On 5th August in 2019 Indian Government cut off all mobile, internet, landline communications and TV for India’s northern border state of Kashmir, putting all the citizens in lockdown, arresting 2 ex Chief Ministers, arresting 100s of political leaders & activists, filling Kashmir with even more soldiers than normal, depriving it of a legislature and of statehood — all in the name of national integration.
I always thought of Kashmir being the litmus test of Indian liberalism. So many who questioned the Indian Government in the past have suddenly come out as ‘nationalists‘. Kashmir unites us in bigotry like nothing else. Many elite Hindus appear to be progressive/liberal but scratch the surface a bit and you are back to square one.
Historical Context To Kashmir:
In the last 500 years the region of Kashmir:
- Was conquered by the Mughal emperor Akbar and the rule lasted roughly 200 years.
- Until the the Afghans briefly conquered it in 1751 for 68 years.
- In 1819 the conquering armies of Sikh empire’s Ranjeet Singh’s captured the Kashmir valley and later his general, the little Napoleon of India, Zoravar Singh Kahluaria captured Rajouri, Kargil, Ladakh, Baltistan thereby surrounding the Kashmir valley. Sikh rule over Kashmir lasted just 26 years.
- Until 1846 when the British beat the Sikh at the first Anglo Sikh empire and gave Kashmir to the British collaborator, Raja of Jammu. Making Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu into the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.
- In 1947 India and Pakistan were born out of British India. There were 100s of princely states within which had the option to join India or Pakistan, ideally via plebiscite determining the will of the people. Pakistan jumped the gun on Kashmir and invaded. Panicked Raja of Kashmir asked India for military help. India asked the Raja to sign the instrument of accession before any Indian troops flew to Kashmir. Raja signed the agreement. So while Pakistan gained 40% of Kashmir region via military action, most of Kashmir, along with all major population centers were held by India.
- In the 60s Pakistan gave away the North Western areas it held, Aksai Chin to China.
Accession of Kashmir:
Seeking immediate military help from India with thousands Pashtun raiders wrecking havoc in Kashmir the desperate raja signed the accession agreement for Kashmir on 27th Oct 1947. As per the document, only defense, external affairs and communications would be handed to the govt. of India. While all other sectors were to be retained by Kashmir under the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution Act, 1939.
Article 370 was therefore inserted into the Indian constitution to preserve the specific terms under which Kashmir had agreed to accede to India. As a result Kashmir was the only state in India with its own state flag, constitution.
Over the decades since the accession was signed successive Indian Governments treaded carefully over the Kashmiris by giving them Article 370 even while reducing it to a shell.
AS Daulat, former chief of RAW (India’s CIA)
‘I have said it many times that 370 is nothing, it’s only a fig leaf. So, why do you want to remove that fig leaf? Why would you want to rub the Kashmiri nose further into the ground?’
It’s important to note what ‘India’ did Kashmir join
The 20th century European model of nation state which worked for Europe with its small, hitherto largely homogeneous countries in Europe and North America was outdated and dangerous for India.
India is unique among the community of nations. Unlike most other nations India isn’t tied together through common language or culture. India rather is a whole sub-continent of sub-nationalities with staggering diversity in languages, culture, food habits, religion, identity. Along with this India has some very old, very deep fault lines around caste, religion, region.
So the Indian founding fathers consciously embraced diversity. This allowed for things like special relationship with states, among other things. India was conceived by the Indian founding fathers as a union of states.
Breach of trust
India has had a history of broken promises and betrayal of Kashmiri people. Each generation of Kashmiris have had to deal with a new betrayal by the Indian government.
The first betrayal – 1953
1953 – In 1953 Sheikh Abdullah was a symbol of the aspirations of the people. India unilaterally dismissed government of the tallest leader Kashmir has produced, the face of accession to India, Kashmir’s Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah. Putting him in jail for 11 years. This injustice has left a scar on the Kashmiri psyche that refuses to heal.
The second betrayal – 1987
1987 – India rigged the 1987 Kashmir elections in order to install a pro India party of NC with Farooq Abdullah as Chief Minister. This loss of trust led to mass protests and set the Kashmir Valley on fire for next 10 years. 1000s of Kashmiri youngsters joined the armed militancy.
The third betrayal – 2019
5th Aug 2019 – India unilaterally and within 2 days does the following:
- remove Article 370 from the Indian constitution ending the special status of Kashmir
- dissolve the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir
- split the state of Jammu & Kashmir into 2 union territories (roughly on communal lines) to be ruled directly from New Delhi
The legal handwaving to revoke Kashmir’s special status:
Since conception, Kashmir’s special status was supposed to be temporary affair. The idea being that over decades India wins Kashmiri hearts & minds and the Kashmiri people through Kashmiri elected representatives in the Kashmir legislature eventually raise a resolution in the state assembly to abolish the article 370 and be deeply integrated with the rest of India.
What happened was a trick played on Kashmiri people in the Indian Parliament.
