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kashmir and article 370

The background, the present, the nuances and the way forward

Ram Iyer | August 13, 2019

W
e heard a lot of noise throughout the last week over the
abrogation of Article 370 (and subsequently, Article 35A). Ev-
eryone kept saying: Article 370 is “no longer valid” in the state
of Jammu and Kashmir. Why, Jammu and Kashmir was no more a state!
But then, as with all noises, this noise added to the confusion in our minds.
And before we go any further, let me say in simple English, what Article 370
and Article 35A are. Easy one-line statement, you think? Think again.

The Articles
Article 370 recognises Jammu and Kashmir as a special state, and pro-
vides it with autonomy. The reason for this goes back to the time
when Maharaja Hari Singh (the ruler of Kashmir when the British
left India) signed the Instrument of Accession.
Article 370 states that the Government of India has direct control
over three areas in Jammu and Kashmir: Defence, External Affairs
and Communication. Any amendments to the Constitution of India
will not directly apply to Kashmir (barring the said three areas).
The State of Jammu and Kashmir will have their own constitution,
drafted by the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.
To know more about the “temporary” status of the Article, we would
need to know a little history, which we will get to in a moment.
For now, also note that Kashmir is not the lone state with special
status. Though the provisions under special status may vary, re-
gions within Maharashtra, Nagaland, Karnataka, Gujarat, etc., are
also covered under special provisions that concern the domiciles of
the regions. Article 371 of the Constitution of India defines these
provisions for the other states.

Article 35A defines “permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir”, and


gives them benefits and protections, such as buying and owning

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property in Jammu and Kashmir, getting state government jobs
in Jammu and Kashmir, and getting other benefits from the state
government, including scholarships. This article says that every-
thing that is within the state belongs to the domiciles of the state,
and nobody else. Explaining the necessity of this article requires
bringing history into view.

The pieces that made India


Understand that India was not a single nation during the British rule. I
know that there are talks of the ancient Aryavarta, a single empire, and
the kingdoms being vassals of it. We are not going there. That is longer
back than I can handle; I will not bite more than I can chew.
When the British were leaving the subcontinent, the two major polit-
ical parties at the time, the Indian National Congress and the All-India
Muslim League proposed that the princely states join a dominion each.
Some of the major icons of the freedom movement proposed the Two-
Nation Theory, and the two parties suggested that Jinnah (and the Muslim
League) would create a dominion that will be of the Muslim majority areas,
called the Dominion of Pakistan, and the Indian National Congress would
create a dominion on secular grounds, called the Dominion of India.
Understand the statement: To be in India, you did not have to be a
Hindu. You could be an Indian as a Muslim or a Christian or a Buddhist
or even an atheist. Muslims across the Indian subcontinent had a choice
they could make: either remain in the secular Dominion of India, or join
the Islamic Dominion of Pakistan.
But there was an issue. Some states had a majority Muslim population,
but had Hindu rulers (Kashmir—78% Muslim, Hindu ruler: Hari Singh)
and some states had a majority Hindu population, but had Muslim rulers
(example, Junagadh and Hyderabad).
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel took up the task of meeting with the rulers
of all the princely states and asking them to join the Indian dominion.
Instrument of Accession is the paperwork the parties (Dominion of India
and the princely state) signed for this purpose. The terms were that the
Government of India would directly govern Defence, External Affairs and
Communication. All other powers will remain with the state. Each state
will form their constituent assembly and design their own constitutions.
The State Department will define a model constitution, which the princely
states can adapt, based on their needs. India also suggested that the states
send their representatives to the Constituent Assembly of India.

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By August 1947, most states except four—Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir,
Junagadh and Hyderabad—had signed the Instrument of Accession.
Sardar Patel (and much of Congress, in fact) were not interested in
the accession of Jammu and Kashmir; everyone’s main concern was Hy-
derabad, because it sat right within the Indian territory (think: most of
the Deccan region). Junagadh was not much of a point of concern. In a
way, Sardar Patel even used Junagadh as a pawn to “send a message” to
Hyderabad and Pakistan, to ensure that Hyderabad joined India. Kashmir
was not yet a region of focus. Jinnah was not interested in Kashmir, either,
per se. He was eyeing Hyderabad. According to some anecdotal evidence,
Jinnah refused the deal of India letting Kashmir join Pakistan if Pakistan
stopped meddling with Hyderabad. That was the disinterest in Kashmir
back then. Neither party was dying for it, so to speak.

