister of Kashmir)

 

According to the constitution of India, Article 370 could only be modified with the agreement of the “state government”. But India imposed federal rule after the government of the then chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, was reduced to a minority thus paving way for the Indian government to seek the consent of the governor who imposes its rule. This is extreme level of deception on part of the so-called biggest democracy, which didn’t take into confidence any stakeholder, or at least the citizens of Kashmir. The article allowed the state a certain amount of autonomy – its own constitution, a separate flag and freedom to make laws. Only a few segments like foreign affairs, defence and communications remained the preserve of the Delhi government. These protections lead to special property rights for Kashmiris that blocked non-Kashmiris from owning land.

 

All of a sudden, the Modi led government wiped out the autonomy of the restive Kashmir region, sending in thousands of army troops to quell any possible unrest. The voice of the Kashmiris has been silenced and the authorities have usurped the right of freedom of expression by blocking communication means including internet connections, mobile phone lines and even land lines, casting Kashmir into an information black hole that made it very difficult to discern what was unfolding. There is an atmosphere of death looming over local citizens as they are not allowed to leave their houses. While international human rights groups swiftly condemned the action, Hindutva followers celebrated under the false and deceptive narrative of peace and investment. Human rights activists have reasons to opine that the moves to change Kashmir’s status are to seed the area with non-Kashmiris, altering the demographics and eventually destroying its character. Previous laws barred outsiders from owning property.

 

The decision of the Indian Government has literally stunned not only Kashmiris but the whole world. It was widely seen as another bold, muscular but otherwise illegal and spurious move by the administration of Narendra Modi. The government has turned Kashmir into two smaller, federally administered territories. One region will combine Muslim-majority Kashmir and Hindu-majority Jammu. The other is Buddhist-majority Ladakh, which is culturally and historically close to Tibet.

According to law practicing scholars the government did not have the legal authority to change Article 370. “The whole bill is not only unconstitutional, an illegal decision, akin to committing fraud,” that could be challenged in the Supreme Court, said A. G. Noorani, a constitutional lawyer. P Chidambaram, a senior leader in the opposition Congress Party described the decision as a “catastrophic step” and warned in parliament that it could have serious consequences. “You may think you have scored a victory, but you are wrong and history will prove you to be wrong. Future generations will realise what a grave mistake this house is making today,” he said.

Some critics raise questions on the timing of this Pandora box as they are of the view that Mr. Modi’s government has been under increasing criticism over a weakening economy, with joblessness rising. A sense of malaise is beginning to seep through just about all sectors of the economy and this move on Kashmir was just to divert the attention of the public from the real issues. Wiping away Kashmir’s special status has been a dream of many B.J.P. supporters who have spoken of a Greater Hindustan, a Hindu-dominated land that scoops up Pakistan, Bangladesh and other parts of South Asia. According to Christophe Jaffrelot, a research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS in Paris, “This is exactly what national populists do all over the world. Clearly, India is entering a zone of economic turbulence. So this is the right time to return to the nationalistic agenda.”

Although Indian-administered Kashmir has been in a state of lockdown ever since the government decided to strip the region of its special status yet the residents of the region are beginning to speak out standing tall before the oppressive security forces. As a matter of fact, the heavy military presence had turned the region into an “open jail”. Kashmiris are in a state of shock and they are still processing what happened. It seems the valley is going to erupt very soon. Policemen are deployed everywhere. Barricades have been put in front of important buildings. Markets, schools and colleges are shut. People are in shock as to how Indian government can decide about their future when the controversy is yet to be decided on the table of UN. Everyone is mourning as it’s the loss of statehood that has hurt people deeply. “This is being seen as the biggest betrayal by the Indian state in the last 70 years,” Shah Faesal, an Indian civil servant who has started his own political party, wrote on Facebook.

Article 370 was added to India’s Constitution in 1949. It allows Jammu and Kashmir to have its own constitution. Article 370 was added to India’s Constitution in 1949. It allows Jammu and Kashmir to have its own constitution. The revocation of Article 370 extends to a key provision added under it, known as Article 35A. This gives special privileges to permanent residents, including state government jobs and the exclusive right to own property in Jammu and Kashmir. It is intended to protect the state’s distinct demographic character as the only Muslim-majority state in India. United Nations and other International forums must take notice of the situation and book India for seizing rights of the Kashmiris. The situation in Kashmir after change of its demographic and legal status also put ethical responsibility on the civil soeciety, government and media of Pakistan to raise forceful voice in favor of Kashmiris.

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