On Monday August 5, 2019, Modi government abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave special autonomy status to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir; and Ladakh. The move has led to mixed reactions in India though buoyed by the Hindutva ideology the majority who no doubt see the move a victory for Hindus over Muslims (majority Kashmiris are Muslims) supported the initiative with relish.
the Indians that criticised the action, Ms. Arundhuti Roy, a social activist
has been the most vocal of all. She claimed that Kashmir has always been an
independent entity and that it never belonged neither to India nor to Pakistan
and thus neither has the right to act on their behalf and that Kashmiris need
space to think of and decide their future themselves. In the past Ms. Roy faced
threats of arrest for “treason” for making such statements on Kashmir.
Internationally there has been widespread condemnations especially by the human rights activists and among these Malala Yousufzai, the 22-year Pakistan born Nobel Laureate has made an impassioned appeal for peace and wrote, “The people of Kashmir have lived in conflict since I was a child, since my mother and father were children, since my grandparents were young. For seven decades the children of Kashmir have grown up amidst violence.” She pleaded to ‘all South Asians, the international community and concerned authorities’ to come to the aid of Kashmiris and resolve the problem and put an end to their sufferings once for all.
Until Revocation of Article 370, Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in India enjoyed some semblance of autonomy and it protected them from usurpation of their properties and changes to Kashmir ethnicity against the settlers from rest of India. With the revocation of the Article these privileges of special status of Kashmir are now gone and the move has made way for non-Kashmiris to come and settle in the state which eventually would change Kashmir’s demography – its Muslim majority demography would turn into a minority.
Indian government has however justified the move by saying that the revocation has ‘unified’ India and claimed that the action has paved the way for more ‘’development’’ in Kashmir and has opened up opportunities of greater ‘’prosperity’’ for the Kashmiris. Not sure Kashmiris are that excited with these promised possibilities and this is hard to know because the Kashmiris whose fate changed forever by this initiative were not part of the decision-making. Far from consulting, Delhi put leading Kashmiri leaders under house arrest and ‘caged’ ordinary Kashmiris in their homes with curfew and cutting off all communication channels and made them incommunicado, prior to the decision of Revocation.
One does not have to go much deeper to find the real motive of this action. Modi government may say whatever it likes to justify it but the reality is that Kashmir, a Muslim majority state that until recently enjoyed some modicum of autonomy has now fallen victim to the ruling party, BJP’s, on-gong mission of Hinduisation of India, the core mission of its Hindutva ideology.
I sense that Modi and his advisors are hoping that by scuttling Kashmir’s autonomy status and by bringing it directly under the central government’s control, it is well on its way to advance ‘Make India Hindu’ project to its final stage – subjugating the last semblance of Muslim autonomy in India. This certainly is the plan, but I am not convinced that things would progress as per the script.
For example, by taking this “unconstitutional” action, Modi has only deepened and not assuaged resentments in Kashmir. Indeed, through this action, he has added fuel to a raging fire and thus has created conditions for furthering of the conflict in Kashmir that he thinks his 600000 well-armed army would quash. I doubt it. This aggressive action of the BJP government that has taken away whatever little rights the Kashmiris enjoyed thus far is likely to make the Kashmiris more resentful than before. As a result, next phase of Kashmiri resistance that is inevitable is likely to gain far greater resolve and moral legitimacy and thus is likely to be far more violent and vicious that would contribute to a cycle of blood, death and destruction. I also surmise that the next phase of conflict that is likely to be waged as an independence movement and with a jihadist zeal. This would also attract far greater number of foreign fighters, with a holy agenda, posing security threats to both India and the region as a whole.
The Revocation initiative may have made Pakistan an inadvertent winner. It has succeeded in giving Pakistan an unexpected gift, something that it has been trying for the last 50 years to achieve but failed which is that Kashmir has now become an international issue all over again and found a voice at the round-table of the United Nations Security Council. Not that it matters much substantively but this is a moral victory for both Kashmiris and the Pakistanis. Furthermore, internationalisation of Kashmir issue has also brought world’s human rights spotlight on India and revealed the extent of abuse its Hindutva ideology is inflicting on its minority and more broadly, the security risks the ideology is promoting in the region.
Another consequence of the Revocation move which is something that should worry India more than anyone else which is that through this unilateral action India has now drawn China directly into the conflict – not a cause for joy, is it?
I suspect that the initiative has also dented trust between the centre and other states of India that enjoy similar or near-similar autonomy status. The action would have sent an alarm bell to these states to ponder about their future of an establishment that shows scant regard to existing laws and agreements. Such mistrusts are recipes for promoting alienation that may one day boil over into conflicts in states that have entered into autonomy agreements with the centre.
Finally, a no less important, though a less talked about issue of consequence of the Revocation initiative that something that I believe Modi and his Hindutva inspired advisors forgot to factor in is that conflict and economic growth do not go together. Indian economy that is already showing signs of slowing down – some suggest it is growing at 6.0-6.5% – needs to grow at a minimum of 8% per annum to create jobs for its burgeoning unemployed. Unrest in Kashmir which is inevitable and international responses on Revocation move, which would only intensify in the coming days, do not augur well for India’s much needed rapid and sustained economic growth. The move possesses all the hallmarks of putting at risk, BJP’s much touted 2019 election pledge, “Kaam Ruke Na, Desh Jhuke Na” (Don’t stop the work [of BJP] to ensure non-regression of the country) .
Apart from sizable costs of maintaining a huge military establishment in Kashmir, the cost of financing a far vicious conflict, a likely scenario in the coming days, do face the prospects of draining of India’s exchequer and retardation of its economic growth even more, which may trigger mass unrest outside of Kashmir, across India.
sum, prognosis of Modi’s daring if not his reckless ‘’Make India Hindu’’
inspired Hindutva policy that among other things has contributed to the Revocation
of Kashmir 370 Article looks anything but promising. The move may have inflated
Modi’s self-proclaimed 56’’ inch chest by few more inches and it may have also
boosted the ego of his lynching Hindutva mob to a new height, but given the
realities of grim consequences portrayed above, the move may prove a boomerang
if not a bad dream for India in the coming days!