India’s central government has just made the region of Jammu and Kashmir a colony in its entirety, annulling Article 370 of the Indian constitution whereby the Kashmiri as a people had enjoyed a special status and autonomy by law since India’s annexation of the disputed territory on 27 October 1947 following the Instrument of Accession signed by the then Kashmir’s ruling Maharaja Hari Singh.
If the annulment were rightful, the ruling BJP government would never have to put a clampdown on the territory cutting off phone networks, the electricity and internet and keeping communications blackout so that no news or reports of what’s going on can be communicated to the outside world from there. Known as the most militarized zone in the world, Kashmir is now under an unprecedented security lock-down, causing severe hardship for the lives of millions. Top leaders of the territory have still been under house arrest. In view of the imposition of Section 144, some 35 thousand more troops till now have been deployed to bar the people from taking to streets to protest against the annulment. Yet, according to latest reports, the troops have indiscriminately shot at crowds of protesters in Srinagar, with 6 killed and more than 100 injured. The people joining demonstrations still keep their protest disregarding the curfew. The current situation seems much like the one in Palestine.
India has also abrogated Article 35A of its constitution where the State’s legislature is given the authority to define ‘who are permanent residents of the State of Jammu and Kashmir’ and there are restrictions for those who are outside the State in buying land there and having employment under —and right to scholarships provided by— the State Government. It’s a Hindutva agenda of the Hindu nationalist to change the current demographic state of the Muslim-majority State, hence the need for the abrogation. Now that the article has been scrapped, they have no constitutional barrier to settling Hindu people from the other States of India in large numbers into the State so as to augment the number of the Hindu population in relation to that of the Muslim population. By doing so, the Hindutva authorities think to occupy the State to a far greater extent, thereby turning India into nothing less than an occupier like Israel from now onward.
Based on the Instrument of Accession, Article 370 of the Indian constitution entrusts India with three matters: defence, foreign affairs and communications, and the Kashmiri will take decisions and measures on their own about all other matters except for the three. In addition, it was stipulated that when India needs to take a measure or a decision as for Jammu and Kashmir, these have to be accepted or allowed by the State’s legislature. But surprisingly enough, in defiance of such a condition of the historical agreement and what the Kashmiri people think and say, the government has revoked it even with no regard to criticisms from opposition parties. In addition, given the fact that the Instrument of Accession has everything to do with the very article of the Indian constitution, what right does the central government have to scrap it alone unless the State’s legislature gives consent?!
Under the circumstances, Pakistan has already sorely protested against the annulments and expelled India’s high commissioner and suspend trade with India. There seems to be major unrest arising between the two countries. India and Pakistan have indulged in a blatant confrontation ever since India annexed the territory. Even around the very Kashmir crisis, two all-out wars took place between them in 1947 and 1965, respectively. According to the Resolution 47 passed by the UN Security Council on 21 April 1948, the United Nations called on both countries to reach a ceasefire and withdraw their forces from the disputed territory and proposed a plebiscite to be held for the Kashmiri to decide whether they would go with the Indian Union or Pakistan. But the plebiscite has not yet been possible to hold due to stubborn suspicion and distrust between the two rivals. So, it goes beyond saying that the seed of Indo-Pak conflicts consists of the Kashmir crisis.
The Instrument of Accession, however, is the legal basis of the relationship between India and Kashmir; otherwise, Kashmir was never part of India before. In addition, the territory used to relish self-determination over the course of the British regime, though remaining a princely state. But the accession followed no plebiscite, hence making it unfair at all. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been struggling for liberation since then in the face of often atrocious, brutal oppression by India.
As is so often the case, India brands the Kashmiri freedom fighters as terrorists, as does Israel in the case of the Palestinian ones. The Kashmiri don’t feel familiar with India’s national values, which is because India has obnoxiously failed to win their hearts thus far. Those in the territory who are fighting and resisting the Indian occupation appear to any rational, just minds to be freedom fighters, not terrorists.
A lesser people or nation, when unbearably depressed and bereft of their human rights and dignity under —or if occupied by— some other greater one, are supposed to be fighting to get rid of subjugation and repression as well as secure their freedom and self-dignity. But the way for a political negotiation being of no avail, their struggle results in a combat or guerilla war by default. Ergo, this has nothing to do with terrorism, but rightfulness. As a nation against subjugation and injustice, the people of Bangladesh, however, will never look the other way in the case of India subduing the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They are strongly condemning India’s serious violation of human rights and the unjust occupation and support the fighting Kashmiri people until they have succeeded in their cause of freedom and justice. Freedom is the greatest desire for a subjugated people; whether it is Palestine or Kashmir, the ultimate solution is freedom needing to be secured by any means.
If there is to be a sense of sustainable peace in South Asia, the Kashmir crisis must be solved above all else. As Articles 370 and 35A are scrapped, now there is a peaceful suggestion that the Kashmiri people decide their destiny by themselves through the plebiscite proposed by the UN; otherwise, there are two options for India: either win the hearts of the Kashmiri by treating them as dignified citizens with human rights and self-determination or face bloody attacks and resistance from them and, by extension, lose the heavenly land some day or other. Now it is up to India to decide which one to choose.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Tarequl Islam is a Bangladesh-based political analyst and journalist. He specializes in the Middle East and South Asian affairs and geopolitics.