The shortened story of Kashmir


Let us start with the introduction of the spirit of Article 35A. The Kashmiri
Pandits floated the protectionist idea of Kashmir for Kashmiris. They ex-
pressed to Maharaja Hari Singh that nobody other than Kashmiris should
be able to use any of the resources in Kashmir, and that his government
must protect the interests of the Kashmiris from the British.
Maharaja Hari Singh started enacting the legal provisions for this
from 1912 (thirty-five years before independence). This went on for about
a couple of decades, when the provisions took the form of more or less what
Article 35A says today. But Article 35A is not the sole piece of document
that guarantees these rights and privileges to the Kashmiris.
In the 1930s, the Maharaja had leased out the north-western region of
Kashmir (known as Gilgit-Baltistan now) to the British. If I remember it
right, this lease was for six decades. The British formed their Gilgit Scouts
and remained there, even through the independence of India. Keep this
in a corner of your mind for now.
Hari Singh, at the time of independence of India and Pakistan, wanted
Kashmir to be on its own. He did not want to lose control of it to India.
At the time, Sheikh Abdullah’s and Jawaharlal Nehru’s friendship was
well-known, and Hari Singh felt that the Government of India would give
Sheikh Abdullah the control of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Being a
Hindu himself, Hari Singh did not want to join Pakistan either.
In order that his state remained independent while he decided its
future, he sent a Standstill Agreement to both India and Pakistan, asking
both the parties to not change the ongoing arrangements (and the sta-

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tus of his state). Pakistan agreed to it. Nehru, being a Kashmiri Pandit
(conspiracy theories aside), did not want Kashmir to be part of Pakistan.
India called Maharaja Hari Singh for “negotiating Standstill Agreement
between Kashmir Government and Indian dominion.”
Variables changed (as they do in politics) and Pakistan attacked Kash-
mir out of the blue. The Maharaja asked India for help. The Governor
General of India said that it would be diplomatically, politically and strate-
gically dangerous to send Indian troops to a state that was not part of
India—a state that was neutral between India and Pakistan. The Gov-
ernment of India suggested accession. Maharaja Hari Singh signed the
Instrument of Accession.
The Indian troops moved in and a battle ensued. There were some wins
and some losses. Because both the nations were still infant nations, and
when soldiers could not fight battles in the cold weather in the Valley (the
technology in the late forties could not help with battles in such weather
conditions—on both sides), the battle that started in 1947 ended in 1948.
When the cold struck hard in 1947, the Indian troops took a break, and so
did the Pakistani army. When the conditions became better, Pakistan had
“cemented” the border (which is more or less the current Line of Control).
Meanwhile, since with the Independence, all the ties and agreements
with the British had gotten severed, Maharaja Hari Singh sent his officials
to the Gilgit region to take stock of the territory. the Gilgit Scouts stopped
them, and said that they had sworn allegiance to Pakistan. Hari Singh
did not accept this, nor did the Government of India, saying that all ties
with the British were no more, and it did not matter whom the Brits of
the Gilgit region swore allegiance to. Legally, we were right.
As tensions rose, the Government of India, under the leadership of
Nehru, approached the United Nations to intervene in the matter. Anec-
dotes suggest that Sardar Patel and the higher officials within the Indian
Army suggested continuing with the war and ending the dispute once and
for all. But that Nehru ignored the suggestions, ignored the opposition
from Sheikh Abdullah, and went on to the United Nations.
The United Nations asked Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the
region and asked India to reduce “the bulk of” its troops from the region.
Now, let us bring in the issue of religion. Jinnah maintained that Jammu
and Kashmir should be part of Pakistan because of the Two-Nation Theory,
based on religion. In other words, since the majority population of Jammu
and Kashmir was Muslim, Pakistan said, the state should go to Pakistan.
Jinnah also said that he was ready to let Junagadh (which had by now
sworn allegiance to Pakistan) and Hyderabad join India, if India loosened
its grip over Kashmir.

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India said, religion did not matter to us. As long as the leader of the
people of the state signed the Instrument of Accession with the Dominion
of India, the state was part of India. The Nawab of Hyderabad signed
for Hyderabad, and so did Junagadh. Maharaja Hari Singh signed for
accession to India, and by that, Kashmir was part of India. (We could not
have held this argument if we were a Hindu State.)
The United Nations asked the people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide
their future through a referendum, once the countries demilitarised the
region. India accepted the resolution, but Pakistan rejected it. Pakistan
also said that the Azad Kashmir movement and the revolt of people against
Maharaja Hari Singh had effectively stripped him of the authority to sign
the Instrument of Accession in the first place. Neither country has demili-
tarised the region in the last seven decades, and as a result, we have never
been able to hold a plebiscite.
The word, plebiscite, has become a sort of derogatory term these days.
To clarify, a plebiscite is a direct poll. Think of it as asking the people them-
selves (and not their representatives) to voice their opinion on something;
in this case, on whether Jammu and Kashmir would like to join India as
per the Instrument of Accession, or Pakistan.

