The illegal and unilateral changes effected by India are in no way an internal matter as the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains on the agenda of the Security Council. Pakistan and China have vehemently rejected the formal revocation of the constitutional autonomy of India-occupied Kashmir (IoK) and splitting the disputed state into two federal territories in a bid to firm its grip over the territory. “Everything changes on Thursday [October 31]. From a state, we are reduced to a municipality,” said a retired Kashmiri judge, Hasnain Masoodi, a member of India’s Parliament. “The entire exercise is unconstitutional. The mode and methodology have been undemocratic. People were humiliated and never consulted.” Masoodi represents the National Conference, a powerful pro-India Kashmiri political group whose leaders have been detained.
The symbolic change is the absence of Kashmir’s own flag and constitution, which were eliminated as part of the region’s new status. And India’s tricolour flag is hoisted in Srinagar to nominally mark the final absorption of territories into India. Status of IoK has been reduced from a province to two municipalities. Lieutenant Governors of J&K and Ladakh, Girish Chandra Murmu and Radha Krishna Mathur respectively, have assumed their offices. Indian authorities have also changed the name of the state-run radio station Radio Kashmir Srinagar to All India Radio Srinagar. But the most contentious point for many people is the threat of land grabs by Indians living outside the IoK region, facilitated through the formal abrogation of Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution that safeguarded Kashmiris’ exclusive right to land ownership and job protection. The real motive is to alter the demographic structure of the Muslim majority state in pursuance of advancement of the extremist “Hindutva” ideology.
India has formally initiated colonial rule, foreign occupation and alien domination in the IoK. Tens of thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers fanned out across the occupied valley, patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints, as the new legislation went into effect on 30-31 October midnight. Angry protesters took to a main thoroughfare in Muzaffarabad, the main city of Azad Kashmir, on 31 October to condemn the bifurcation of the occupied Kashmir into two federal territories. “Down with India” and “We want freedom [for our brothers in IoK]”, they chanted. BJP government is now focusing on implementing “the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act” by allowing Indian nationals to buy property, cast their vote and permanently settle in J&K. Under the Act, delimitation of electoral constituencies will also take place which will benefit the Hindu nationalist BJP. To win over the sympathies of around 450,000 government employees, a salaries hike plan has been rolled out.The real motive is to alter the demographic structure of the Muslim majority in the J&K. The international community must take notice that transfer of civilian population from outside into J&K is in grave violation of the international laws, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Pakistan has rejected the “bifurcation” of IoK. Changing of status quo in occupied territory is in complete violation of the UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan, especially the Simla Agreement. No step by the government of India can change this status. These changes are illegal and void as per the relevant UNSC Resolutions, and do not effect the right to self-determination of the people of occupied Jammu & Kashmir. The foolhardy approach Modi regime would ultimately turn out to be an illusion. UNSC, UNGA and Human Rights Council will ultimately pass resolutions against India, further building on two consecutive reports by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Even the International Court of Justice may pass a non-binding but biting opinion. The Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) in a statement issued in New Delhi termed as “shameful” the decision to formally declare separation of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir. It said the territory was divided without taking the opinion of its citizens and reiterated its strong opposition to the abrogation of Article 370.
Reacting to the development, China said the bifurcation of India-occupied Kashmir into two Union territories was unlawful, void and ineffective and will not change the fact that the area was under its actual control. “China deplores and firmly opposed that. India unilaterally changes its domestic law and administrative divisions, challenging China’s sovereignty and interests. This is awful and void, and this is not effective in any way and will not change the fact that the area is under China’s actual control,” said Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Spokesperson. Modi’s decision to change the IoK’s status and tighten its grip on the region has stoked anger and resentment amongst the residents of IoK. At least 20 incidents of stone-pelting were reported from Srinagar and other parts of the Kashmir Valley on October 30, a state police official said.
It doesn’t matter to Modi regime whether the Valley’s eight million beleaguered people hate the Indian military and its occupation, because the regime considers land and not people as a source of its power. “The unfulfilled dream of integrating Jammu and Kashmir has been accomplished,” said Home Minister Amit Shah, who is leading the political strategy to deal with Kashmir. New Governor in Srinagar has stated that state elections in J&K will be held after the delimitation commission is through with its work. This means there would certainly be a BJP-led government in IoK as pro-liberation political parties would stand further marginalised. But, the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir will never accept the illegal and forceful occupation. Ultimately, only justice, and not the brute force, would bring peace to Kashmir.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.