Indian-administered Kashmir has been under an unprecedented lockdown since last week after India revoked Article 370, a constitutional provision granting the region special status. Sumantra Bose, professor of international and comparative politics at the London School of Economics (LSE), explains why the decision is fraught with challenges.

At the end of October, Jammu and Kashmir will cease to be a state of India.

Last week, India's parliament approved by a large majority the decision by the federal government to split the state into two union territories - Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Union territories have much less autonomy from the federal government than states do, and are essentially subject to Delhi's direct rule.

Almost 98% of the erstwhile state's population will be in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, comprising two regions - the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, which has about eight million people, and the Hindu-majority Jammu, which has about six million. The third region, the newly created union territory of Ladakh, is a high-altitude desert inhabited by 300,000 people, with almost equal numbers of Muslims and Buddhists.

Last week's events fulfilled a Hindu nationalist demand dating back to the early 1950s: the abrogation of Article 370.

Hindu nationalists have for seven decades vehemently denounced Article 370 as an example of "appeasement" of India's only Muslim-majority state. This objection to Article 370 was also congruent with the Hindu nationalists' ideological belief that India should be a unitary and centralised nation-state.

The "reorganisation" of Jammu and Kashmir also reflects a longstanding Hindu nationalist agenda.

In 2002 the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the core organisation of the Hindu nationalist movement, demanded the state be divided into three parts: a separate Hindu-majority Jammu state; the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley; plus union territory status for Ladakh.

Simultaneously the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an RSS affiliate, called for the state to be divided into four parts: a separate Jammu state and Ladakh as a union territory, plus the carving out of a sizeable area, also with union territory status, in the Kashmir valley to be inhabited solely by Kashmiri Pandits, the valley's small Hindu minority who were forced to leave nearly en masse when insurgency erupted there in 1990.

Under the VHP plan, what remained of the Kashmir Valley would then be left to the Muslim majority.

 

The claim made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah that the autonomy enshrined by Article 370 is the cause of "separatism" in Jammu and Kashmir is disingenuous.

That autonomy had already been largely stripped away by a series of integrative measures imposed on the state by federal governments between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s.

After the mid-1960s, what remained of Article 370 was largely symbolic - a state flag, a state constitution from the 1950s that was not much more than a sheaf of paper, and a state penal code left over from the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir that existed from 1846 to 1947.

Article 35A, which prevents outsiders from buying land or property in the state and assures priority in jobs to state residents, continued to apply. But again, its provisions were not unique to Jammu and Kashmir.

A number of Indian states including the north Indian states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab, as well as several states in India's north-eastern periphery, have very similar protections for native residents.

The actual cause of "separatism" in the state, which exploded in insurgency in 1990, was the de facto revocation of its autonomy in the 1950s and 1960s and the manner in which it was effected: through the collusion of puppet local governments installed by Delhi and by turning the place into a police state ruled by draconian laws.

By stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and dismembering it - an action without precedent in post-Independence India- the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has gone far beyond that.

The edifice of the Indian Union is built on states (29, soon to become 28), moderately autonomous of Delhi. India's union territories - there are seven, set to increase to nine from 31 October - have little to none of the status and powers enjoyed by the states.

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