Article 370 and its significance


Article 370 was a result of what happened in 1947–’48. The Indian Govern-
ment said, ‘All right, we understand that you need a special status given
that you do not want to adopt the Constitution of India. We have also
taken into account what the United Nations say. To that effect, we will
add an article to the Constitution of India, which will give the State of
Jammu and Kashmir a special status. This would be in effect while the final
status of Kashmir remains undecided.’
Article 370 got added to the Constitution in 1952. Two systems were
in effect now, in Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Jammu and Kash-
mir would follow what their constitution said. The Constitution of India
adopted the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. Any amendments made
to our constitution did not directly apply to the State of Jammu and Kash-
mir. The bill went to the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir,
and after the Assembly passed it there, their constitution received the
amendment, and the bill came into effect after that.
In other words, Jammu and Kashmir operated as almost a separate
country, which had sworn allegiance to India. They had their own flag
and their own constitution. The people born in Jammu and Kashmir

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became citizens of Jammu and Kashmir first, and then, India; until 1954,
Kashmiris did not even automatically become citizens of India. And until
the sixties, Jammu and Kashmir would elect the Prime Minister of Jammu
and Kashmir, not the Chief Minister; a practice that had stopped in the
other provinces in 1950—after the formation of the Republic of India.

Separatist movements
Some groups have asked for a separate Kashmir. Pakistan aids these
groups via “moral support”. This is also known as the insurgency.
While the people of Jammu and Kashmir were in favour of joining with
India up until the sixties or seventies, later drastic changes to the state of
Kashmir, setting up “dummy” governments there, and rigging elections
and manipulating the assembly (Cough ... Indira Gandhi ... cough!) an-
gered the Kashmiris; their anger directed towards India. These are signs
of alienation.

Transitioning forward
For now, remember, the Jammu and Kashmir that we have seen since
birth is the map that the colonial cartographers left with India. This map is
technically four parts: the Gilgit-Baltistan region in the north-west (which
swore allegiance to Pakistan despite technical issues with it), the Aksai
Chin region in the north-east (that China claims as own, the issue India
woke up to in 1950), the Azad Kashmir region that Pakistan has occupied,
and the India-administered Jammu and Kashmir—Siachen is now part of
this region.

Article 370 over time


Over the last six decades or so, the power of Article 370 has gotten eroded.
Nehru himself admitted to this in 1963. The Article also gives the President
of India the power to bring changes to the Article by a presidential order
(why, this is how Article 35A got added in the first place).
The government has also used Article 370 to extend provisions of our
constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, a whopping forty-five times. Our con-
stitution contains the Union List, which are aspects that the Constitution
governs, also known as subjects. Ninety-four out of ninety-seven subjects
in the Union List of the Constitution now directly apply to Jammu and
Kashmir, without the necessity of consulting with its (now-non-existent)

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constituent assembly. Over 65% of the articles in the Constitution are
directly applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.
Question: was “scrapping” Article 370 such a big deal after all?
Coming to Article 35A, one of the paragraphs in the Instrument of
Accession protects the rights of the domiciles of Jammu & Kashmir. Arti-
cle 35A is almost a repetition of it. Which brings us to the question, did it
matter that Article 35A got scrapped?

The story of Assemblies


We talk of two terms: Constituent Assembly, and Legislative Assembly. In
simple terms, the constituent assembly formulates the constitution, and
dissolves; the legislative assembly then takes over.
The initial plan for Jammu and Kashmir was that the two countries
would withdraw forces, after which, through a referendum, the people
would choose to which country they would like to accede.
When even in 1951 the countries had not withdrawn forces, the Jammu
and Kashmir National Conference recommended convening a constituent
assembly. The United Nations Security Council, two months before this
recommendation, had said that the voice of these elected members of the
constituent assembly is not a substitute for the plebiscite. Meanwhile, we
added Article 370 to the Constitution of India.
The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir began forming the
Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, and planned to conclude the mat-
ter of accession. In 1954, the Assembly unanimously ratified the state’s
accession to India, and they recorded in their constitution that the former
princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of the Union of
India. The Assembly finalised the Constitution in 1956, and the Constitu-
tion of Jammu and Kashmir came into effect from 1957. The Constituent
Assembly dissolved after creating their constitution, and the Legislative
Assembly came into existence in 1957.

