India Ends Kashmir Autonomy

By Preity Upala

A 72-year wait is over today. Prime minister Narendra Modi of India has reversed the political blunder committed by Jawaharlal Nehru with regards to the state of Kashmir. It is a day that will be remembered as the day history was rewritten. People will be talking this decision and the way it happened for decades to come.

The Indian parliament has voted to integrate the state of Kashmir fully and finally with the rest of India. Something the county has been longing for 72 years but previous governments have lacked the political will to do so. This move will pave the way for the full integration of Kashmir with the union of India

The state has also been bifurcated and turned into two Union territories, Jammu which is Hindu majority and Kashmir will be one entity and Ladakh, a Buddhist majority, will be another. This ensures the centeral governmet has control over these regions and treats Ladakh, which has long been neglected, as a separate territory.

In some ways, this is a huge leap forward toward global peace, dismantling the war-like ambience of Kashmir and cutting off the lifelines of radical terrorism from across the border.

Kashmir has been Hindu land for over 5000 years and is the nucleaous of the Vedas which gave birth o Vedic sciences such as Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda Vedanta etc. it has only for the last several decades has become Muslim majority sadly, eroding the cultural heritage which is matter of grave injustice for many who would like to preserve it.

To understand the nuances of this historic move, one needs to appreciate the complexity of the state of Kashmir. Pakistan used to be part of India till 1947 when there was a partition to create a Muslim state- Pakistan and a Hindu dominated secular state- India. In the last 72 years however there have been four wars instigated by Pakistan with India and numerous terrorist attacks. The main issue of contention between the two countries is the ownership of Kashmir- a state that was given the same choice as all the other princely states in 1947 to pick between India and Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir at the time, Raja Hari Singh wanted more time to decide but when Pakistani army occupied it, it eventually did go with India signing an Instrument of Accession in 1948, which is a legal and legitimate document integrating it with the rest of India. So since 1948, Kashmir is a legitimate and lawful part of India. The Pakistani army however never fully retreated and even today occupied a territory illegally and has called it “Pakistan- occupied territory” POK or “Azaad Kashmir”. No Indian army has ever fought to get this area back.

For the past 70 years or so, Pakistani army has never come to terms with the reality that a Muslim majority state like Kashmir would actually go with Hindu India, and to this day, they feel Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan. It however has Zero moral or legal case over Kashmir. Because Kashmir borders Pakistan, there is sadly a regular dose of indoctrination and Islamic ideological support and a push for a separate state. Weapons and terrorism are regularly transported across the vulnerable border turning this into a war zone.

The articles that have been revoked are Articles 370 and Articles 35 a. These are incredibly discriminatory which only served a few families in power. Article 370 grants "Special status" to Kashmir- it's own flag, own constitution and autonomy of the internal administration of Kashmir. It was supposed to be temporary and transient but has remained for almost 70 years. Article 35 a decides who is a Kashmiri and who is not. It does not allow a non- Kashmiri to buy land or own property in Kashmir. The majority of Kashmir is Muslim by design so this directly discriminated against the Hindus. It also discriminated not just on religion but also gender. A Kashmiri woman who marries a non- Kashmiri man will loose all her state, inheritance and property rights. However, a Kashmiri man could marry a non- Kashmiri woman, even a Pakistani woman and she will gain full state rights. Foreign investment was also not allowed into the state leaving the youth vulnerable to recruitment into ISIS and insurgent groups. But more important than the details of these bills, these articles isolated Kashmir from the rest of India creating lot of animosity, confusing of identity and rising radical Islamic terrorism.

Its must be noted that the removal of these articles were made in the Indian parliament, in a completely democratic process with an overwhelming two-thirds majority. This demonstrates that it was approved across all party lines. Only a handful of political parties opposed this bill, manly the Congress Party and the Communist party of India as they had benefited from this political unrest in Kashmir. It also did not serve their ideology. It was a masterstroke by the Modi government who were able to resolve this issue without firing a bullet, by a parliamentary vote.

There are actors who are unhappy with this decision- the secessionists, terrorists, Pakistani army and the subversives. In preparation for this watershed moment, the government had sent an additional 50,000 troops to Kashmir to ensure law and order. The move has been welcomed without any disapproval from the international community.

This comes just after US President Donald Trump met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran khan and said that he would like to “mediate between the two countries”. However he has no jurisprudence to do so and it has been well noted that any matter between India and Pakistan will be resolved bilaterally without any third party interference. This move by the Indian government affirms this and sends out a strong message that anything to do with specifically with Kashmir will now be an “Internal” matter only to be solved by India itself.

No doubt there will be riots, civil unrest and curfews imposed for the next few months. There will be birthing pains but it will be worth it in the end. For too long, the power was only enjoyed by separatists and a few families in power. This move will right this historic wrong and relegate the Kashmiri leadership of the past into the dustbins of history forever, where they belong.


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