Wednesday, 7 August 2019

India’s dispute with Pakistan over Jammu & Kashmir has a loser – New Delhi’s cherished secularism

 

By Ajai Shukla
South China Morning Post
5thAug 19


On Monday, the Indian government unilaterally reshaped its special constitutional relationship with its northernmost province of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), under which that princely state had joined the Indian union. 

In October 1947, with Pakistan-sponsored Pashtun militias closing in on the summer capital of Srinagar, the Hindu king of the Muslim-majority kingdom signed an Instrument of Accession, giving New Delhi full control over J&K’s defence, foreign affairs and communications, while allowing Srinagar control over all other matters, including framing its own constitution. This special relationship with J&K was enshrined in Article 370 of the Indian constitution.


This has long irked Hindu nationalists, who for decades railed against “special privileges” being accorded to India’s only Muslim-majority state and, especially, against Article 370. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manifesto going into general elections earlier this year, explicitly promised “the abrogation of Article 370”. Last May, with an increasingly right-leaning Indian electorate voting Modi back to power with an increased majority in Parliament, the fate of Article 370 was sealed.


Even so, there is surprise in many quarters at how emphatically the government has acted. Last year, the BJP pulled out of the coalition government in Kashmir. That left its partner, Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in a minority – paving the way for her dismissal and the imposition of central rule. 


With New Delhi ruling the state through a governor in Srinagar, tens of thousands of central police forces were pumped into Kashmir over the last fortnight, beefing up the estimated 400,000 or so troops already based there. Last week, the Amarnath Yatra – a hallowed annual pilgrimage by Hindu devotees from all over India to a Himalayan shrine in Kashmir – was abruptly called off and tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists were bundled out of Kashmir. 


On Sunday, curfew was imposed all across the Kashmir Valley, and the internet was cut off. Kashmiri politicians, including “pro-India” politicians like Mufti, were put under arrest, lumping all Kashmiris – loyalists, nationalists and secessionists – together, damaging invaluable relationships beyond repair. Amid wild rumourmongering all through that day, panicked Kashmiris stocked up for a lengthy siege.


On Monday morning, their worst fears unfolded. Home affairs minister Amit Shah announced in Parliament that the BJP-supported President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, had signed an order making J&K subject to the Constitution of India, effectively quashing Article 370. 


Such an abrogation, according to the article’s own provisions, demands consultation with the state assembly. But with that assembly suspended and J&K under central rule, the presidential order stated that consultation with the New Delhi-appointed state governor would suffice. Ironically, the governor had publicly promised just days ago that no constitutional changes were on the cards.


In an even more radical move, Shah dealt with the J&K problem by terminating the existence of the entity, bifurcating the state into two territories that are part of the Indian union. 


The vast Ladakh region, sparsely inhabited by Buddhists and Shia Muslims, which had remained largely peaceful through three decades of insurgency in Kashmir, would henceforth be centrally administered from New Delhi. The second union territory would comprise of the Jammu region and of Kashmir, and would have an elected assembly. There is no telling, though, when that assembly would be constituted; J&K state elections have been pending since the Mufti government fell in June 2018, but have been postponed for “security reasons”. 


It is likely that New Delhi will continue to put off elections for the foreseeable future, choosing instead to deal with the restive Kashmir region indefinitely without the moderating influence (read, nuisance) of an elected state assembly. That could change once the BJP orchestrates the delimitation of electoral constituencies to allocate a larger number of seats to Hindu-majority areas.


Kashmiri outrage at these unilateral changes is inevitable. Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah termed the scrapping of Article 370 a “total betrayal of trust” that amounted to “aggression”. Mufti denounced this as “the darkest day in Indian democracy”. However, the fulminations of mainstream politicians are now far less important than the reaction of the Kashmiri street. 


Over the preceding decade, the secessionist leadership has passed from Pakistan-controlled individuals like the octogenarian Syed Yusuf Shah Geelani into the hands of disparate, hot-blooded young chiefs, including some with ties to al-Qaeda and Islamic State. If street protests erupt and gain traction, Kashmir could be in for another bloody summer. For that reason, security forces have been ordered to make sure the streets remain empty.

 
India’s security managers are comfortable with battling armed Kashmiri militants and have, over the decades, fine-tuned an operational and intelligence grid that takes out militants as fast as Kashmiri youths can be persuaded to pick up the gun, or Pakistan can send them across the Line of Control. 


