The Dastaan-e-Dard: Kashmir's Tale of Pain
The Dastaan-e-Dard (the tale of pain) of oppression and imperialist rule of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir) is not new, but rather a despondent reality for many generations now. The August 1947 partition of the subcontinent (India, Pakistan and later Bangladesh) on lines of religious identity, saw a new turn in its history.
Much like other princely states, Jammu and Kashmir had the autonomy to decide whether to join the independent India or Pakistan. Protests began soon after the Muslim majority population ruled by Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh Dogra, looked likely to join India and not remain independent as most had wished.
Amongst this tense atmosphere, autumn of 1947 saw the start of a bloody and ruthless massacre of Muslim protestors within the state. State-sponsored paramilitaries and mobs were led by the Dogra army, killing thousands and forcefully displacing many more, who sought refuge in Pakistan. There exists no official recognition of this massacre and thus no official death toll to go with it. However western press that did report it at the time put the death mark around a horrifying 2,37,000 (The Times, London, August 1948) and 200,000 lives lost (The Spectator, January 1948).
The crackdown by the Dogra rule, supported by the Indian state, caused an atmosphere of oppression and mistrust, with what looked increasingly like an attempt at ethnic cleansing. Killing and forced evacuations were being carried out in Jammu and Kashmir.
The people of the North-Western Frontier Province of Pakistan had long-standing connections with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as such tribal militias, backed by Pakistan, began infiltrating to fight against the Dogra led forces in support of their fellow Muslims. This caused the Maharajas forces to retreat to Jammu in need of further assistance. Subsequently, Indian army presence increased in the region, with the Maharaja signing the Instrument of Accession to India. Governor-General of India at the time, Louis Mountbatten, agreed that this should be a temporary accession until a plebiscite can be held for the People of Jammu and Kashmir to decide their own fate in a democratic way. The instrument of accession stipulated that the jurisdiction of India extended in three key areas only Defence, Communications and External Affairs.
Kashmir’s accession to India was temporary until the people of Jammu and Kashmir could vote in a plebiscite. Such plebiscites, or referendums, were not an anomaly for princely states joining India. Junagadh, today part of the Indian state of Gujrat, saw a plebiscite in December of 1947. The Muslim Nawab of a predominantly Hindu state chose to accede to Pakistan, this caused controversy amongst his subjects. India fervently fought for the people of Junagadh’s right to self-determination, who eventually voted in favour of joining India. However, such vigour has not been shown towards the people of Jammu and Kashmir’s right to self-determination. Instead, they've been subject to torture and oppression for over 70 years, by none other than the same Indian state.Image Source: www.gulfnews.com
What are Articles 370 and 35A?
The Instrument of Accession limited Indian powers in Jammu and Kashmir to defence, communications and external affairs only. The state of Jammu and Kashmir retained its powers of lawmaking and governance. It is from this principle that Article 370 came into effect in 1949.
Article 370 exempts the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian constitution, permitting the state to draw its own constitution. Accordingly, the people of Jammu and Kashmir could reside under separate laws from India. Jammu and Kashmir has its own flag and its own laws under which land can be acquired. This is known as Article 35A. Drawing from the original Instrument of Accession and Article 370, Article 35A acts as a protection of the ethnic and demographic makeup of the region. The article safeguards the right of the state, to decide its permanent residency.
Article 35A stipulates that individuals from India cannot legally buy, own or settle on Jammu and Kashmir land. This extends to women that marry non-residents from outside the state and their subsequent children.
What does its repeal mean?
India’s historically barbaric treatment of the Kashmiri Muslims and its Human Rights violations are well known to those who care. Three months after entering their second term the ruling BJP party have successfully fostered an environment of communal tensions between the Hindu majority and minority Muslim populations of India. Cases of cow vigilantes and violence against Muslims and Kashmiris in India has risen, yet none of this has been in a vacuum. The BJP government has strengthened anti-cow slaughtering laws and spoken of Hindu nationalism openly, thus legitimising any crimes against Muslims as a natural response to a supposedly threatened identity.
The BJP's manifesto during the elections earlier this year not only stressed that it was inspired by nationalism but also promised to scrap Article 370. It further promised to build the controversial Ayodhya temple on the site of the Babri Masjid, demolished by Hindu-nationalist fanatics with BJP involvement. The demolition of the Babri Masjid led to communal riots and deaths across India in 1992. This manifesto left no space for equality, secularism or minority Muslim rights.
The Indian government’s decision to put Jammu and Kashmir on high-security alert on 26th of July was a prewarning of trouble to come. Pilgrims from the Ladakh area were recalled and taken back to India. 10,000 additional troops were deployed on the 27th, with thousands more being reportedly deplored since. Sunday the 4th of August saw the detention of prominent Kashmiri politicians and the cut out of telephone and internet connection.
With human rights withheld, Jammu and Kashmir has been kept in a state of fear. Senior politicians have been put on house arrest, a complete blackout of communication has been imposed and section 144 was implemented prohibiting more than 3 people from congregating. Monday went on to see Amit Shah, Indian home affairs minister, announced the scrapping of Article 370 and 35A as well as the creation of two states, carving out Ladakh as independent from Jammu and Kashmir and stripping it of its autonomy. All of this with no consultation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir or their elected leaders.
An attempt to fulfil the mantra that the Indian state has been chanting for over 70 years ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’. Yet it seems that this has been at the expense of its own democracy, as not only have they used unjust levels of oppression and force, but they have also broken a bilateral agreement between two states, India and Jammu and Kashmir.
India can now no longer legally justify its presence in Jammu and Kashmir. Scrapping Article 370 means Indian state is colonising the region and as of 5th August 2019 illegally occupying. BJP has long advocated the idea of Indians being allowed to buy and settle in Jammu and Kashmir, disguising it as economic development of the region. Yet these illegal actions are an attempt at changing the demographic makeup of the region. An attempt to silence the Kashmiri voice. An attempt to dilute the calls for self-determination. Once the news begins to seep into the valleys of Jammu and Kashmir, protests are expected and the heavy-handed approach towards the Kashmiris at the hands of the army will be imminent.