By Rashi Seth
November 11, 2019
BOLOGNA, Italy – It has been three months since the Indian government sent thousands of troops to Jammu and Kashmir, ending seven decades of special status provisions. This brings Kashmir under federal control and splits the state into two territories.
The special status provision was introduced as a temporary transitional measure in 1949, exempting Kashmiris from the Indian constitution. This allowed the Indian-administered jurisdiction to make its own laws on all matters except those pertaining to finance, foreign affairs, defense and communication. The region had its own constitution, which denied property rights to non-residents. Kashmiris now fear that the repeal of the special status may change the demographic makeup of the state from a Muslim to a Hindu majority.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stated intentions behind revoking the special status include improving infrastructure and developing institutions in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as strengthening unity in Indian society more broadly. “Jammu and Kashmir are neighbors to China on the east and Pakistan on the west, two states that also possess nuclear arsenals. This makes the revocation of Article 370 a rather regional move instead of one inspired to gain popular support by inciting sentiments of Hindu nationalism,” said Arjun Kaushik, a first year M.A. student at SAIS Europe. “No country can afford to go all-in when it comes to the potential threat of war; a country has to take steps to ensure state security.”
While the federal state says the new union territories of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir have a “bright future ahead,” civilians in Muslim majority areas are still living under lockdown, with their movements being monitored, along with some internet and cellular services being cut off.
India has the highest number of internet shutdowns, more than Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo combined. Due to the widespread phone and internet blackouts in Kashmir, locals were unaware that their constitution was rescinded.
Hundreds of Kashmiri politicians and activists have been arrested, and many still remain in detention. On November 5, one person was killed and a dozen hurt during a grenade attack in Srinagar.
Kashmiri political leaders consider the revocation to be “illegal and unconstitutional.” Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, called it the “darkest day in Indian democracy.” Since Kashmiri voices were not included in the decision-making process, the revocation of the special status appears to be a direct attack on the marginalized Muslim state.
While Prime Minister Modi says the move was to implement development measures in Kashmir, Article 370 never prevented the Indian government from investing more in development and infrastructure. As of now, it remains undetermined what direct Indian control means for the millions of people living in Kashmir.