Article 370 and a Brief History of Kashmir
The Origin of Kashmir's Independence
In 1947, the governor of Kashmir, Hari Singh, signed the Instrument of Accession. In simple terms, this meant that Kashmir was now affiliated with India. Article 370, which was drafted in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, granted Kashmir the autonomy to govern all of its own affairs, with the exclusion of communications, foreign affairs and defence, which remained centralised.
For many Muslims in India at the time, Kashmir was seen as their safe haven, with thousands fleeing from India and migrating to the distant land that would become their new home. Hindus and Muslims alike suffered abuse from one another, yet to both parties, Kashmir was perceived as a second chance to live in harmony alongside one another and to flee from the violence that stained India at the time.
Article 370 Revoked
Indeed, historian Jan Morris knew the importance of Kashmir when she wrote that it was ‘more than a mere place’. However, no one could have foreseen the events of last week when the Indian government made the decision to scrap Article 370, rendering instability and chaos throughout Jammu and Kashmir. The term often associated with this decision is ‘bifurcation’, which means to separate. Thus the Indian government intends to cause a separation between Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, two different parts of the same region.
Prior to this decision, civil unrest has been at the forefront of the political climate within Kashmir. India has seen a devastating increase of mob lynchings orchestrated by Hindu groups against the Muslim minority in some villages. With the end of Article 370, India has made it legal for Hindu settlers to buy property in Muslim majority areas in Kashmir for the first time. Therefore, it would be only logical to assume with the current state of affairs that this would interfere with the existing religious harmony that Kashmir has often been renowned for.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Kashmir has been without its fair share of conflict; it has been regarded as the centre of controversy in Asia, similar to Palestine is in the Middle East. Though arguably unlike Palestine, the contention surrounding Kashmir has been more political than religious. Since the inception of Article 370, there have been multiple attempts of power-grabbing by China, India and Pakistan alike. Although such attempts have had a modicum effect on the order of things, the three wars that have been fought over Kashmir have contributed to an increase of instability in the land and riots which have been integral to the growth of Kashmir as an independent body.
"This government has not only divided the powers of the state but also finished off the people politically, culturally and socially."— Ghulab Nabi Azad, Leader of the Opposition.
What Does India Plan to Do?
India aims to exert its authority over Ladakh, which means that all legislature made in India will apply across that region of Kashmir. This has led to widespread debates within Shashi Tharoor, the Congress leader in India, stating that all assurances granted to Kashmir are now ‘torn into shreds.”
Similar uproar has been conveyed by Pakistan, who has expelled the Indian Ambassador over the decision. One can only imagine the disorder if all of Scotland’s power was retained by Westminster tomorrow. It would be nothing short of unjust and the embodiment of prejudice.
How, then, does India fair in the question of morality and justness? What will the future hold for Kashmir, and will this heaven on earth be subject to degradation now that its power has been removed? Is the future uncertain for Azad Kashmir (Independent body of Pakistan), or will Pakistan follow India’s footsteps in a game of cat & mouse to show off their authority? Only time will tell, but one can only dream that Kashmir remains preserved. Alas, it is the state of the world, wherein unjust propositions are concealed under the guise of democracy for the mere reason that they are made in Parliament.
© 2019 Zain Hanif