Exactly one year ago, on August 5th 2019, a 72-year wait was over. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a watershed moment for India Abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This reversed the political blunder committed by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru regarding the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian parliament had just voted to integrate the State of Jammu and Kashmir fully and finally with the Union of India. The State had also been bifurcated into two Union territories- Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The move is undoubtedly a huge leap forward towards global peace, dismantling the war-like ambiance of Kashmir and cutting off the lifelines of radical terrorism from across the border.
To understand the nuances of this historic move, one needs to appreciate the complexity of the Kashmir story. On August 14th 1947, India was partitioned to create an Islamic theocratic State of Pakistan and a Secular State-India. In the last 72 years since, Pakistan has instigated and coincidently lost all of it’s four wars with India. The main issue of contention for Pakistan is ownership of Kashmir- an area that was given the same choice as all the other princely states in 1947 to pick between India and Pakistan. While the ruler of Kashmir, Raja Hari Singh wanted more time to decide, Pakistan sent in tribals along with militants to occupy Kashmir. Hari Singh consequently asked the Indian government for help which the Indian government agreed to, only in return for Kashmir’s accession into India.
The Raja agreed and an Instrument of Accession was signed on October 26th 1947, which is the legal and legitimate document integrating Kashmir with the rest of India. The Indian army was sent in and defeated the incoming militant Pakistani army. The Pakistani army was defeated however never fully retreated back into it’s own sovereign territory and occupied a small part of Kashmir illegally which is called it “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir” (POK) or “Azaad Kashmir”. It remains illegally occupied by Pakistan to this day. Upon the accession of Kashmir into India, a new chief minister was appointed, Sheikh Abdullah and in 1950 he introduced the Article 370 into the Indian constitution. This Article gave Kashmir “Special status” and was only supposed to be a “Temporary and Transient” to be revoked which had not happened till August 5, 2019.
For the past 73 years, the Pakistani army has had tragic illusions of a Kashmir accession due to it’s Muslim makeup. It has absolutely no moral or legal claims over Kashmir. Because Kashmir borders Pakistan, there is a regular dose of indoctrination, Islamic ideological support and a push for separatism. Weapons and terrorists are regularly transported across the border turning it into a war zone. The LOC- (Line of Control) between India and Pakistan is the most militarized zone in the world and India is forced to spend a large portion of its budget on it’s military and in the procurement of Nuclear weapons in the name of Defense. Today, to protect it’s 1.3 Billion citizens, it has to the most armed nation and the largest arms buyer in the world.
The articles that were revoked are Articles 370 and 35 A. 370 isolated Kashmir from the rest of the country and let the state of Kashmir be ruled by its own laws. Article 35A was incredibly discriminatory and 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 religious minorities, LGBTQ community and women. A Kashmiri woman who married a non- Kashmiri man would lose all her state, inheritance and property rights. However, a Kashmiri man could marry a non-Kashmiri woman and she would gain full state rights. Foreign investment was not allowed into the state leaving the youth vulnerable to recruitment into ISIS and insurgent groups. This isolated Kashmir from the rest of India creating lot of animosity, confusion of identity and rising radical Islamic terrorism.
The removal of these articles were made in the Indian parliament in a completely democratic process with an overwhelming two-thirds majority in both the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament. The Modi government which was able to resolve this issue without firing a bullet, by a parliamentary vote. The only actors unhappy with this decision were the secessionists, terrorists, Pakistani army and covert elements.
The United States President, Donald Trump met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019 expressing a desire to “mediate between the two countries”. He has no jurisprudence to do so and the Indian Government affirmed this by sending out the message that anything to do with Kashmir is an “Internal” matter of India. During the same meeting, Imran Khan also stated that there are atleast 45,000 terrorists in Pakistan. This came right after former US Secretary of Defense, General Mattis issued a statement that Pakistan is ‘the most dangerous country in the world’. The US has given billions in ‘aid’ to Pakistan which often went into it’s terror industry and Nuclear proliferation program. It is the Pakistan ISI propping up Taliban forces that thwart the peace process in Afghanistan and put US Troops in harm’s way.
In preparation for this watershed moment, the government had sent around 50,000 troops to Kashmir to ensure that law and order would be maintained. In order to manage any violent riots or civil unrest, a lockdown was imposed in the Kashmir Valley. An Internet shutdown was implemented to ensure that insurgency and separatist militia don’t mobilize through digital apps which had been the Modus Operandi for the Valley. India needed to have high security and counter-terrorism measures to protect all citizens and it’s sovereignty.
For too long in Kashmir, power had been enjoyed only by separatists and a few political families in power. These former leaders are currently detained in house arrest and the move was actually welcome by Kashmiri residents. There have been almost no terrorist attacks in the valley since the lockdown of August 2019, proving this as an important move for India. Terrorism is at an all-time low in the valley and things are beginning to come back to normalcy. This move corrected a historic wrong and relegated the Kashmiri leadership of the past into the dustbins of history forever, where they belong.