The Kashmir issue has been a subject of dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947 when the Indian continent was partitioned and became controversial again when India revoked the special status granted to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on Aug 6.
Across the border, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan vehemently attacked the Indian government’s move, which he described as an attempt to “change the demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing” and a crackdown on the rights of the Kashmiri people.
In protest, Pakistan suspended bilateral trade between the two nations and shuttered transport services. International human rights groups have condemned India’s actions, such as cutting off Internet connections, severing mobile and landline phone lines, heavy presence of security forces and, more importantly, for curtailing the special freedoms the people have enjoyed for the past several decades.
Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Kashmir, said, “The 5th of August was the blackest day of Indian democracy when its Parliament, like thieves, snatched away everything from the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Another former chief minister of the state, Farooq Abdullah, called the abrogation as “unconstitutional”.
The Indian National Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the government’s decision was unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Vadra said, “The manner in which it has been done is completely unconstitutional and it’s against all the principles of democracy. There are rules to be followed when such things are done, which were not followed.”
In response to his critics, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his 73rd Independence Day address on Aug 15, said, “Abrogating Article 370 is an important step in fulfilling Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s dream for a united India…One Nation, One Constitution — this spirit has become a reality and India is proud of it”.
It is likely, at least in the near future, that people of the affected region will continue to protest and oppose what they perceive as the high-handedness of the central government.
And because of the controversial nature of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan since the region’s accession to India, Pakistan is likely to continue its campaign to reverse or disrupt the Indian government’s action.
It is possible that more forms of terrorism could rise from within and across the border while another possibility is that there will be human rights violations from the security forces towards the civilian population, protests or unrests from the people.
The revocation also has the potential to formalise the Line of Control as the international boundary between the two rival nations. It is also possible that Pakistan will formalise its occupation of “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir”. More importantly, it may be an end to the internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute.
The message that Pakistan wants to send out is that India’s move is against the desire of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, that it is an international dispute and should be settled by the involvement of a third party, either through mediation by a major power or by an international institution such as the United Nations.
On the other hand, India wants to send a clear message that the disputed region has always been an integral part of India and the revocation of the special status was an internal matter of the country.
In 1954, the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir resolved that the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Moreover, Article 3 of the 1956 constitution of Jammu and Kashmir had stated that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian union.
While the Indian government has every right to pursue what it thinks best for the country, a peaceful resolution could have been pursued by closely involving the state and the people concerned. Or, it could have pushed for a bilateral solution as agreed upon by the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.
Now it is of paramount importance that the government of India delivers concrete results, especially in restoring peace, stability and development of the region, as well as adherence to equality and freedom for all.
The protracted tension is likely to linger on but it was a bold move by the Modi government on such a sensitive issue, especially in less than three months since taking office.
Dr Kipgen is associate professor, assistant dean and executive director at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University. Malhotra is an undergraduate law student pursuing LLB at the Jindal Global Law School and an intern at CSEAS.