The decision of Indian government to abolish Article 370 and Article 35A, on 5th August 2019, has had a significant impact on not only local Kashmiris but at regional peace as well. The move has been controversial not only globally but locally as well. Kashmir remains a flash point in the region since last 75 years and India and Pakistan fought 3 out of 4 wars on this territory. Line of control remains the most manned demarcation between two standing armies anywhere in the world.
BJP/RSS’s move to take away these two articles means that now Kashmir has lost its special status where a certain degree of autonomy was given for its own constitution, flag, and freedom to make laws while foreign affairs, defense and communication remained with New Delhi. Abolishing 370 means that all the legislation done by Kashmiri parliament over last 7 decades about permanent residency, ownership of property and fundamental rights has become null and void with a stroke of pen. Article 35A barred any non-Kashmiris from buying land in the valley hence protected local ancestral lands.
Now after 4 years of abrogation of both these articles from Indian constitution, the socio-economic impact of this decision has begun come to fore and the picture is not very pleasant; nor for local Kashmiris neither for Pakistan and regional peace. There have been multiple incidents in the valley indicating a systematic campaign to initiate an Israel style colonial project in Kashmir. In the presence of draconian laws like PSA, AFPSA and UAPA, Indian forces will help in this RSS/Hindutva project just like Israeli forces have been helping colonial settlers to steal and grab Palestinian houses. This is not a plausible scenario but steps like introduction of J&K Affordable Housing, Slum Development, and Township policy on 17th July 2020, introduction of specific changes in J&K Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act 2012, and declaring all the sale deeds in which Pandits sold land or property to Kashmiri Muslims as null and void must be enough to remove all suspicions that BJP/RSS are working on a sinister colonial, land grabbing project in Kashmir.
Not that India respected any of the these provisions, as it moved around a million troops to the State, and occupied large areas to build residential areas and barracks for these troops, yet these two articles provide Kashmiris a separate identity both politically and legally.
Outside Kashmir, these articles were meaningless in their implementation or legal meanings for Pakistan, but Islamabad valued these articles due to people of Kashmir and their sense of political identity, unrelated to India, under these articles. Otherwise, Indian state never respected any of human rights in the Valley promised in these articles. Indian state machinery overtook local police, administration and communication as well in the presence of these articles. Till prior to the abrogation of these articles, Indian state has brutally murdered nearly 100,000 Kashmiris just for asking India to fulfill her promise made in UNSC.
Abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35-A is dangerous for regional peace as this move has instill a dangerous false sense of superiority in Indian ruling elite and the bravado of crossing LoC by Indian political elite and armed forces officers has increased after Aug, 2019. Pakistan cannot afford to lower its guards regarding the protection of AJK and Gilgit Baltistan about which Indian defense minister has claimed many times that eventually India will occupy these two regions as well. India made an attempt in 2019 to stir tensions under the pretext of terrorism but Pakistani forces not only responded Indian aggression but also controlled the escalation level through well-coordinated response strategy by taking political leadership in confidence about the proceedings. India, since then, has been on a military shopping spree and have entered in multiple such agreements with various countries which will challenge the prevailing balance of power. Pakistan has adopted a strategy of smart inductions to restore this balance at conventional level.
Pakistan reacted on the abrogation of these articles strongly. Apart from usual diplomatic efforts, Pakistan raised the issue strongly in UGNA annual summit of 2019. India was called out not only on Kashmir but also on atrocities of Hindutva gangs within mainland India. The impact of this aggressive foreign policy was felt soon when PM of Turkeyie and Malaysia also condemned Indian action in Kashmir and a debate on resolution of Kashmir dispute initiated in the United Nations, the United Nations commission for human rights and its council.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 pandemic and Pakistan’s internal political changes, the momentum was lost in diplomacy over Kashmir. As the world has resumed pre-COVID pandemic activities, Pakistan needs to pick where it left on Kashmir diplomacy and growing activities of Hindutva cliques must provide new imputes for Islamabad for these diplomatic overtures. As Pakistan seeks for peaceful resolution of Kashmir and all other outstanding issues with India, it must never let its hard earned war fighting tools to rust as peace cannot be achieved from position of weakness.
The writer is Mphil scholar and government officer in Punjab