They say the ink of a scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr. I might add: the ink of the politician is more lethal than the weapons of an invading army. History is replete with stories of national claims to different pieces of lands, and the making and breaking of nations with mere strokes of a pen.
The Sykes-Picot agreement created small nation states out of the region that is now the Middle East. The Durand Line created a border between Afghanistan and then-India, creating enormous unrest among people who were previously inseparable. Pakistan and India were also created with a few strokes of a pen.
Just days ago, Indian PM Modi realised the age-old desire of the BJP by annexing Kashmir. The 360 degree control over occupied Kashmir was attempted by abrogating Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
The Hindu-majority Jammu and the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley were divided into two parts and incorporated into greater India along with the high altitude Ladakh. RSS, the extreme right-wing Hindu group, and a close ally of the BJP, never came to terms with the idea of having a Muslim-majority state inside India.
It said, “The State of Jammu & Kashmir, with its oppressive Muslim-majority character, has been a headache for our country ever since independence.”
After claiming a landslide victory at the ballot, the Modi-led BJP feels that its view is the mainstream view in India, therefore, it took such a bold step. This mindset is not based in fiction, as the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill passed in the lower house of the Indian Parliament with an overwhelming majority.
Last month, during the meeting between Imran Khan and Donald Trump, the latter had offered to mediate for peace between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir conflict. Trump even said that Modi had asked him to mediate. However, the Indian government quickly denied this, even though Modi, himself, did not. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar issued a strenuous denial as he stated, “It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.”
Apparently, this statement was not true. Not because they were looking for some excuse to not settle the Kashmir conflict, as many believed; but because the issue has been addressed unilaterally now.
The jubilant saffron scarf-wearing supporters of the BJP should realise one thing: winter is coming in Kashmir, and this move has only accelerated that journey. I call it the Israel-isation of Kashmir. What Modi is trying to do is change the demographics of Kashmir. The beautiful valley would be inundated with Indian Hindus. We all know India never runs short of them.
While the autonomous status of occupied Kashmir did not have the power over foreign policy and defence matters, it did allow the territory a fair amount of autonomy, including its own constitution and a flag. An additional provision, Article 35 (A) had prevented people from outside the state from purchasing any land in the territory.
This was crucial to preserving the demography of India’s only Muslim-majority state. As Israel relentlessly annexes Palestinian land and builds settlements despite international condemnation, Modi is following in the footsteps of his new ally, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The international silence is shameful. The US State Department called it “strictly an internal matter”. Code words for “we don’t care”, because otherwise there would be sanctions slapped, condemnations issued, and resolutions passed in the UN. No such thing has happened till now. Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said, “We will make J&K the most developed state in the country. I want to tell the youth to have faith in the Modi government. Nothing negative will happen.”
As scores of Indians sleep in the streets, what hopes should the Kashmiris have? Furthermore, all the critique coming from all corners of India has to do with how unconstitutional this move is. What about the people of Kashmir? Did anyone ask them if this is what they wanted?
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2019.