However, tackling stone-pelting mobs of unarmed youngsters is less to the liking of troops and policemen in Kashmir. In an international community where there is little tolerance for Islamist jihadis, gunning down armed fighters carries little opprobrium. However, the image-conscious Indian military realises the potential for criticism in dealing with a Kashmiri intifada.


New Delhi’s move will inevitably face legal, constitutional and political challenges; not just from Kashmiri groups but also from civil society groups in India. Much will depend upon whether the courts determine that changing the constitutional nature of New Delhi’s relationship with Kashmir changes the basic structure of the Indian constitution. An opposition in disarray is unlikely to mount a serious political challenge, especially with several parties flirting with Hindu politics themselves.

So far, no country except Pakistan has criticised India. Islamabad has threatened it “will exercise all possible options to counter [India’s] illegal steps”. However, Islamabad long ago took its own illegal steps in the part of Kashmir that it controls, designating Gilgit-Baltistan (which it called the Northern Areas) a federally administered area. 


Pakistan has long sought to internationalise the Kashmir issue, but there will be introspection in Islamabad about whether its latest ploy – in which Prime Minister Imran Khan got President Donald Trump to offer to mediate the dispute – caused New Delhi to move quicker on eliminating Kashmir’s special status.


Indians have always held up Kashmir’s accession as a repudiation of the two-nation theory, based on which Pakistan was carved out of India’s Muslim-majority areas. The two-nation theory viewed Hindus and Muslims as two distinct nations, holding that a Muslim minority could never be safe in a Hindu-majority India. 


India, however, holds that religion cannot be an organising principle, and the secure existence of Muslim-majority J&K in India validates the country’s cherished secularism. After bulldozing down the special protections guaranteed to J&K, New Delhi will find that argument a little harder to make.

20 comments:

Rohit said...

Mr. Shukla, I don't understand what does scraping of Article 370 has anything to do with religion. Do you mean to say that in J&K if the majority community would have been Hindus and they would have wanted to break away from India then BJP govt would have allowed it.
Seriously??

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

You are again on completely and utterly wrong foot...

Secularism died when Pakistan carved out...

Some Hindu dominated states in Pakistani Sindh area ceded to Pakistan... not India...
What happened then...
Hindu population in Pakistan went down from 12.9% or so to about 1 to 2% now...

Kashmir became muslim majority because of genocide of various Hindu ethnicities, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Gujjars, etc

Pakistan practices human trafficking of Christians and Hindus along with its Iron Brother...

There is no secularism before only slavery of 1947 POK refugees, Kashmiri Pandits living in camps and all over India... Indians migrants and other working in J&K has no rights of voting of residency... That is what Kashmiriyat is - slavery and genocide to majority...

I betcha that Muftis, Farooqs, Geelanis, etc can not even win ward elections in Panchayat or Municipality elections...
I doubt that this will get into your closed mind...

Perhaps this will get into your closed mind if you are really a Hindu and true secularist...

https://www.thehansindia.com/news/national/it-will-end-our-slavery-west-pakistan-refugees-celebrate-article-370-scrapping-552525

I do not think you will change...

Satinder said...

"India, however, holds that religion cannot be an organising principle, and the secure existence of Muslim-majority J&K in India validates the country’s cherished secularism."
These lines are missing the long standing situation in Kashmir. Why we need half a million soldiers in state to validate the "pseudo" secularism. I believe not letting rest of Indian population settle in the Kashmir was the root cause of never ending issue. I don't think it would have been a issue any more if it was allowed 30-40 years back. Take the example of Tibet issue. Hardly any one questions chinese authority on Tibet any where in world any more. And how many people are dying in Tibet every year?
We have seen the not doing anything didn't fix the issue in 70 years.

rajendra said...

Col Shukla, I am sorry to say the military man in you is long dead.
Your article reads exactly as would have been written by a spokesman of Pakistani military spokesperson.
It's truly heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I am reading a Pakistani blog.... This was not expected from you Ajay Sir.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Ajai,
I have to disagree with your last line on this. I think you are confused with what secularism means in any sense. Secularism means "the principle of separation of the state from religious institutions". Article 370 had nothing to do with secularism in that sense, cultural perhaps.
Now all the article 370 did was allow a religious majority the ability to displace others denizens of different religious background. The real fear is that the said majority fear that they will be at the receiving end of the stick that they wielded so long( 1400 years).
The only thing that the present New Delhi dispensation could be faulted at was not being democratic in taking into account the said minorities opinion, but constitutionally was legal

Anonymous said...

