In August 2019, the Indian government took some extraordinary measures regarding the legal status of the troubled region of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), a province of 13 million people.
The government placed a new bill on Aug. 5 in the Upper House of the Parliament to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state under the Article 370 and divide the state into two Union Territories (UTs), namely Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
It was passed by the Lower House on Aug. 6 and Indian President Ram Nath Govind signed the bill on Aug. 9. By the presidential order, both Article 370 and Article 35A have been revoked. The bill became the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, paving the way for the birth of two new UTs on Oct. 31, 2019.
Article 370, which originally provided the J&K state its own Constitution, flag, Prime Minister (in place of Chief Minister or CM) and Sadar-e-Riyasat (in place of Governor), has underwent so many changes during the last seven decades.
Article 35A allows the J&K state to grant special privileges and rights to permanent residents and denies those rights to nonresidents. This means outsiders cannot buy land and get a government job in J&K.
Before the removal of Article 370, there were only CMs and Governors instead of PMs and Sadar-e-Riyasat as the contents of the Article were changed a long time ago.
“So the said Article had basically lost its political relevance, significance and role in the J&K state as more and more central laws were made applicable to it for governance,” says the president of the Jammu-Kashmir Workers Party (JKWP) Mir Junaid.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration made J&K, for the first time in its history, on par with other Indian states. There will not be any ambiguity and doubts in the future.
With the removal of Article 370, the integration of J&K into India is now complete. The article was created as a temporary measure, not a permanent one.
With special status under Article 370, J&K lost the opportunity to develop itself as many central rules and programs cannot be implemented in the state.
“I want to tell the people of J&K what damage 370 & 35A did to the state. It’s because of these sections that democracy was never fully implemented, corruption increased in the state, that no development could take place,” Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said in Rajya Sabha (Upper House) on Aug. 5.
Some people may ask: Why did India abolish Articles 370 and 35A so suddenly?
We have to go back to J&K’s history. At the time of India’s independence in 1947, there were more than 500 princely states, including Jammu and Kashmir. Most of them joined India while the remaining joined Pakistan. There was also an option to remain as an independent state.
In case of the J&K princely state, there was a strange situation as its ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu, did not want to join neither India nor Pakistan. He wanted to be an independent ruler. Majority of the people in J&K are Muslims.
But Pakistan deployed Pasthun tribal militias to occupy J&K on Oct. 22, 1947. This brutal and sudden attack changed the entire situation.
Hari Singh asked for Indian help to throw away Pakistanis from his state, but India refused to intervene as the J&K state was not acceded to India. Many Kashmiri Muslim leaders like Sheikh Abdullah favored secular India than theocratic Pakistan. Immediately, Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India, and it was accepted by India on Oct. 27, 1947.
India airlifted its troops to J&K and the first Indo-Pak war erupted in 1947. The war went on for one year. Indian troops were successful in liberating 75 percent of the J&K state. Due to heavy casualties and losses from both sides, both India and Pakistan agreed to a UN-brokered cease-fire on Aug. 13, 1948. As a result, a third of the J&K area, including Gilgit and Baltistan, remains under Pakistani control to this day.
The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolutions No. 39 and 47 to restore peace in the J&K state in 1948. Both Pakistan and India agreed to establish the three-member United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) in 1949 to restore peace and conduct a plebiscite in the J&K area.
On Jan. 5, 1949, the UNCIP adopted a Resolution under which Pakistan must withdraw all its tribesmen and nationals from the J&K area, which Pakistan has never done.
India was also asked to reduce its troops to the minimum level and form an all-party Cabinet to run the administration. The UN asked India to release all political prisoners and make arrangements for the return of refugees.
Since Pakistan did not withdraw tribesman and Pakistanis from occupied Kashmir, India did not implement the agreed terms of the UNCIP Resolution. Thus, the Resolution became irrelevant in all aspects.
It was Pakistan that brought violence and destruction to J&K in the first place in 1947 by deploying tribal militia. Since 1947, four wars (1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999) have been fought between India and Pakistan. It is a fact that all wars were initiated by Pakistan.
“All these wars go on to show that the intention of Pakistan is to subvert peace in the region and destabilize it,” Junaid, an alumni of University of Kashmir’s Law School, said recently.
“To keep the region under siege of uncertainty. Pakistan has been actively supporting and encouraging terrorism in the region by way of providing the terrorists training in their camps and the necessary logistics to facilitate border infiltrations”.
Pakistan frequently raises Kashmir issue at the UN, but it has forgotten that it was the violator of the UN Resolution on Kashmir.
With major changes on the ground during the last seven decades, the UN Resolution and Article 370 have become completely irrelevant.
Now, J&K is fully a part and parcel of India. Kashmiri people have equal rights with their fellow Indians. Modi’s government is planning to make the J&K region one of the most prosperous regions in India in the coming years. For that, we need normalcy and peace.
But the question is will Pakistan allow Kashmiri people to live in peace?
For more than 70 years, Pakistan has been trying to achieve its objective of occupying Kashmir through all means, including wars, terrorism, providing funding and weapons to separatists, infiltrations and truce violations on the Line of Control. Through these methods, Pakistan will never achieve its objective in Kashmir.
Pakistan has been providing money, weapons and terrorist training to Kashmiri militants and local youth to conduct terrorist activities in the J&K region. On Feb. 14, 2019, Adil Ahmad Dar, a local youth trained by Pakistani extremist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad, launched a suicide attack on a convoy of security forces in Pulwama, J&K, killing 40 security personnel.
According to the Indian Defense Ministry’s data, there were 3,168 incidents of cease-fire violations in 2019, a big jump from 2,140 such incidents in 2018.
Some people believe that the Pulwama terror attack and other violent incidents might have influenced the sudden decision to abolish Articles 370 and 35A and turn J&K as a UT and create Ladakh as another UT.
There is a positive sign from PM Modi about the future of Kashmir.
“The government will work with all sections of the population to realize the hopes of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir at an early opportunity,” Modi said on March 14, 2020, while meeting with a 24-member delegation from Jammu and Kashmir led by Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari in New Delhi.