A 72-year wait is over today. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reversed the political blunder committed by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947 with regards to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It is a day that will be remembered as the day history was rewritten. People will be talking about this decision and the way it happened for decades to come.
India’s parliament has voted with absolute majority to integrate the state of J&K fully and finally with the rest of India, something the country has been longing for 72 years but previous governments lacked the political will to deliver. This move will pave the way for the full integration of J&K with the union of India.
The state has also been bifurcated and turned into two Union territories, Hindu-majority Jammu & Muslim-majority Kashmir regions will together be one entity, and Buddhist-majority Ladakh will be another. This ensures the central government 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 towards global peace, dismantling the war-like ambience of Kashmir and cutting off the lifelines of radical terrorism from across the border.
Kashmir has been a major centre of the Hindu civilization for over 5000 years – the very name Kashmir comes from ‘Kashyapmir’ or land of the ancient Vedic sage Kashyap. It has produced a galaxy of great sages and scholars like Abhinavagupta, Patanjali etc who made it a vibrant seat of learning, arts, sciences, literature and philosophy. It is also the home of Yoga in the world. After the Islamic invasion, it went on to become Muslim majority, but the degradation of Kashmir’s Indic heritage really escalated after the 1989-90 ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley.
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 it was decided that India would be partitioned into two parts, a Muslim state- Pakistan and a Hindu state – India. By the very nature of being Hindu, India was deemed as secular, allowing all religions to live including Islam.
The main issue of contention between the two countries is 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 Pakistan sent tribal militias and its Army to invade Kashmir, Hari Singh appealed to India for help and signed an Instrument of Accession on October 26th 1947, which is a legal and legitimate document integrating Kashmir with the rest of India.
So since Oct 1947, Kashmir has been a legitimate and lawful part of India. However, the Pakistani Army never fully retreated and even today occupies a territory illegally which is “Pakistan-occupied Jammu & Kashmir” POJK. India has till now not initiated any war to win back this territory.
2 years after accession of Jammu & Kashmir to Bharat, Article 370 was added to the Constitution as a temporary provision to give Kashmir “special status” – it’s own constitution, own flag and anthem. This was only supposed to be a temporary provision, which sadly was never revoked or altered.
In the last 72 years, however, Pakistan instigated four wars with India, and has carried out a “death-by-1000-cuts” proxy war using jihadi terrorists for over 30 years now. The Pakistani Army has never come to terms with the reality that a Muslim majority state like Kashmir would actually go with Hindu-majority 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 35A. These are incredibly discriminatory, which only served a few families in power. Article 370 limited the Centre’s authority to just external affairs, defence, finance and communication.
Article 35A did 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 citizens from the rest of the country. This Article allowed the J&K Government to decide who is a Kashmiri and who is not. It discriminated not just on religion, but also gender.
Apart from denying ‘permanent resident’ rights to Hindu refugees from West Pakistan & sanitation workers (mostly Dalit Hindus) brought from other states, Article 35A also ensured that a Kashmiri woman who marries a non-Kashmiri man will lose all her inheritance and property rights. However, a Kashmiri man could marry a non-Kashmiri woman, even a Pakistani woman, and his wife would gain full rights.
Outside 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 Bharat creating lot of animosity, confusion of identity and rising radical Islamic terrorism.
Its must be noted that the removal of these articles was made in Bharat’s 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, mainly the Congress Party and the Communist Party of India as they had benefited from this political unrest in Kashmir, and integration of J&K did not serve their divisive ideology. It was a masterstroke by the Modi government which was able to resolve this contentious issue by a simple parliamentary vote.
There are actors who are unhappy with this decision – the secessionists, terrorists, Pakistani army and the subversives within Bharat. 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 reportedly 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 Bharat 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 Kashmir will now be an “internal matter” only to be solved by India itself.
No doubt, we have seen civil unrest and curfews in the troubled Kashmir valley to curb the uprising and terrorism and this will continue over the next few months. There will be birthing pains, but it will be worth it in the end. For too long, power in Kashmir 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.
This article is written by Preity Upala, a political editor and commentator based in California, USA. Preity specializes in Geo-politics, International Affairs, Conflict-resolution, Religion and Spirituality. You may contact her at: email@example.com