A note on our model of operation


We are a federal parliamentary democratic republic. (A mouthful to say.)
In a federal democratic system, each region has its state government, which
governs the region, in its own way, by listening to its people. This is the
role of the state governments in our country. The central government runs
the country as a whole, while the state governments run their respective
states. Each state has its governor, who is part of the central government.

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This is the reason we have two elections: mla and mp elections. The
state government has a Legislative Assembly. The mla, or the Member of
the Legislative Assembly, is part of the state government. The Members
of the Legislative Assembly elect their chief, Chief Minister of the state.
During the parliament (or more precisely, the Lok Sabha) elections,
registered voters of every constituency elect their MP, (Member of Parlia-
ment). The head of these members is the Prime Minister.
Why do we need this system? The reason is that each region is different
in its own way, and each region should have its autonomy in how we
run it. The area and the population of India is rather large, and diverse.
In essence, what applies to Gujarat may not necessarily apply to Kerala.
Management of state resources, for example, is better done by the state
government than the central government.
In India (and most other federal republic nations), the central gov-
ernment manages areas such as defence, finance, external affairs, while
the state government manages areas such as physical infrastructure and
education. The state governments have autonomy in areas they manage.
This autonomy is necessary.
Union Territories are directly managed by the central government,
wherein, the President appoints a Lieutenant-Governor, who heads the
union territory. A union territory is less autonomous compared to a state.
This is the reason for the expression, ’Reducing a state to a union territory’.
Fact is, during the years of formation of the Constitution, three states
formed their own Constituent Assemblies, and all the states sent their
representatives to the Constituent Assembly of India. The State Depart-
ment developed a model constitution for the states. But later, the rulers
and chief ministers of all the states, in a meeting, decided that separate
constitutions for the states were unnecessary; the suggestions made by
the states that had their constituent assemblies anyway got accepted in
the Constitution of India. Every state, except the state of Jammu and
Kashmir accepted the Constitution of India as their constitution by 1950;
Article 370 was hence the temporary patch. But Article 370 was the way the
amendments to the Constitution of India could flow to the Constitution
of Jammu and Kashmir without the Constituent Assembly of J&K.

Political parties of Kashmir


The political parties of Kashmir have their own agendas that keep chang-
ing unpredictably, as days pass. The stand taken by the nda government
is that the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir did not help the common

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men and women of the region. In fact, it worsened the situation for re-
gions such as Leh and Kargil. While the members of the Ladakh region
are majority Buddhist, they feel the Muslim majority regions have had
the most attention from the politicians of the region. Those in the Ladakh
region feel let down.
Also, the political parties have aided the separatist groups as well,
either directly or indirectly, on more than one occasion. Based on their
agenda, the parties spin the narratives and incite people. But the people
of Kashmir often feel that these parties are their hope, that these parties
will deliver justice. And the parties have indeed, on occasion.
The parties have been unable to amend the Constitution of Jammu
and Kashmir to keep up with the Constitution of India over time, making
people of Kashmir lead a substandard life, compared to the rest of India.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act


August 2019 brought drastic changes to the way Jammu and Kashmir
operated. While for so long, Jammu and Kashmir had “great” autonomy
(highly debatable, of course), the central government stripped it of the
autonomy, through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act.
What is so wrong about it, why is everyone making so much noise?
This is difficult to explain, in part because the validity or relevance
of Article 370 itself is in question, given the eroded nature of the article.
The Government of India had almost full control over the state anyway.
Elections have been difficult in the state, and the Legislative Assembly had
gotten dissolved, effectively bringing in President’s Rule in the state.
This meant that the state had already lost all autonomy. Although,
there was hope that there will be Assembly elections.
The inclusion of Jammu and Kashmir, as per the norm of democracy,
and as per what the United Nations had said, should have happened by
holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, asking the people what they
wanted. A plebiscite is out of question given that the region is still highly
militarised. Another way of abrogating the Article, was by the Constituent
Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir (as per Article 370), but the Constituent
Assembly does not exist.
The Shimla Agreement states that India and Pakistan will handle all
disputes about Kashmir bilaterally, and the two parties will entertain
no interference from any third party, unless both parties, together, felt
the need to. This includes the involvement of the United Nations. This
makes the India-administered part of Jammu and Kashmir an internal

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matter. The Government of India, through a Presidential Order, can
amend Article 370, which it did. Since there was President’s Rule in the
region, the President could get the concurrence of the Governor about the
abrogation of Article 370 in the absence of the Legislative Assembly, which
had taken over from the Constituent Assembly. The Governor concurred.

