Muhammad Taimur Khan
In less than a week, the date of August 05, 2020 would mark the completion of exactly one year of the abrogation of Article 370 & 35A of the Indian Constitution that gave special status to the state of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJK).
The move was brought about by the central government of India without taking into account the opinion of the people of IOJK. Moreover, the central government did not even consult the local political parties before deciding the future of the state.
Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution was an extremely ill-thought and a short-sighted move executed by the far-right Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This move not only has had severe consequences for the people and state of IOJK but it will also have far-reaching consequences for the entire state of India and its society.
While majority of Indians are busy preparing for celebrating the abrogation of Article 370 & 35A during BJP-sponsored mega celebrations across the country, it is going to be a sad day for sane voices within India as well as for the advocates of democracy. Revocation of IOJK’s special status manifested the feared notion that seculars and democrats have lost, while the ultra-nationalist Hindutva gang have prevailed in India.
In the words of Mr. Badri Raina, a professor at Delhi University, the revocation of IOJK’s special status is a not only a complete abrogation of democracy and an unconscionable suppression of civil & democratic rights but it is also a terminal alienation of the Kashmiri people from the Indian ‘republic’ and its purported vision.
BJP, in an attempt to score some quick political mileage, went back on the promises made by India’s forefathers such as such as Nehru and Sardar Patel, with the people of IOJK after partition of the Indian sub-continent. This not only desecrated the so-called “democratic soul” of India but also falsified pro-Indian Kashmiri leaders like Sheikh Abdullah, who in his inaugural speech to the constituent assembly of IOJK on November 05, 1951;
“that the decision J&K was making would, in the decades to come, help bolster the conviction of all Indian Muslims in a secular and democratic future, guaranteed by a constitution that enshrined the principle of equality to all Indian citizens, and respect for all religious faiths. And, even more particularly, help to shore up respect for regional identities in an egalitarian, federal republic….”
Today, Sheikh Abdullah must be extremely disappointed in the betrayal handed out to him by the Indian state. This is because despite Sheikh Abdullah’s optimism, India is neither secular nor truly democratic anymore. The constitution is majorly biased against minorities and highly favours the Hindu majority. There is no concept of equality, especially after the ascent of ultra-nationalist, far-right Hindus such as Modi, Shah and Yogi into power.
The democratic farce of India is further exposed by the fact that once highly praised judiciary of India (frequently advertised as being completely independent) has been completely silent and helpless on this matter in face of Hindutva gang’s pressure. Revocation of Article 370 and 35A was an illegal move made by the central govt. of India. The move could not have been made without the “state government” which was absent for the last one year or so.
Through political manipulation, the state govt. of Chief Minister (CM) Mehbooba Mufti was reduced to a minority and federal rule was imposed after coercing the governor of the state to give consent for imposing the centre’s rule.
Ever since the BJP govt. abrogated Article 370 and 35A on August 05, 2019, the govt. of India also imposed a strict clampdown in the state of IOJK. There have been no internet facilities in the state for the last one year. The state has been physically and virtually cut off from the rest of the world. There is complete media blackout in IOJK.
There is an indefinite curfew in the state. The BJP-led govt. of India was well aware of the consequences of such political manoeuvring that in order to keep things under tight control, that since August 05 last year, there is no freedom of opinion in IOJK, no right to free assembly, no peaceful protests and no permission to the elected members of the Indian parliament to visit IOJK. Even the local Kashmiri political leadership, (nationalist and centrist) is either in jail or under house arrest.
To make matters worse, in March 2020, the BJP govt. introduced a new ‘Domicile Law’ for IOJK in which non-Kashmiris will now not only be able to purchase property in IOJK but anyone who acquires residentship will be eligible for jobs, scholarships and state-offered opportunities in the state.
According to the BJP leadership, the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A as well as the imposition of the new Domicile Law will aid in repairing IOJK’s ruptured relationship with the centre, bring IOJK at par with rest of India’s states, and usher in a new era of development, equality and dignity for all in IOJK.
But contrary to the ‘political’ statements issued by the BJP leadership and the narrative propagated by the bigoted Indian media, the ground realities tell a different story. Majority of local and international political experts believe that Article 370 and 35A were revoked to set the stage for the controversial Domicile Law in an attempt to pave way for bringing a demographic change in IOJK. It was BJP’s attempt to turn the only Muslim majority in IOJK into a minority.
This argument is further strengthened by the fact that various other states in India such as Himachal Pradesh, tribal regions of Telangana, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Nagaland (to name a few) enjoy almost the same special status provisions but none has faced such a discriminatory behaviour from the centre as IOJK – a Muslim majority state.
Economic observers have observed that unlike the green pastures presented by the BJP leadership to support their abrogation move, there are no signs of development or any economic activity in IOJK since August 05, 2019. There have been no investors coming to the state and there don’t seem any future prospects for any economic activity as the govt. has so far been unsuccessful in giving any economic roadmap as well.
Schools, colleges, offices, and other local business have been continuously shut since August 05 last year. The tourism industry in IOJK has been dead as well while the local economy has entirely collapsed leaving the people of IOJK with no means to earn a living.
As per legal scholars, the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A along with the Domicile Law will encourage “demographic flooding” of IOJK and render indigenous Kashmiris totally stateless who are unable to prove their residency and obtain a certificate. The experts fear that the local people will become a minority and the people of IOJK will bear serious political, social and economic consequences.
Technically speaking, IOJK, after August 05’s move was reduced to an alienated union territory, which is run by an un-elected civil servant and does not even have its own elected assembly.
Under the garb of govt. imposed curfew (post August 05, 2019), the intensity of Indian state-sponsored terrorism and brutalities have increased beyond imagination. Matters were made worse due to the further strict lockdown due to the spread of novel Corona virus. This situation made the innocent people of IOJK into sitting ducks for the Indian Occupying Forces (IOF) to prey upon.
Forced kidnappings, extra-judicial killings, fake search operations, harassment and other conflict related sexual violence (including rape) has become a norm in IOJK now. Besides all this, the IOF are also resorting to the illegal use of tear gas and pellet guns. Thousands of innocent young Kashmiris have been killed by the IOF in fake encounters by terming them militants.
Despite Indian govt.’s strict clampdown in IOJK, the armed struggle of the Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination rages on, and with more intensity.Contrary to the expectations and assessment of the Indian leadership, the resolve of the Kashmiri people did not break and their faith in their just cause remains stronger than ever. The current situation and reaction of the people of IOJK should be a signal for the Indian leadership that any attempts to bring about a demographic change in the state will be counter-productive and further exacerbate the situation.
In a move to divert the public’s attention from its own incompetence and various other significant issues faced by India, the BJP leadership decided to initiate the controversial move to abrogate Article 370 and 35A. This manoeuvre has not only disgraced ‘secular & democratic’ values of the Indian state but has also highlighted the impending issues of ultra-nationalism and Hindutva extremism.
Time will soon reveal the real consequences of this decision as P. Chidambaram, a senior leader in the opposition Congress Party described the decision as a ‘catastrophic step’ and stated:
“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 (August 05, 2019).”