Independent Kashmir: What It Means For Kashmir?


 

“Gar Firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast,” means that if there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here....... 

Spoken in awe by the great poet Amir Khusrau, universally acknowledge Kashmir as “heaven on earth”. Kashmir is a land of legendary beauty. It’s true that there is something extremely charming and heavenly about this place. Kashmir is resplendent with Chinar trees that turn the entire valley yellow and red as autumn arrives, silver lakes that turn gold in the light of dawn and the jewel blue river that are souls of the ice-cold mountains. 

There is a kind of beauty that can never be described in words, it must be experienced.

Why is Kashmir Controversial?

Kashmir is a Himalayan region that both India and Pakistan say is fully theirs. The area was once a princely state called Jammu and Kashmir. But it joined India in 1947 soon after the sub-continent was divided up at the end of British rule. 

India and Pakistan subsequently went to war over it and each came to control different parts of the territory with a ceasefire line agreed. There has been violence in the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir for 30 years due to a separatist insurgency against Indian rule.

Is there freedom in paradise? If yes, where does it lie? Is it veiled amidst the verdant vegetation or sheltered softly beneath the snow? Does it scream from the hilltops or serenade from the skies? Or does it gush out from rivulets to rest upon the rock of eternity?

Kashmir is an open cage, the people here never think of the future. It is difficult to imagine that there was a time when the Indian forces were welcomed in sections of Kashmir (that they were in favour of ascending India )and seen as saviours from the Pathan rebels ( believed to have been sponsored by Pakistan ) in 1947-1948. 

During operation Gibraltar, Pakistan’s mission to infiltrate Jammu & Kashmir in 1965. Kashmiris had refused to give in to separatists offer to share valuable information with the Indian troops. But the situation is starkly today when the Army and the entire police apparatus are seen in Kashmir as agents of the occupational strategy of the government of India.

How Significant Is Article 370?

The article allowed the state a certain amount of autonomy - its own constitution, a separate flag, and freedom to make laws. Foreign affairs, defense and communications remained the preserve of the central government. As a result, Jammu and Kashmir could make its own rules relating to permanent residency, ownership of property, and fundamental rights. It could also bar Indians from outside the state from purchasing property or settling there.

The Scrapping of Jammu Kashmir’s Independence and Democracy 

An agreement, formally known as the Instrument of Accession, was signed in 1947 after a Pakistani invasion of Jammu and Kashmir, officially making the state an Indian territory. After this, the last ruling king of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh, and the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, appointed the first Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdulla. It was then that Abdulla and Nehru began drafting Article 370, a provision that aimed to give the people of Jammu and Kashmir independence and democracy, while also maintaining its Indian statehood. Some of the abuse heaped on Nehru is unfair.

Read more: 4 Quotes on Kashmir by Jawaharlal Nehru 

Indira Gandhi famously said that the hands of a clock don’t go backwards. For most people in the state, including many in Jammu and Ladakh, the important provision was Article 35A, which did not allow people from other parts of the country to buy land and settle in Kashmir. Most Kashmiris did not even want people from Jammu to settle in the Valley, even though large numbers of Kashmiris had settled in and around Jammu city over the previous three decades. Not just Pandits, a very large number of Muslim families from the Kashmir Valley have built winter homes in Jammu.

But the psychology coin had another face. Article 370 was also deeply embedded in the psyche of RSS and BJP adherents. Revoking it was the foundational agenda of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which preceded BJP as RSS’s wing in the political arena.

This long-standing promise has now been fulfilled. It is ironic, some might say fitting that a project that originally aimed to try and obtain an independent nation on the basis of a Muslim majority has been pushed back so uncompromisingly by the offshoots of an organisation founded to promote nationhood that would privilege India’s Hindu majority. There is, of course, a related, and more worrying, irony. Guarantees given to a Muslim majority province that the rights and identity of Muslims would not be adversely affected in a Hindu majority country have been removed just when those guarantees finally seemed relevant.

Many Kashmiri Muslims would feel they require a sense of security about their Muslim identity more urgently in the face of Hindutva dominance. The crass comments of ranking BJP leaders about boys from places like Haryana now being able to take brides from Kashmir could seem to Kashmiris like a glimpse of what might lurk in the minds of the ruling establishment.

 Is This Legal? 

According to the constitution, Article 370 could only be modified with the agreement of the State Government. But there hasn’t been much of a state government in Jammu & Kashmir over a year now. In June last year, India imposed federal rule after the government of then chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, was reduced to a minority. This meant the federal government only had to seek the consent of the governor who imposes its rule. But expert opinion is sharply divided.

Subash Kashyap stated, that the order was continually sound and that no legal and constitutional fraud can be found in it. However another constitutional expert, AG Noorani stated, it was an illegal decision, that could be challenged in the Supreme court.

Opposition political parties could launch a legal challenge but Kashmir is an emotive issue with many Indians, and most parties would be wary of opposing the move lest they be branded anti-India. That could leave any challenge up to individuals or activists. 

Entrepreneur and small-business owner, Abdul Rashid, is a Jammu and Kashmiri citizen and fears the recent legislation said, “We have got a special identity because of Article 370 and 35A. If these are removed, then what will be left?” said Rashid. “It will push the state to uncertainty…People in Kashmir will be rendered landless and homeless in their own state…There will be no jobs for locals, and it will lead to rising poverty.”

Abrogation of Article 370: Rationale and Immediate Impact

Article 370, over the decades, was diluted many times with the consent of the Kashmiris and the elected state government to facilitate integration, better administration and good governance.

According to official data, Kashmir witnessed 1,999 stone-pelting incidents in 2019 as compared to 1,458 in 2018 and 1,412 in 2017. According to recent estimates of the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) headed by the Intelligence Bureau, 400 militants are active in the Valley, increasing the possibility of heightened insurgency activities in even the border districts of Rajouri-Poonch and Kishtwar. Alarmed, the government-backed its 5 August decision by putting the entire region under an unprecedented high-security grid and a communications blackout.

If  you wish to know, check out this video on the effect of abrogation of Article 370 on Kashmir

Conclusion 

Everyone wants Kashmir but no one wants Kashmiris.

Aren’t I a miracle? A seed that survived the slaughter & slaughters to come.

I think I believe in freedom I just don’t know where it is.

I think I believe in home, I just don’t know where to look... 


Written By - Ifrah Amin

Edited By - Neha Kundu



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