Prime Minister Modi's speech


In his speech to the Nation on August 8, the Prime Minister spoke about
critical points about stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.
The intended message of the Act essentially was, ‘People of Jammu and
Kashmir, we will no more treat you different from the rest of the states of
India. Welcome to the family.’ PM Modi subtly says, ‘We have tried ways
to make life better for you, to give you the life that the other Indians enjoy,
but the attempts have failed. This time, I am trying something new, give
me a chance. Let us see how this goes.’
But in the process, the Kashmiris feel that the government has not
consulted them in the last seven decades. That this situation is nothing
new. They feel that India alienates their Muslim population, and that
India sees Kashmir as not people, but as a piece of territory. This is a valid
stand; look at what the politicians of the lower cadres are saying. Look at
the fear that makes India not let any of the hundreds of television channels
run in Kashmir. The Kashmiri stand is, if India trusts the allegiance of the
Kashmiris, India should open free speech and free press and television
and other communication channels in the region.
But given the situation that prevails, will Kashmir be able to make their
decision? Given the militancy and the increase in religious extremism, can
India open up these channels of communication? Communication was
anyway ceded to India in 1947; the Constitution of India took precedence
over the State of Jammu and Kashmir in matters of defence, external
affairs and communication per the Instrument of Accession.

What changes now


In reality, not much in the functioning of people of Kashmir changes now.
There was President’s Rule in the state, the Governor being the head of the
state. The President still is the head of the state. Defence had its presence
in the state, and the President’s Rule had stripped the police of all power;
the central government now controls the forces because Kashmir is a
union territory. What difference does it make to Ground Zero?

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The statehood and the spirit of autonomy that was still a piece of hope
in Jammu and Kashmir is now lost. Though done legally and constitution-
ally, this move was undemocratic without a question.
But, again, could the government do this democratically? How?
How does direct control over the law and order make anything in
Kashmir different? The central government controlled the law and order
in the state anyway. Even when Kashmir had its Legislative Assembly and
the Chief Minister led the state, the central defence forces effectively took
precedence over the local forces.
Then, what changes now?
In my view (based on what I know on the subject), taking away the
autonomy of the state does not change much within the state of Jammu
and Kashmir given the current conditions. The ground zero does not
change one bit. What politicians claim does not matter.

But, what changes now


India has effectively cemented the connection to Jammu and Kashmir, and
snapped the thread that precariously connected it to the Constitution of
India. This Act goes a step further from Shimla Agreement and says what
is internal is internal, stay away from meddling with it. If you meddle with
it, India will no more see it as an aggression against Jammu and Kashmir,
but as a direct aggression against the Union of India itself.
India’s message to Pakistan is also that there will no more be “going
soft” over skirmishes by “friendly” state authorities. Indian Defence will
directly take you on.
An important message is, Kashmir is no more a “Flash Point”.
Given the bilateral nature of the issue after Shimla Agreement, the
world has no say over what is India’s own. The point of temporary un-
certainty that the provision of autonomy to Kashmir by Article 370 is no
more. This Act inseparably integrates Kashmir to India. Kashmir is no
more “negotiable”.
Pakistan has received this message without ambiguity. Its actions that
followed the Act erase all doubt about it.
And the world has received the message. What we heard from the
United Nations is enough evidence. The world now sees Kashmir as an
internal, inseparable part of India. Of course, China had issues with that
the new map showed Aksai Chin as part of Ladakh, but Aksai Chin is a
different story; a story of negligence on part of India. A story little known,
but that’s for another time.

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With this Act, and the Prime Minister’s speech, India tells the world,
Kashmir is not negotiable as Pakistan may have you believe. That Pakistan
is probably forgetting the Shimla Agreement. That Kashmir is an internal
matter of India. You are free to side either way. Remember, though, what
India is and what Pakistan is, both strategically and economically. No
matter who chooses what, Kashmir is India, and we entertain no dispute
in it anymore. In order that Kashmir is on par with the other Indian states,
we abrogated the hoops that we had to jump through, called Article 370.

Summing up
In this part, we discuss how India operates as a federal democratic republic.
We also discuss the civics of this change, the constitutional technicalities,
and the geo-political take on the situation. The final chunk that remains
is the nuances of these technicalities, to sand out the edges.

