Who is the chief minister of Jammu

Dangerous game in Kashmir

On August 5, the government in New Delhi lifted the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. With this decision, India's Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has further fueled the conflict in the Muslim-majority region - with unpredictable consequences far beyond India.

by Vaiju Naravane

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So far, the special status of Jammu and Kashmir had secured extensive autonomy for the only Indian state with a Muslim majority. Due to a decree by President Ram Nath Kovind, who, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Jammu and Kashmir are no longer a state, but just a Union Territory (UT) ruled from New Delhi . A new law also divided the federal state and made the predominantly Buddhist Ladakh its own union territory, which is also administered from the capital.

The President quietly decreed the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which enshrined the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. There was no discussion in parliament, although the BJP and its coalition partners have a comfortable majority there.1 The journalist Prem Shankar Jha describes Modris' maneuver as "a stroke of a stroke of the constitution, a complete betrayal of both the Kashmiri people and our federal constitution".2

The coup was carefully prepared. Days before, New Delhi had called on foreign tourists and pilgrims who wanted to travel to Armarnath in the Himalayas to leave Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh under the pretext of unsubstantiated “security warnings”. The 500,000 soldiers already stationed in the region were reinforced by thousands more. And politicians - even those close to New Delhi - lawyers, professors, journalists, activists, business people and ordinary citizens (even minors) who were seen as potential “troublemakers” have been arrested - a total of around 4,000 people.

Shortly before the announcement, New Delhi imposed a total blackout in Jammu and Kashmir and then carried out the arrests quickly. Two former pro-Indian chief ministers of the state were also placed under arrest. The application of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure closed all schools and universities and prohibited gatherings of more than five people. Internet, cellular communications and telephone lines were paralyzed. The state was completely cut off from the outside world and remains largely isolated to this day, although the government claims the children are now back to school, the phones are working again and the region is "almost back to normal".

In addition to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir a constituent assembly, a constitution, a parliament and its own flag, Article 35a, which prohibited non-Kashmiri from buying land and real estate or working in public authorities, was also deleted . With these measures, New Delhi aims to change the demographic composition in the region. Narendra Modi is a great admirer of Israel and likes to orientate himself on its policy of "encircling" the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Mehbuba Mufti, who was the first woman to be Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir until mid-2018, was able to give an interview to the BBC on August 6, despite house arrest. The latest measures will make India “an occupying power in Jammu and Kashmir,” Mufti emphasized. "By dividing up the state and fraudulently stealing everything we are entitled to under the law, they are fueling the Kashmir conflict." New Delhi wants to occupy Jammu and Kashmir and bring the majority Muslim state into line with the other states . "They want to make us a minority and completely disempower us," said Mufti, who is now no longer available.

Poisoned legacy of British colonial power

Modi's decision, which he himself described as a "purely internal matter", has in fact far-reaching international consequences and could lead to a violent confrontation or a new war in an extremely unstable region of the world where the two nuclear powers India and Pakistan have been hostile to each other for 70 years .

Since independence from Great Britain in 1947, Kashmir has always been the bone of contention between the two new states, and the dispute has already resulted in numerous violent clashes. Of the three wars between India and Pakistan, two (1948 and 1965) were waged directly over Kashmir. An estimated 70,000 people have died in this conflict since independence.

With his high-handed arrangement, which corresponds to his vision of India as a pure Hindu nation (Hindu Rashtra), Modi has plunged the mountain region even deeper into chaos and uncertainty. In India, where Hindu nationalists' identity politics are commonplace, Modi's decision received widespread support. The Hindu majority has now been convinced that “pacifying” the Muslim minority, especially in Kashmir, has been bought with unnecessary concessions.

From the representation of the nationalists, the Hindus are the victims. From now on, there are no longer any exceptions for Kashmir; according to Hindu ideologues, the area belongs to India and should be treated like any other Indian state. In truth, however, Kashmir was neither part of India nor Pakistan when independence was proclaimed.

The recent history of Kashmir is turbulent and complicated; it is shaped by numerous colonial, political and military twists and turns. Much of this has to do with the wickedness of British colonial power and the legacy it left behind.

When the British ruled the Indian subcontinent, they themselves only controlled part of the territory directly. In addition, there were 565 vassal states (princely states) ruled by large and small rajas, nabobs and maharajas. Some had large kingdoms, others tiny principalities that consisted of just a few villages. The largest and most linguistically and culturally diverse of these realms was Kashmir.

