On the 5th of August 2019, the BJP government led by Narendra Modi stripped Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood by revoking Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which granted the state a special status within the Indian Union. Although official government sources argue that this move is aimed towards boosting the economy of Jammu and Kashmir and also to tackle the state’s growing terrorism problem, but in reality this was a stark violation of UN resolutions.
The revocation plan was a long-term election commitment earlier pledged by the BJP to integrate Kashmir into mainstream India. More than 2 years have passed since Article 370 was annulled by Parliament, but has it improved the socio-economic or even political scenario of Kashmir?
Is Kashmir valley any
less violent now?
Like the Modi government’s other controversial decisions of demonetisation, Covid mismanagement, CAA bill, etc, the revocation of Article 370 has further complicated the already difficult situation in Kashmir valley. Yes, deployment of additional troops and complete lockdown of the region for an elongated period has certainly put a hold on public protests but statistics show that violence has not really made a downturn. Figures from data collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal show that violence reached its lowest level in 2012, when 19 civilians, 18 security personnel and 84 militants were killed. But in just seven months of 2021, 17 civilians, 34 security personnel and 154 militants have been killed.
The BJP often puts all blame on Pakistan for Kashmir’s worsening situation but in reality stripping statehood of J&K and putting it under total lockdown has only increased the number of local recruits in militant organisations. The recent Taliban takeover in Kabul has certainly added more reasons to worry for the Indian government. Although the government has officially maintained that there are no immediate grounds to be concerned about, but things might get out of hand in the future.
BJP’s aim in the long run
It was one of the BJP’s founding principles to remove Article 370 from the Indian Constitution. Moreover, in its 2019 election manifesto the BJP made a promise to its voters that if re-elected they would definitely revoke J&K’s special status. The BJP publicly maintains that this move was necessary for J&K’s economic growth and its overall integration into mainstream India, but in reality they have repeatedly used the Kashmir issue to advance their Hindutva ideology among voters.
The BJP’s prime goal behind this move is to make a huge demographic shift in Kashmir valley, which has a Muslim majority population. The BJP aims to achieve this goal by repatriating Hindu Kashmiri Pandits back into the region and also by allowing non-Kashmiris to buy land there. The entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir has a total of 6 Lok Sabha constituencies, four out of which have a Muslim majority population.
Two years have passed since the revocation of Article 370 but the future of J&K still looks grim and there are issues that still need to be resolved. In a bid to strengthen ties with the political parties of the valley and discuss future aspects, PM Narendra Modi invited 14 political leaders of J&K in June. Since the Modi administration looks adamant not to restore Article 370, a midway solution for both parties could be the amendment of Article 371. Article 371 of the Indian Constitution provides special rights to several north eastern Indian states like Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Amendment of Article 371 can ensure land, property rights and job security for the ‘permanent residents’ of the valley. Since the 5th August 2019 move, this has been the major concern for the Kashmiris.
The current political discourse in India offers no breathing space to Kashmiris. As long as the BJP will continue to use identity politics to harbour a massive Hindu vote bank, the Kashmiris are likely to face persistent oppression. As of now peace is a tough task to achieve in Kashmir valley.
—The writer is an independent researcher of South Asian affairs. He has a degree in IR from the University of Dhaka.