The Removal of India’s Article 370 Will Better Integrate Kashmir Into the Country

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The Removal of India’s Article 370 Will Better Integrate Kashmir Into the Country

Kashmir is a highly disputed area between Pakistan and India.

Kashmir is a highly disputed area between Pakistan and India.

Photo By Arun Ganesh

Kashmir is a highly disputed area between Pakistan and India.

Photo By Arun Ganesh

Photo By Arun Ganesh

Kashmir is a highly disputed area between Pakistan and India.

By Dia Jain, A&E Editor

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Kashmir currently holds the whole world’s attention due to violent protests and backlash about a recent decision by the Indian government. This region has long been considered disputed territory by both India and Pakistan. It is divided into three parts: Indian Kashmir, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), and China Occupied Kashmir. Recently, India changed its laws to remove the special status that had been awarded to Indian Kashmir in 1957 and divided it into two separate union territories. One of them is Jammu and Kashmir, and the other is Ladakh. Ladakh is a Buddhist-dominated region and their leaders welcomed the move by the Indian government. However, some of the regions that fall under Jammu and Kashmir have a majority Muslim population and didn’t unanimously welcome the move. 

This move was also highly criticized by Pakistan, who took the matter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in an attempt to condemn the Indian government. However, the UNSC voted in favor of India by deciding not to intervene. Indian Ambassador to the UNSC Syed Akbaruddin answered questions after the decision and insisted that this was an internal matter for India and that all actions by the Indian government were being taken with the objective of maintaining long-term peace and avoiding civilian fatalities in the region. Akbaruddin acknowledged that the interim measures might be an inconvenience to the Indian Kashmiris but maintained that their welfare was not being neglected by the government.

Paskistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is now calling for nationwide protests over Kashmir. The Pakistani government has been using inflammatory language, vowing to teach India a lesson. They have called this decision a Hindu supremacist decision. Inflammatory language similar to those, have led to several violent protests and attacks in the region. One of the more recent attacks is the Pulwama attack in February, for which the Pakistani-based extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, whose main goal is to annex Indian Kashmir to Pakistan, claimed ownership. The Indian government has put its military and civilian population under high alert, expecting more unrest and terrorist attacks to come. Due to the highly volatile nature of the region, the Indian government is being forced to increase military presence and take unpopular measures to avoid the killing of innocents.

When British India was divided into two nations, India and Pakistan, in 1947, India chose to become a secular nation and Pakistan chose Islam as their state religion. At that time, many Muslims from all over India moved to Pakistan, while Hindus from Pakistan moved to India. This was a difficult and violent period in the two nations’ histories. During this time, princely states such as Kashmir were given the option of being independent or joining one of the two new countries. On Oct. 26, 1947, just a few months after the India-Pakistan partition, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, signed the Instrument of Accession and Kashmir became a part of India despite having a large Muslim population. Many of the Hindus and Buddhists, as well as some Muslims, supported this decision, while other Kashmiri Muslims opposed it as they wanted to join Pakistan. Similarly, there were regions that did not fully want to join Pakistan but did so anyway. Later in 1957, the Indian constitution adopted Article 370, a temporary provision that allowed the central government to have control over foreign diplomacy, communications, and defense while allowing Kashmiri State government to have more autonomy. This provision remained in effect until recently when the Indian government abrogated it.

The Indian government has taken a long overdue decision in order to fully integrate Kashmir with India. Article 370 has been in effect for almost 70 years but has not helped Kashmiris feel like they were a part of India. The special status granted to Kashmir by Article 370 of the Indian constitution did not permit any non-Kashmiri to buy property in Kashmir. This hindered the region’s economic growth and prevented Indian prosperity from reaching Kashmir. The poor conditions and lack of higher education have turned many Kashmiri youth towards militancy and separatism, which is continuously fueled by Pakistan and terrorist organizations, mainly along religious lines. Along with removing Article 370, India is planning to promote tourism in Kashmir, which wasn’t occurring in previous years, to help rebuild the economy. In addition, the state government of Kashmir had laws discriminating against women that shouldn’t be allowed in a modern nation. By removing Article 370, the laws of India which do not have such discrimination bring Kashmir on par with other states of India. 

Furthermore, removal of this article might curb the growth of Islamic extremism in the region by avoiding the exodus of people of other faiths. In the 1990s, many Hindu Kashmiris were forced to flee their homes and relocate to other Indian states due to acts and threats of violence against them by Islamic extremists. There are Kashmiri Hindu families living in Austin who still mourn the loss of their home and hope that peace is restored to Kashmir. India has always held its secular ideals in high regard and many different religions live peacefully within India. Muslims along with people of many other faiths such as Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Parsis, etc., have prospered in India, something that cannot be said for Pakistan. A simple Google search will show you that the top Bollywood actors, loved by the Indian masses, are all Muslim. India has had three Muslim presidents since 1947, as well as highly decorated Muslim military officers in an army that has fought wars against Pakistan. Akbaruddin, who is a vocal advocate for India’s side of the recent conflict, is a Muslim as well. To call the decision to remove Article 370 merely a Hindu supremacist decision fails to consider the region’s history and misses the bigger picture. India is and has always been a tolerant country.

It is true that the Indian government has put some Kashmiri leaders under house arrest and has taken away the Internet and mobile networks during this move. The government’s position is that these measures are precautionary because the region has faced and continues to face a lot of terrorism and separatism encouraged by Pakistan. This move, while highly inconvenient to the population, has helped avoid mass fatalities due to stone pelting and protests incited by the propaganda coming from separatist elements, terrorist organizations, and Pakistan. The government plans to restore normal conditions to the region in a phased manner. Most nations of the world, including the United States, have recognized this as an internal matter for India but have voiced the hope that normal conditions will prevail in Kashmir soon. Despite the inconveniences, the decision to remove Article 370 was a correct one as it will help Kashmir fully join India and return to normal conditions.