In the Kashmir Valley around Srinagar, Kashmiri was the most common language among the Muslim majority as well as the Hindu minority. In the south was the province of Jammu, where mainly Dogri was spoken; Muslims lived here in the west, while the Hindus settled in the east. Buddhists who were religiously and linguistically closely connected to Tibet lived in the highlands of Ladakh. They were ethnically related to the inhabitants of Baltistan, west of Ladakh, but the population there consisted mainly of Shiite Muslims. There was a fascinating diversity of dialects and cultures in the barely populated valleys of Gilgit in the north.

In the far west of Jammu and Kashmir, on the border with Pakistan, there was still an area with strong ethnic and linguistic ties to the neighboring country. The majority of the population lived there, but there was a significant minority of Hindus and Sikhs, especially in Mirpur.3 The only factor that united all these different territories was their common ruler, a Hindu king in a majority Muslim empire.

When the British withdrew from India, they not only divided the subcontinent into two nations, they also left the two new states a poisoned gift. They promised the princes that they would regain their sovereignty and could choose whether to belong to India or Pakistan. Kashmir bordered on both states and had a majority Muslim population, so Pakistan felt entitled to claim the empire for itself. But Delhi also laid claim to the area.

The ruling Maharajah Hari Singh could not make up his mind and asked for a standstill agreement to buy time. However, Pakistan did not want to know about this and sent Pashtun tribal militias across the border, which were supported by the army. Faced with the insurgents on his doorstep, Hari Singh asked the Indian government for military assistance and fled to India. On October 26, 1947, he signed the "Instrument of Accession" with which Kashmir was attached to India.

This was followed by the First Indo-Pakistani War for Kashmir from 1947 to 1949. When India's Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru brought the matter to the international community, the UN called on Pakistan and India on August 13, 1948 to withdraw their armed forces. A referendum should then be held to determine the will of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan refused to leave the occupied territories and consequently India did not withdraw its troops either. And the referendum has not yet taken place.

India now controls about 60 percent of Jammu and Kashmir, the rest is under the administration of Pakistan and China, which occupied part of Kashmir in 1962 after winning a war against India (see map). The Indian and Pakistani administrated regions of Kashmir are separated by a ceasefire line ("Line of Control"), which is now a de facto international border.

"All princely states that joined the Indian Union have signed the same document," explains the well-known lawyer and constitutional lawyer Aman Hingorani.4 “They gave up their sovereignty in the areas of defense, foreign policy and communication.

Some states signed additional declarations after which they ceded their territories to India, which Jammu and Kashmir refused acted as an independent Dominion in the British Commonwealth, obtain permission from the relevant state. This fact was later also reflected in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

Kashmiri residents could never fully come to terms with the rule of India, they never saw themselves as part of India, in contrast to the population of the other former princely states. After New Delhi rigged the 1987 elections to secure the victory of its allies in Kashmir, an uprising began.

The Kashmiri discontent with India offered Pakistan a good opportunity to step in the breach. Over time, the resistance has resulted in numerous repression by the Indian armed forces in response to terrorist attacks, either by local people or by Pakistan's influential Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

The 18-year-old suicide bomber who killed 44 members of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on February 14, a paramilitary unit operating in Jammu and Kashmir, was also trained in Pakistan.

Indeed, Pakistan has always pursued a ruthless strategy in Kashmir and repeatedly incited attacks in India, which it also financed. At the same time, the anger and disillusionment increased in the face of increasing repression by the Indian central power, especially in the Kashmir Valley, where 95 percent of the population is Muslim. The anti-Indian uprising has been smoldering in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 and has flared up again and again over the years.

The fact that Pakistan now wants to achieve an international condemnation of India is likely to fuel the conflict even further. The Srinagar-based civil society alliance Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society reported that the conflict claimed a particularly high number of victims in 2018: 586 dead, including 267 members of armed groups, 159 members of the army and 160 civilians.

Sumantra Bose, who teaches international and comparative politics at the London School of Economics, estimates the number of deaths since the beginning of the 1989 uprising at over 40,000.5 The Indian government, on the other hand, refuses to publish official figures.

The question is whether New Delhi's lifting of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is lawful or whether a lawsuit against it has a chance of success. Constitutional experts like Aman Hingorani believe that the Indian government could find it difficult to explain because it does not have the authority to intervene in the balance of power in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. "The government needs a very solid rationale if it is to get away with what it has done," Hingorani said. The process in which New Delhi simply scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir could be constitutionally challenged.

