The territorial dispute between India and Pakistan over the region of Kashmir started with the partition of 1947. Kashmir, at that time, was predominantly a Muslim state and was ruled by a Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh. After partition, the princely state was left to decide on its own whether to join India or Pakistan. The Maharaja hated the Congress, so he couldn’t think of joining India. But, joining Pakistan meant that the fate of his Hindu dynasty will die eventually. With vast majority of the Kashmiris having no strong affiliation to either India or Pakistan, Maharaja clung to the idea of Kashmir’s total independence. His dream was to make it the ‘Switzerland of the East’- a completely neutral state.
However, the situation turned hostile soon after when the Pathans raided the valley. Many accounts say that the attack was initiated by Pakistan, but it is still disputed. Maharaja Hari Singh then turned to India for help to push back the tribal invaders. Lord Mountbatten, however, suggested that it would be ideal to secure the Maharaja’s accession to India before sending off their troops to defend the valley. Under such circumstances, on the 26th of October 1947, the Maharaja executed the Instrument of Accession. The objective was to join India but with their own terms and conditions as laid out in the Accession.
Article 370 is the basis of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the India, which came into effect in 1949. It allows the India-administered Kashmir to make its own laws in all matters except defence, external affairs, and communication. It denies non-residents the property rights in the region. It exempts Jammu and Kashmir state from the Indian constitution and establishes a separate constitution and a separate flag. In simple terms, the residents of the state live under different laws from the rest of the country.
In 1954, through a presidential order, Article 35A- the Permanent Residents Law was introduced as an extension to the old provisions under Article 370. By this, the local legislatures in the India-administered Kashmir can define permanent residents of the region. It forbids outsiders from permanently settling, investing in properties, holding government jobs or getting scholarships in the region. The provision also bars women residents of Jammu and Kashmir from property rights in case they marry a non-resident of the state.
Indian government claims that the Instrument of Accession indicated Jammu and Kashmir’s desire to be part of India. While Pakistan claims the instrument as fraudulent and do not accept the accession of Kashmir to India. This resulted in the first Kashmir war in 1947-48, between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, after which the United Nations imposed a ceasefire on the 1st of January, 1949 with both nations agreeing that a referendum would be held in the matter of its accession. But, that referendum was never held, and the territory of the state was divided along the cease-fire line, with India getting the southeast part and Pakistan getting the northwest part of the state. One could only hope that it was the end of Kashmir controversy. However, as it turned out, it was the first of many to follow.
In 1965, Following Pakistan’s ‘Operation Gibraltar’ which was designed to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to spark off an insurgency against the Indian rule, both the nations broke into war again, which is better known as the Indo-Pak war of 1965.
Then came the war of 1971 also known as the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War’, which started with India as an ally of Bangladesh but ended as an war between India and Pakistan. The result of which was the Shimla Agreement. To restore and normalize relations between the two countries, it was agreed that “in Jammu and Kashmir, the line of control resulting from the ceasefire, shall be respected and recognised by both the nations. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations. Both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat or the use of force in violation of this line”.
Again in 1999 Kargil war was fought to flush out the infiltration of Pakistani soldiers disguised as Kashmiri militants into position on the Indian side of Kashmir. Thus, it is quite evident that Kashmir has always been a matter of controversy between India and Pakistan with both claiming the region fully as theirs, but owning only partially.
The revocation of Article 370 and Article 35A, which gave Kashmir the special status as an autonomous state for 70 years, is a long made promise fulfilled by BJP by shunning the ideas of democracy, cooperative federalism, and individual liberty, that our constitution upholds. The government used its rigid legislative authority to demote the status of Jammu and Kashmir from a state to Union territories, without so much as a room for consultation with the people of the state or their representatives. Thousands of Indian troops were deployed to Kashmir, schools and colleges of the area were shut down, local and democratic leaders were detained or put under house arrest, tourists were ordered to leave, a major Hindu pilgrimage was cancelled, free movement of the people in the region was stopped, and communication was suspended.
In the name of correcting a ‘historic blunder’, the government tossed aside the terms and conditions laid down in the Instrument of Accession. The move will change Jammu and Kashmir’s administrative status from a state to a union territory. The remote area of Ladakh will be separated from Kashmir and turned into a stand alone Union territory. Jammu & Kashmir, will no longer have a separate flag and a separate constitution. All Indian laws will be automatically applicable to Jammu & Kashmir. Non residents now can buy property there, join government jobs and avail educational scholarships.
The culture, demographic and history of Kashmir has always been different from that of other parts of India. Since, the start of the insurgency in India-administered Kashmir, government has had a patchy relationship with Kashmir and they have struggled to fully understand the needs and sentiments of the Kashmiris. The youths of Kashmir have always harboured a sense of alienation from the rest of the India, which will only deepen further now. By allowing non residents to settle down in Kashmir will incorrigibly tarnish the demographic status of the region, saving which was the basic agenda of Article 370 in the first place.
This is not the first time the Modi government had made a stealthy decision and forced the nation to deal with the devastating consequences. The wounds from demonitisation is still fresh. The special status of Jammu and Kashmir was never meant to be permanent, but to scrap it hastily without the concurrence of it’s people raise nothing but suspicion and distrust. In the name of national integration, it looks like a planned, well thought out step to attain complete safforanisation.
Written on 7th of August, 2019.