Taking its cue from the “only democracy in the Middle East”, Israel, that has a long history of occupation and oppression of its indigenous Palestinian population, the Hindu nationalist government led by PM Modi of the “largest democracy in the world”, India, has finally annexed Kashmir embarking on a new wave of brutal oppression, disenfranchisement and human rights abuse.
In a deceptive move pretending to counter terrorist attacks, last week, the BJP government of PM Narendra Modi deployed tens of thousands of troops in the state of Jammu and Kashmir considered the most militarised area in the world with already the presence of a million strong armed personnel.
At the same time the major annual Hindu pilgrimage to Amarnath was cancelled and all pilgrims and tourists expelled from the state while a number of Kashmiri leaders were put under house arrest and the whole state was locked down under strict military curfew.
On Monday 5 August announcements were made that the Indian government was effectively annexing Kashmir by stripping it of its semi-autonomous status, breaking the state of Jammu and Kashmir and downgrading it from statehood into centrally governed union territories.
The three-pronged unilateral move of the disputed region without consultation will have far-reaching negative effect on the Kashmiri population:
- Modi government has revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution, effective immediately, that gave Kashmiris a separate constitution, flag and to set its own laws, except for those related to defence and foreign policy.
- Article 35A of India’s constitution has also been revoked that allowed Jammu and Kashmir’s local legislature to define who were considered permanent residents denying Indians from outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs or winning education scholarships in the J&K state.
- The government has also announced that it would split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories J&K and Ladakh ruled by the central government in Delhi.
The Modi government’s unilateral move and total lockdown of the Kashmir valley, the complete clampdown on communication and movement of people with the arrest of hundreds of people has been condemned by neighbouring Pakistan as well as China and the United Nation.
Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, has appealed for “maximum restraint” as tensions escalate between India and Pakistan over New Delhi’s move on Kashmir.
Recalling the 1972 Simla Agreement, in which New Delhi and Islamabad committed to bilateral negotiations to resolve their dispute over Kashmir, Guterres called on “all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect” the region’s status.
In his statement, Guterres also expressed concern over reports of “restrictions on the Indian-side of Kashmir”, saying they could exacerbate the human rights situation in the region.
While the Kashmir valley being turned into a virtual prison almost like Gaza and with the festival of Eid-ul-Adha in a few days, the region has the potential of reaching a flashpoint.