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On Monday August 5, 2019, Modi government abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave special autonomy status to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir; and Ladakh. The move has led to mixed reactions in India though buoyed by the Hindutva ideology the majority who no doubt sees the move a victory for Hindus over Muslims (majority Kashmiris are Muslims), supported the initiative with relish.

Among the Indians that criticised the Revocation action, Ms. Arundhati Roy, a social activist has been the most vocal of all. She claimed that Kashmir has always been an independent entity and that it never belonged neither to India nor to Pakistan and thus neither has the right to act on their behalf.She argues that Kashmiris need space to think of and decide their future themselves. In the past Ms. Roy faced threats of arrest for “treason” for making such statements on Kashmir.

Internationally there has been widespread condemnations especially by the human rights activists as well. Among these Malala Yousufzai, the 22-year Pakistan born Nobel Laureate has made an impassioned appeal for peace and wrote, “The people of Kashmir have lived in conflict since I was a child, since my mother and father were children, since my grandparents were young. For seven decades the children of Kashmir have grown up amidst violence.” She pleaded to ‘all South Asians, the international community and concerned authorities’ to come to the aid of Kashmiris and resolve the problem and put an end totheir sufferings once for all.

Until Revocation of Article 370, Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in India enjoyed some semblance of autonomy and the Artcle protected them from usurpation of their properties and alterations to Kashmir ethnicity from the settlers from rest of India. With the revocation of the Article these privileges of special status of Kashmir are now gone – the move has made way for non-Kashmiris to come and settle in the state which eventually is sure to change its demography from a Muslim majority to a Muslim minority state.

Indian government has however justified the move by saying that the revocation has ‘unified’ India and has claimed that the action has paved the way for more ‘’development’’ in Kashmir and has opened up opportunities of greater ‘’prosperity’’ for the Kashmiris. Not sure Kashmiris are that excited by these promised possibilities and this is hard to know because the Kashmiris whose fate changed overnight and forever by this initiative were not part of the decision-making. Far from consulting, Delhi put leading Kashmiri leaders under house arrest and ‘caged’ ordinary Kashmiris in their homes with curfew and even cut off all communication channels including land phones and made them incommunicado,prior to the decision of Revocation.

Indeed, one does not have to go much deeper to find the real motive of this action. Modi government may say whatever it likes to justify but the reality is that Kashmir, a Muslim majority state that until recently enjoyed some modicum of autonomy has now fallen victim to the ruling party, BJP’s, on-gong mission of Hinduisation of India, the core mission of its Hindutva ideology.

Prognosis

I sense that Modi and his advisors are hoping that by scuttling Kashmir’s autonomy status and by bringing it directly under the central government’s control, it is well on its way to advance‘Make India Hindu’ project to its final stage – subjugating the last semblance of Muslim autonomy in India. This certainly is the plan, but I am not convinced that things would progress as per the script.

For example, by taking this “unconstitutional” action, Modi has only deepened and not assuaged resentments in Kashmir. Indeed, through this action, he has added fuel to a raging fire and thus has created conditions for furthering of the conflict in Kashmir that he thinks his 600000 well-armed army would quash. I doubt it. This aggressive action of the BJP government that has taken away whatever little rights the Kashmiris enjoyed is likely to make them more resentful than before. As a result, next phase of Kashmiri resistance that is inevitable, is likely to gain far greater resolve and stronger moral legitimacy and thus is likely to be far more violent and vicious thanthose of the past, would contribute to a cycle of blood, death and destruction. I also surmise that the next phase of conflict that would be waged as an independence movement and with a jihadist zeal would also attract far greater number of foreign fighters, with a holy agenda, posing security threats to both India and the region.

The Revocation initiative may have also made Pakistan an inadvertent winner. It has succeeded in giving Pakistan an unexpected gift, something that it has been trying for the last 50 years to achieve but failed which is that Kashmir has now become an international issue all over again and found a voice at the round-table of the United Nations Security Council. Not that it matters much substantively but this is a moral victory for both Kashmiris and the Pakistanis. Furthermore, internationalisation of Kashmir issue has also brought world’s human rights spotlight on India which has revealed the extent of abuse its Hindutva ideology is inflicting on its minority and more broadly, the security risks this menacing ideology is promoting in the region.

Another consequence of the Revocation which is something that should worry India more than anyone else is that through this unilateral action India has now drawn China directly into the conflict– not a cause for joy, is it?

I suspect that the initiative has also dented trust between the centre and other states of India that enjoy similar or near-similar autonomy status. The action would have sent an alarm bell to these states to ponder about their future of an establishment that shows scant regard to existing laws and agreements. Such mistrusts are recipes for furthering alienation that may one day boil over into conflicts in states that have entered into autonomy agreements with the centre.

Finally, a no less important,though a less talked about issue of consequence of the Revocation initiative is something that I believe Modi and his Hindutva inspired advisors forgot to factor in is that conflict and economic growth do not go together. Indian economy that is already showing signs of slowing down – some suggest it is growing at 6.0-6.5% – needs to grow at a minimum of 8% per annum to create jobs for its burgeoning unemployed. Unrest in Kashmir which is inevitable and international responses on Revocation move, which would only intensify in the coming days,do not augur well for India’s much needed rapid and sustained economic growth. The move possesses all the hallmarks of putting at risk, BJP’s much touted 2019 election pledge, “Kaam Ruke Na, Desh Jhuke Na” (Don’t stop the work [of BJP] to ensure non-regression of the country).

Sizable costs of maintaining a huge military establishment in Kashmir and the cost of financing a far vicious conflict, a likely scenario in the coming days, do confront India with the prospects of draining its exchequer and retarding its economic growth even more,which may trigger mass unrest outside of Kashmir, across India.

In sum, prognosis of Modi’s daring if not his reckless‘’Make India Hindu’’ inspired Hindutva policy that among other things has contributed to the Revocation of Kashmir 370 Article looks anything but promising. The move may have inflated Modi’s self-proclaimed 56’’ inch chest by few more inches and it may have also boosted the ego of his lynching Hindutva mob to a new height,but given the realities of grim consequences portrayed above, the move may prove a boomerang if not a bad dream for India in the coming days!

The author is a former senior policy manager of the UN


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2 Comments

  1. There is simultaneous reaction,,a demand for khalistan. On support Modi is getting only Hasina a instruction to MPs and a threat to people and media to circulate as India’s internal affair. The Allama is ALSO quite at this plight of Muslims–a boot sucking nation, a shame to all.

  2. Noore Alam says:

    A nice prognostic analysis of a very sensitive political development in what once was called the ‘heaven on earth’. Dr Khan has rightly pointed out that the Hindutva ideology should now be a cause of concern for the other Indian states that enjoy some autonomy from the central government. I think that while the Kashmir move by the Modi government which is inspired by the extreme form of Hindutva ideology may earn some temporary geo-political gains in the short term, but in the long term this may be foreshadowed by a much bigger loss as this form of extreme policy could foment separatist movements in other states dominated by oppressed ethno-religious groups; both in the western and eastern fronts. Success in just one state can potentially cause a domino effect on others. Whether this will happen or not, time will tell.