The way forward


Disclaimer: I have never been to Kashmir, and hence, I have never
had first-hand interactions with Kashmiris in Kashmir. What I know, is
from interacting with Kashmiris here in Bangalore, and reading. But this
reading has rejected boundaries. I used a non-profiling search engine,
over a non-regionally-identifying browser, because I did not want the
search engine to tailor the results around “Hindu searcher from India”. As
an Indian, I am subconsciously biased towards India, and I understand
that. I have hence had to put conscious effort to make this as impartial as
I can—there is no substitute for that.

Breaking down the regions


We read about the break-up of the colonial cartographers’ version of the
map of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, as handed over to India, in the
first part of the series. Here are the regions (in a little more detail):

• India-administered Kashmir
• Azad Kashmir
• Gilgit-Baltistan (also known as the Northern Areas)
• Aksai Chin
• Trans-Karakoram Tract

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Figure 1: Map of the Kashmir Region: United States Library of Congress

Separatism in Kashmir
The restrictions in Article 370 limited the democratic reforms in Kashmir
for about three decades. By the late 1980s, the Government of India had
even reversed some of the reforms. Along with this, during Indira Gandhi’s
tenure as the Prime Minister, the government stopped tolerating the
expression of discontent. Some of these channels were even closed.
This gave rise to anger.
Now, to the political side of the story. I don’t know how to apolitically
put this. Let us start with Pakistan. Pakistan controls Azad Kashmir. This
part of Kashmir is at the core of the insurgency. Most militant groups
have started from here. The most-talked-about districts of this region, in
the context, include Kotli, Muzaffarabad and Bhimber. Pakistan claims
that Azad Kashmir is on its own, except for Pakistan controlling its de-

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fence and foreign affairs. Pakistan, through militants, also deter people
from participating in elections there. That the military establishment of
Pakistan runs the country is well known.
The people of the Gilgit-Baltistan region do not have even the basic
democratic rights in Pakistan, and have never participated in elections.
On the Indian side, we have been shuttling between different stands.
First, Sheikh Abdullah won the elections and led the Constituent Assembly
of Jammu and Kashmir. The United Nations said that these State elections
are not a substitute for the plebiscite. The Government of India said that
there will be a separate plebiscite, which will decide the future of Jammu
and Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah was in favour of accession of the state to
India. Later, his thoughts and stand changed over a period of time.
Nehru, on his part, also kept changing his stand on the plebiscite.
As a reaction to Abdullah’s changing stands, the Government of India
arrested him and the then Sadr-i-Riyasat, Karan Singh, appointed Bakshi
Ghulam Mohammed as the Prime Minister of the State. The Constituent
Assembly under him, ratified the Instrument of Accession. Jammu and
Kashmir officially became part of India in 1954.
At the time, the Kashmiri sentiment was still for accession to India.
Although, remember, while the Kashmiris were in favour of accession to
India, they may not have been in favour of the abrogation of Article 370.
The Constituent Assembly never spoke a word about the abrogation, nor
was the plebiscite held. In other words, Kashmiris themselves never said,
‘We want to be like any other non-Kashmiri Indian.’
The rigging of elections, during the years of Congress regime that
followed, with the intent to ensure that either the National Conference
or the Congress (and nobody else) were in power in Jammu and Kashmir,
further angered the Kashmiris. No matter which candidate stood, none
of them stood a chance to win these elections. Gradually, this, along with
the retraction of democratic reforms and silencing of the voices in the late
eighties, led to the wave of insurgency.
In the nineties, when the insurgency threatened the internal security
of India, the government imposed President’s Rule in the state.
In the mid-nineties, the Kashmiris’ situation deteriorated further,
feeding their anger. In May, the parliamentary elections were due. On
the one side, the separatist militant groups threatened the voters of ha-
rassment if they voted, while on the other, the Indian armed forces forced
the voters to vote. Not to mention the booth-capturing and other usual
election malpractices.
Remember, the two countries had signed the Shimla Agreement by
then, and Jammu and Kashmir was an “internal matter”. The world had no

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say in it. Also, the Constituent Assembly elected in the State had ratified
the accession in 1954. That meant that Pakistan was illegally trying to
claim Indian territory. That part is true. But that the Kashmiris wanted to
side with India was, technically, Schrödinger’s Cat.
Sheikh Abdullah (and his family) have shifted their opinions every now
and then; populism has never spared any politician. Shimla Agreement
is (democratically) questionable because it does not take into account
what the people want—whether the people themselves endorse Sheikh
Abdullah’s (and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed’s) actions on the accession or
not—and touches on the legal aspects alone.