Narendra Modi's decree can be interpreted as the de facto annexation of Jammu and Kashmir, which will lead to a complete occupation of the state, with almost 1 million soldiers guarding 9 million inhabitants. Various interest groups have already filed constitutional lawsuits in India that will be judged by the country's highest court.

However, apart from heavy condemnations from Pakistan and criticism from China, there was little reaction from the international community. The government of Emmanuel Macron in France, which is hoping for further sales of the Rafale fighter jet and other lucrative deals, has not commented on the restriction of civil liberties, the arbitrary detention of politicians and the complete blackout. Paris simply stated that the matter should be "settled bilaterally" between India and Pakistan.

New area of ​​operation for jihadists

India has managed to corner its rival: Pakistan is economically on the ground and discredited in the eyes of the world as a supporter of global terrorism. In addition, Islamabad is struggling to legitimize its commitment as advocating the “freedom” of the Kashmiri people. Because the full-bodied declarations on the freedom of the Kashmiri and the independence of Jammu and Kashmir sound pretty hollow when you consider that Pakistan has practically annexed the part of the country it occupies.

On September 9th, just over a month after Modi's decree, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated: “I appealed to India above all to ease lockdowns and curfews, to ensure people's access to basic services and to improve their rights to ensure a fair trial of the prisoners. ”After an indictment, that doesn't exactly sound like it sounds like India will get away with a black eye.

Siddharth Varadarajan, founder and editor-in-chief of the independent website Thewire.in, calls Modi's maneuver an “extremely dangerous development” that will have far-reaching, negative effects on three levels: “First of all, it concerns the violation of fundamental human rights in Kashmir. Established parties are suddenly seen as criminal, fundamental human rights such as the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly have been abolished. "

Second, Varadarajan fears negative effects on India's international image: "So far, the world has gone along with it and India has given a leap of faith because democracy in the country is trusted." Country.

And thirdly, the journalist fears that Indian democracy as a whole will be endangered because it cannot be ruled out that New Delhi will take similar measures for other states in the future if they show resistance or oppose the government in any way.

"Kashmir needs a long-term, sustainable, non-violent mass political movement to regain its political rights," said Shah Faesal, a former senior official who became the first Kashmiri to take first place in public service competitive exams. He had resigned in January 2019 in protest against the repression in Jammu and Kashmir. According to Faesal, the abolition of Article 370 has also caused moderate political voices to fall completely silent: “There are no longer any supporters of the Constitution. Now you're either a yes-man or a separatist, there's nothing in between. "

Despite the blackout, massive media censorship and pro-government reporting by docile journalists, news from Jammu and Kashmir is gradually penetrating: protests, torture, blindness from air rifle projectiles (diabolo projectiles) by the police and mass arrests. So far, two deaths from diabolo bullets have been confirmed. Ajit Doval, security advisor to the Indian government, described the death of the teenager Asrar Ahmad Khan, who died from his injuries at the beginning of September, as "deplorable".A total of 16 other people are said to have been killed when the police took action against protests.

If the death toll continues to rise, thousands of young Kashmiri who have remained at a distance until now will join the uprising. In addition, it is quite possible that jihadists from the Near and Middle East and perhaps even from Europe will find their way into the Kashmir Valley, despite all countermeasures by the security forces. The Islamic State (IS) announced last May that a new cell had been set up in Kashmir.

The Pakistani people are also likely to put strong pressure on Islamabad to let go of their own jihadists, the Tanzeem-e-Islami, and the government will at some point declare that it can no longer hold them back. This could lead to a long, bloody war, as a result of which terrorism will spread to the rest of India.

The subsequent persecution of the terrorists could turn India into a police state where staged mock fighting is the order of the day, with Muslims as the main victims. “That would be the beginning of the end of India as we have known it so far,” says Prem Shankar Jha. Dark prospects, indeed.

1 See Christophe Jaffrelot, “India in the Grips of Hindu Nationalists,” LMd, July 2019.

2 Jha is the author of the book "Kashmir 1947: Rival Versions of History", Oxford (Oxford University Press) 1996. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from interviews with the author.

3 See Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, “War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947–1948,” London (Sage Publications India) 2014.

4 See Aman Hingorani, “Unraveling the Kashmir Knot,” London (Sage Publications India) 2016.

5 Sumantra Bose, "Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace", Cambridge (Harvard University Press) 2003.

Translated from the English by Sabine Jainski

Vaiju Naravane is a professor in the Faculty of Journalism, Media and Film at Ashoka University.

Le Monde diplomatique, 10/10/2019, by Vaiju Naravane