You can't bulldoze Kashmiris into 'integrating' with India by alienating them, cutting off their internet, arresting all their leaders and militarizing the places where the live.

pseudo sickular said...

this congressi chamcha is feeling bad for kashmir :-) God knows how this one became a colonel in the indian army

Parthasarathi said...

Sir, You are confused as usual ! Please note that Kashmir agitation is no longer political issue. It's a full-blown communal issue. They want a Caliphate ! At 1919 Gandhiji supported Khilaphat movement and the result is known to us.
We have seen the result of article 370 at JNK. Hindus are uprooted from valley.
It's very surprising that a defence journalist is spreading falsehood on national security in the disguise of secularism !
Best regards,
Parthasarathi Dasgupta

Anonymous said...

Moronic post - screw you traitor

Int64 said...

Mr Shukla, Why are you trying to give it a communal color by saying "This has long irked Hindu nationalists, who for decades railed against “special privileges” being accorded to India’s only Muslim-majority state"? So If it was a Hindu Majority state for ex: Tamilnadu, which would have had the same issue as Kashmir and govt took the same step after 71 years of non decision making, you will still say the same? You are acting a judge here by saying that it has long irked only Hindu nationalists. You have also put all the Muslim, Christian, Budhist, Sikhs and all other religion into a corner. Did any of the people or nationalists from these religions did not want 370 to go away? You might say majority is Hindu but that does not mean others did not want it. I have been a long time admirer of your work. If you can not stay neutral then you can not expect others to act neutral/secular.

Rahul Yadav said...

secularism is not the responsibility of Hindus alone. enough of this non sense .

Rahul Yadav said...

comments getting removed. no wonder IAF rebutted your article. i used to read you blog but it stinks of congress.

Rajat said...

What amazing trash... Who pays you? You've lost the privilege of being addressed as 'Sir' by your academy types. Sir, you've probably and hopefully reached the nadir of your conscientious..

Anonymous said...

What has Article 370 got to do with religion or secularism?? And why are comments being removed....just because you don't like them! If not an army man, please at least be a man and post a dissenting opinion

Shubham Sahai said...

Secularism was already dead in J&K the moment the Kashmiri pandits were driven out. This step was very necessary to resolve a never ending loop. Lets wait and watch what the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh say - the true stakeholders in this before passing our judgement.

Sachin said...

The President of India is the President of INDIA. He's not a BJP 'supported' President. Some stooges who come to mind whose biggest achievement was working as a house help in the home of India's 'first family' (as decreed by whom God knows) lowered the dignity of that office beyond belief. The previous President, despite an illustrious career, was a Congress functionary for his entire political career. Didn't he strike you as a 'Congress supported' President? You sir, are truly beyond redemption.

deepak said...

Col sir, for long I have read your articles as found you represented a sane a neutral voice but for some time I see that you have become a so called New Liberal. Not sure why this change in values. I am not supporting any specific view point but for me this new normal post abrogation of article 370 is the way forward for the future of Kashmir and Kashmiris. For too long we were on the backfoot and now it's the time to handle this from a position of strength.I beg to differ with you sir but your opinion has little takers even among your ardent followers.

Abhiman said...

Col. Shukla, I'm fully with you on this.

Kashmir's accession to India hinged on Kashmir being autonomous, with the exception of defence, foreign affairs and communication. That autonomy was enshrined in Article 370.

India has for the first time, RENEGED on an agreement, and CHEATED the Kashmiri people.

This will further alienate the already alienated Kashmiris.

I hope that this move is challenged in the Supreme Court, and that Article 370 and 35(A) are fully restored.

P.S Now Adani, Ambani, Vedanta, DLF, and GMR must be licking their lips on laying their hands on untapped territory.

anonymous said...

Unsurprisingly nowadays comments against your article is not being allowed to post... Typical example of Indian Secularism..
Suppress the majority...
Celebrate the minority...
Glorify the invaders...
Twist the facts and history...

How removing article 370 is connected with secularism? Only God and ajai will know