Angry Kashmiris
The anger of Kashmiris is that the two countries, India and Pakistan, have
come to conclusions on their own, without ever consulting them. That
they have not been able to exercise their right to self-determination. What
if they voted for Abdullah solely because there was no better whom they
could bring to power? That does not mean they accept every action of
his. And the United Nations had said (and India had accepted) that the
elections are not a substitute for the plebiscite; that the plebiscite was
separate, and was in no way related to the elections.
The Kashmiris feel, India and Pakistan no more see Kashmir as a peo-
ple, but as a piece of land; that the countries are more concerned about
the territory. That in view of their disputes, the two nations have lost
sight of the soul of the land under dispute: the people. This separates the
Kashmiris into three groups: ones that are still in support for Kashmir’s
accession to India, ones that are angry with India and want to join Pak-
istan instead, and the third, who want nothing to do with either country.
The third category is perhaps the most common today, the extreme lay-
ers of which is the militants. In other words, while majority Kashmiris
don’t want to have anything to do with either country, militants are but a
minuscule part of them.
But then, how do we know who is a militant, and who is not?
Militancy has been drastically growing in the state over the last decade.
Militant groups target regular (Muslim) homes that have male children.
The groups force families to let one of their children join a militant group.
The militants threaten to annihilate the family if they don’t send a child
to the group. Some families relent, while others get killed. Those that
relent become a target of the forces, and the forces begin surveillance, and
harassment in the name of investigation. But, how can we, as a country,

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allow militancy? If a family has sent a boy to the group, a good way of
being able to reach the militant group is by “keeping an eye” on the family.
Yes, but then, isn’t self-preservation a basic human right?
At the same time, is militancy the way? To what end?
But, imagine if all this happened to your family. What would you do as
a mother, as a father, as a son or a daughter or a sister? Let the militant
group annihilate your entire family of twelve for a “landmass” that no
more sees you as people but as property? Or lose one member while save
the rest of your flock? What are you paying the price for? If you choose
annihilation, do you think your annihilation will stop militancy in your
region? Militants are like cattle. One dies, the shepherd breeds another.

The undemocratic side


Legally, the move was straight-forward: The Legislative Assembly of the
state of Jammu and Kashmir had dissolved as the state prepared for elec-
tions. The elections did not happen, and President’s Rule continued. Since
Article 370 and the move of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kash-
mir in 1954 made Jammu and Kashmir part of India, and keeping in view
the Shimla Agreement of 1972, the Parliament had the rights to revoke the
special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
But remember that the government house-arrested the prominent
political leaders of the region. The government also prohibited public
gatherings. The central government stripped the local security authorities
of their weapons. Thousands of troops entered the region, and the region
was under a security lock-down.
Which part of that was democratic? How would you see this as a
Kashmiri?
But then, as the Government of India, how else would you abrogate
Article 370 without causing a massacre of innocent people—by militants,
by secessionists, by political extremists, by religious extremists, or other
anti-social elements?
A bigger question emerges in case of independent Kashmir: Will Pak-
istan and its militants let Kashmir last one month as a separate country?
What then?

The Two-Nation Theory


Pakistan uses the Two-Nation Theory to promote the secession of Kashmir
from India. Pakistan says, ‘You are a Muslim majority state. We are an

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Islamic republic. Your religious beliefs are our religious beliefs. You are
no different from us. You are safer with us than being a minority in India.’
The Constitution of India says, ‘We are a secular republic. It does not
matter what religion you follow.’ Kashmir is “spoilt with choices”!
But given the skirmishes in the last two to three decades (and specifi-
cally in the last five years), the sentiment is that the secular model of India
is failing, notably so with Muslims. That Kashmiri Muslims are not seen
as “loyal” Indians. ‘Then why even bother?’ I heard this sentiment first
hand from a Kashmiri Muslim who was a colleague. He said he wanted
Kashmir to join India, but the government authorities see his people at
home with an eye of suspicion all the time, that they are Pakistan-friendly
(solely because of their religion).
The narratives of some of the right-winged Hindutva-promoting po-
litical parties is that India is a Hindu nation. They make statements like,
‘Barring Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, we will throw the followers of all non-
Hindu religions out of India.’ This is the textbook definition of “ethnic
cleansing”. These incidents have handed Pakistan and Kashmir secession-
ists their trump card on a silver platter, of which, as expected, Pakistan is
taking advantage.
The solution?

Sabka Vishwas
Prime Minister Modi, in his election campaign, added the clause, “sabkā
vishwās” or “trust of everyone” to the original “Sabkā sāth, sabkā vikās”, or,
“With support from everyone, [there will be] development for everyone”.
This is a critical pivot point that, if followed, will solve a good number
of trust issues in our country. Specifically, communal ones. What the
right-aligned pro-Hindutva politicians fail to see is the word “secular” in
the Constitution (while the others abuse this word in their own different
ways). The politicians, because of their own agendas, have all forgotten
the spirit of India.
And some moronic comments by the citizens on social media have
added fuel to the fire.
Coming back, the point remains: the non-Kashmiri population of
India must win the trust of the Kashmiris.