Indian Government has been ruling over Kashmir directly for almost a year since it dissolved the elected J&K government last year. So in the parliament, India’s shadow Prime Minister, the Home Minister Amit Shah essentially argued:
- The will of the Kashmiri people is represented by their elected representatives.
- Since the J&K government is dissolved that power is transferred to Delhi.
- Delhi decided that the will of the Kashmiri people is to remove the special status of Kashmir.
This might be legal but this betrays the essence of democracy. If this was the will of the people why lock up the state, jail Kashmiri leaders and impose a communication blackout. A week from the day Kashmir’s special status was changed the Kashmir people still remain locked out with internet, phones, tv still blocked. 2 ex Chief Ministers continue to be jailed. Call this anything but to call it democratic is the heights of shamelessness.
Indian government also argued in parliament that this is being done for the progress and development of Kashmir. This too seems fallacious as Kashmir is doing better than the national average on key social and economic indicators.
Why was this done?
- To humiliate the subjugated Kashmiri Muslims further.
- They wanted freedom from Delhi rule. They instead get unilateral dissolution of their state, constitution and get direct rule from Delhi in perpetuity.
- 10 states in India have special status other than Kashmir. Special status keeps the unique and fragile culture, ecology of states like Nagaland, Manipur, Himachal, Kashmir from being overrun by the hordes from the Hindi heartlands of India. This in Kashmir was done especially so satisfy the ego of the Hindu supremacists.
- You have to see the cringeworthy WhatsApp forwards, tweets, social media posts being sent across India. Which like the medieval times rejoice about having conquered Kashmir finally and upcoming access to beautiful Kashmiri lands and women.
- To appease the large vote bank of Hindu supremacists in the Indian heartlands. Who have been celebrating this all week with processions, rallies and busting crackers as if some great victory has been won. They are sure to reward the BJP/RSS in the upcoming state elections.
- To distract the Indian liberals and elite from all the talk of slowing economy. Now all the TV channels will talk about Kashmir instead of the economy for the coming weeks.
Future Consequences of the brazen dissolution of the Kashmir state:
- Pro-Indian political leaders in Kashmir have been delegitimised and discredited by the Indian Government: Kashmiri population can be divided into 3 camps
- The Anti India camp:
- This is the largest group of Kashmiris.
- Who through their history have learnt that no Indian promises can be taken seriously and no future with India is possible.
- These are the ones who take out protest rallies, throw stones after every Friday prayers in Srinagar.
- Kashmiri militants recruit here.
- The undecided camp:
- This is much smaller.
- These people aren’t sure if the future is with India. They have sympathies for both the other camps. They haven’t fully lost hope in the Indian constitution.
- The Pro India camp:
- This is the smallest group.
- They are chided by fellow Kashmiris for being collaborators.
- They take part in the elections, carry Indian flags, take oath on the Indian constitution, get involved with the local government, become chief ministers, so on. They now stand completely delegitimised and discredited in eyes of their fellow Kashmiris. How can they go asking for votes anymore? Indian govt. has successfully alienated all the pro India voices in Kashmir. This sheer stupidity of Indian government of losing this last group has lost India Kashmir.
- The Anti India camp:
- No stopping the Hindu Rashtra now. Hindu Rashtra is the often repeated, declared goal of RSS and millions of Upper Caste Indians who root for Hindu supremacist ideology of Hindutva. To remove the Article 370, the Indian Constitution was changed. No debate, no uproar, no opposition — and the constitution was changed. This will be repeated.
- Demographic changes to Kashmir will follow.
- Kashmir has a population of only 12 million. Rest of India is over 1400 million.
- Expect large-scale, state-sponsored schemes to settle outsiders to change the demography of the erstwhile state.
- Quite like the Israeli settlers, hoards of Hindians from the Northern plans will now be encouraged to settle and live in Kashmir by the government, RSS and its hundreds of affiliate organisations.
- Kashmir today, your state tomorrow: A precedent has been set for the Delhi Central Government unilaterally dissolving a state and turning it into a Union Territory over which It rules directly. This was done by putting the millions of citizens under state of lock down, jailing peoples representatives and ex Chief Ministers. This could soon be happening to your state.
- Kashmiri Intifada: The worst-case scenario is that the Valley literally explodes in anger. There are widespread, violent protests which are then crushed with sheer brute force, which in turn will further fuel resentment, and the vicious cycle will spiral out of control with Pakistan doing everything possible—inciting and instigating people, carrying out a disinformation campaign and information warfare, pumping in weapons and pushing in terrorists, ratcheting up tensions at the Line of Control, and maybe even indulging in some military adventurism—to keep things on the boil. Basically, this means that the situation will be a lot worse than what followed Burhan Wani’s killing. If this scenario unfolds, it will unleash some unintended consequences.
- India over the last 70 years has done everything it can to lose all moral right to Kashmir .
“The country isn’t the earth beneath our feet, it is the people.”
PS: Indian security forces use extreme force and brutality on the protesting Kashmiri people. Excessive use of semi-lethal pellet guns cripple 1000s of Kashmiris for life every year. The following pictures show some of the victims.