A dangerous blunder


INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi decision to strip Indian-occupied Kashmir of its special status is perilous. After Indian forces seized part of Jammu and Kashmir following the 1947 Partition, in 1949 India’s leader Jawaharlal Nehru saw through an amendment to the new country’s constitution. Article 370 allowed Jammu and Kashmir to have its own constitution, a separate flag and control of it own affairs save foreign policy, defense and communications. Nehru was more popularly known as ‘Pandit’ a reference to his family’s membership of the Kashmiri Pandit community.

Since its formation in 1980, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP) has always opposed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. The platform on which Modi won his landslide victory this May, included a promise to review the constitutional arrangement. At worst, the fear in the disputed territory was that Article 35A, which granted locals special privileges would be scrapped. The trashing of the entire constitutional arrangement embodied in Article 370 has caused shock and anger.

For a start the move is legally questionable. The change requires the assent of Jammu and Kashmir’s state government. However in June 2018, that administration collapsed when the BJP pulled out of a coalition with the local People’s Democratic Party. As a result, India took over direct rule from Delhi. In retrospect is it easy to suspect the BJP’s move last year was a deliberate maneuver to prepare the way for this week’s precipitous action.

It is hard to see anything positive in what Modi has done. Since last year’s sweeping away of the regional assembly and the assumption of direct rule, armed resistance, which had tailed off around the turn of the century has increased. The violence has been met with even more violence by the beleaguered Indian security forces. The slaying of a popular rebel leader last year brought widespread outpourings of grief and, it is reported led to a significant increase in the number of new recruits to the rebel ranks.

The government in Pakistan has of course protested Modi’s action. The two countries, now both nuclear-armed, have gone to war three times of Jammu and Kashmir. The territory remains a mammoth obstacle to the establishment of peaceful and mutually advantageous commercial relations between the two states. Less noted by commentators is the fact that Chinese forces also moved into Jammu and Kashmir and now occupy some 15 percent of its territory.

It is not hard to imagine that Modi has taken a leaf out of China’s book over its treatment of its Muslim Uighur inhabitants of its Xinjiang province where Han Chinese are being imported on a massive scale in order to turn the Uighurs into a minority in their own land. This model was first used by Beijing in Tibet.

Article 35A may prove to be crucial in this respect. It reserved to the local inhabitants the right to a range of jobs but even more importantly, the exclusive entitlement to own property. With the removal of this provision, it can be expected that BJP fanatics will seek to colonize Jammu and Kashmir with a long-term view to outnumber the locals.

Absolutely nothing good can come out of what Modi and his nationalists have just done. The only certainty is more bloodshed and misery along with dramatically heightened regional tensions.