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Addressing the alienation
If there has to be a change on ground zero, the government must look at
the issue of alienation. Merely saying ‘You are no different than the other
Indians’ is not enough; giving defensive speeches is not enough. We must
live up to that promise.
What our government does next will tell us if this move was akin to
what late Mrs Gandhi did, thereby angering the Kashmiris further, or this
was indeed a genuine attempt at opening arms and accepting Kashmir as
a people. The next four weeks will give us a whiff of what the direction is,
and the next four years will tell us for sure, what will happen later.
And all this while, Pakistan will not remain silent. The country leeches
on such issues. If Kashmir becomes part of India and all dispute vanishes,
the Pakistani Establishment will face an existential crisis. Will the Estab-
lishment let that happen? What about the hundreds of nuclear weapons?

Wrapping up
To wrap up a rather long piece, let us start with a question: was this at all
necessary? To answer that, consider the aspects mentioned in the post
and these counter-questions: Was Kashmir having a good life? We tried
different incremental steps in the last seven decades. India as a country
moved to become one of the most talked-about nations in the world, in
the last seven decades. We are an important cog in the world machinery.
Remove India from the equation of the world, and the world is no more
the world we know.
Yes, what we did to Kashmir is perhaps the least democratic action for
the world’s largest democracy, but, in the interest of our fellow citizens in
the region, was this move such a bad one? Did we not owe it to rationality
to scrap a method that did not work, and try something new? What other
options did we have? What other options did Kashmir have? I understand
that it sounds like ‘Kashmir was helpless’. It could sound rather arrogant
if I said that India was the best chance that Kashmir had, but the reality is,
Kashmir’s other neighbours will never let Kashmir progress in its spirit.
India is the most democratic, among our neighbours around Kashmir,
at least. Perhaps the people of Kashmir should give this a chance. Yes, there
are religious issues in some parts of the country. Yes, there are linguistic
fanatics, communalists, political propagandists, lynchers, corrupt officials
and every other antisocial element on mainland India that every other
regular country has. But the life of a regular free citizen on mainland

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India is better than the best life a Kashmiri has had in decades. India is
democratic enough that I can legally post all this on a public platform. Yes,
this government has made blunders. But again, no more than any other
government in any part of the world. From an idealistic point-of-view,
what happened to Article 370 is not great. But, what was the special status
doing anyone any good in 2019? Is that not something to think about?
Personally, I don’t see any other way the government could have han-
dled the situation, given the current geopolitical factors and factors in-
ternal to Kashmir. Also, we had to avoid unnecessary engagement in
unfruitful or wasteful activities that could potentially sap our growth and
make us lose sight of our larger, global goals. We could not let other coun-
tries use us as a stage for negotiations. Nor could we be a pawn. We have
our interests, our goals, and a long way to go.
Likewise, this is not the end of story like some politicians may have you
believe. This piece does not absolve the government of its actions. What
happened is a twist, and we don’t know what will come of it on ground zero.
We cannot blame Kashmir for feeling alienated. The actions of a handful
of corrupt agencies and officials has brought about this situation. Like
how we should disregard the all-gloomy-and-dark picture that Arundhati
Roy paints, we should disregard the sunny picture that the ruling party
shows us, as well. Those are two extremes, and we call ground zero as
“zero” for a reason (hint: integers).
Vajpayee, during his tenure as the Prime Minister, did care about a
handful wounds of the Kashmiris. I don’t know if adopting that spirit will
suffice, or if the government would need to go an extra mile given the
current temperament in Kashmir.
I hope we both manage to accept each other as fellow Indians disre-
garding geographical, religious and ideological differences, as the design-
ers of the Constitution of India envisaged; the Indian spirit is to celebrate
diversity, not merely unite despite diversity. The former is acceptance, and
the latter, mere tolerance. Acceptance is beyond tolerance; acceptance
is when you are a family with each member being different in thought
and actions. Kashmir is that new member in the family who has not yet
shared the roof with us. Merely opening the door, making them seated,
and offering them water does not end the story. Again, we did not merely
open the door; we ripped the wall on the other side of which the member
lived, and said, ‘Welcome home!’
Are we both capable of unconditionally accepting each other and mov-
ing forward as one? Time will tell.

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