Kashmir, a state bordering India, Pakistan, and China, has been victim to dispute over who should govern it since 1947 when India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain. Pakistan reasons that since Kashmir is a Muslim majority state (its population is more than 68 per cent Muslim), it should belong to a Muslim majority nation. However, Kashmir’s local ruler Maharaja Hari Singh—who was Hindu—decided to join India in October 1947 in exchange for India’s help in fighting against an invasion by Pakistani tribesmen. Currently, Kashmir is separated into three regions: Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan-administered Azad-Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and China-controlled Aksai Chin.
Amnesty International reports how this conflict has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians, violation of countless human rights—especially towards women—torture, diminished freedoms, and numerous forms of abuse by the police and military. Year after year, tensions continue to escalate between the two nuclear powers.
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was created in the 1950’s and served to provide the state of Jammu and Kashmir with more autonomy by granting them governance of provincial issues excluding defense, foreign affairs, and communications. Later on, India added Article 35-A, defending the employment, education, and property ownership rights of permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, decided to repeal articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution on August 5, 2019.
By repealing these articles, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is now essentially controlled by India with little to no autonomy and the residents no longer have their rights protected.
Sadanand Dhume, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, reports the aftermath of this decision in the The Atlantic. Following Modi’s decision, over 800 people have been pre-emptively arrested, past chief ministers placed on house arrest, schools and offices shut down, protests met with violence, media suspended, phone and internet services disabled, and much more, among which none are new to the state or people of Kashmir.
Shivaji Mukherjee, an assistant professor in the political science department at UTM, discusses the recent tensions in an article for The Toronto Star. He describes the potential implications of certain laws being repealed and voices his concern of how these acts of oppression “may lead to a resurgence of insurgency by aggrieved youth.” Additionally, the threat of nuclear attack continues to exist between India and Pakistan, which would be catastrophic globally.
With the countless negative consequences of Modi’s seemingly sudden decision, we must ask why he chose to revoke the articles in the first place.
A BBC report, “Article 370: What happened with Kashmir and why it matters,” outlines the logics of the decision. Modhi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right wing Hindu nationalist party. The BJP has opposed the articles from when they were first introduced to constitution in the 1950’s. During Modi’s re-election this May, he included revoking the articles in his election manifesto. Modi and the BJP justify their decision by claiming that it will help integrate Kashmir with the rest of India, promote development, and reduce insurgency.
In reality, the changes to the constitution force Kashmir to adopt Indian law without input from the Kashmiri government. Furthermore, Kashmiris fear that the BJP’s ulterior motive involves rendering it a Hindu majority state instead of Muslim because non-Kashmiris can now own land in the region. With the BJP’s political ideology and history of dissent with decisions regarding Kashmir, these fears may be reflective of the BJP’s true motive.
Additionally, although the United Nations and several other groups or nations have spoken out against the human rights violations and oppression in Kashmir, direct intervention and pressure is needed to preserve the rights of civilians, especially Indigenous groups now that the constitution of India no longer protects them.