One year has been passed since India scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s unique status, as given in the Indian Constitution’s Articles 370 and 35(A). In order to change the demographic position in Jammu and Kashmir, India took measures in reverse to fill the Muslim majority valley with non-Muslims.
On August 5, 2019, PM Narendra Modi did far more than abrogating Article 370. This has ruined Kashmir both constitutionally and politically. Indian Illegally occupied Kashmir (IIOK) was not only stripped and relegated to ‘union territory’ but the constitutional amendment also radically changed the whole political environment.
Kashmiris have been living in terror of an ambiguous status given by the Indian Government for over 70 years and always feared for the expected change in the demography and status of IIOK. Such anxieties have now been completely justifiable and deepened, which perceived to be ridiculous and unwarranted at one point by the international community.
The Articles scrapped by the Modi regime once promised that anyone who received permanent residence by inheritance should have the freedom to purchase and hold property or to qualify for government employment. Articles 370 and 35(A) were also a deterrent to private investment by outsiders or attempts by major multinational corporations to gain ownership of the land and economy of IIOK. It at least safeguarded the interests of Kashmiris and offered them a certain degree of political and economic autonomy. In parallel to the domicile privileges of Indian citizens, the Indian Government has declared new provisions for legal framework IIOK. Experts and locals are worried that these new laws would shift the demographic proportion of the Himalayan region with a Muslim majority.
As per new domicile law, “those who have resided for a period of 15 years in Indian-administered Kashmir or studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10/12 examinations in educational institutions located in the region are now eligible to become permanent residents.” The citizens of Kashmir have unanimously resisted efforts to alter the demographics of this area after the introduction of domicile provision. The BJP government is aggressively seeking to clear the way for non-Kashmiri citizens to establish a permanent settlement in IIOK. While Kashmiris have shown apprehensions on the issue of permanent settlements, the experts are claiming that it would trigger “demographic flooding.”
In Kashmir, resentments of demographic change have existed for decades which are further aggravated by Hindu right-wing groups openly calling for a change in the demography of Kashmir and integrationist politics. India has initiated a planned strategy to replicate the West Bank pattern of colonization like Israeli model in Kashmir, towards the displacement of local citizens, particularly Kashmiri Muslims through new settlers, to exert hegemonic influence. When attending a conference with the Kashmiri Hindus, a serving Indian diplomat in America claimed that “Kashmiri culture is Indian culture; it is Hindu culture” and he lauded Israel’s inhuman strategy of dealing West Bank settlements.
Indian abrogation of Articles 370 and 35(A) has taken the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir back to the status it had before the partition of 1947. Such Indian intervention has now increased the case for a free and fair plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Why couldn’t we now hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir when a referendum can be conducted in the KPK, in lieu of the Muslim majority areas, before partition to determine its position.
The Indian forces are attacking Muslim Kashmiris out of rage, indignation, and retaliation, as they have struggled to subdue their opposition in the valley despite their oppressive and violent control on IIOK. Kashmiri Muslims are struggling against coercion for their survival and right to live, while the Indian army is lacking conviction and devotion. Recently, Indian security forces pulled Ahmed Khan, 65-year-old, out of his car and murdered him in front of his 3-year-old grandchild in Sopore, a region in IIOK. The picture of the toddler sitting on his grandfather’s chest has just shown a glimpse of the Indian army’s brutality in IOK.
A year of siege and lockdown in IOK has brought unimaginable fallouts on Muslim Kashmiris in difficult times when the world is fighting against the extreme challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has said that “8 million Kashmiris continue to be cut off from the absolutely vital information that is needed to prevent the spread of the pandemic when people under lockdown all over the world are using the internet to work, communicate and get information.” Imagine a community that does not have accessibility to connect to the Internet during a Covid-19 pandemic. It is the inhuman truth which actually faced by Muslim majority IIOK in the last one year.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.