Six months after ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian government is now proceeding with ‘Plan B’ of the Indianisation of Kashmir by colonising the land and the people.
According to a recent report by Reuters, “India plans to offer around 6,000 acres of land in held Kashmir as part of a business summit planned for April or May to help the disputed region after withdrawing its special rights and making sweeping administrative changes.” It was well predicted that New Delhi will take all possible steps after implementing Plan A by ending IOK’s special status. While its Plan A has backfired, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a speech in his electoral constituency, Varanasi, on February 16, ruled out any reversal of the decision.
Reuters further stated in its report that, “now the government is offering the land, along with tax breaks and insurance cover, to draw businesses there, according to Manoj Kumar Dwinvedi, the disputed region’s commissioner secretary in charge of industry and commerce. More than 1,300 acres of the land is in the held valley, the center of a 30-year revolt against the Indian rule in the territory.” Kumar further said, “If we want somebody to come and do business here, taking care of the interest of the businessman is definitely our responsibility.” Furthermore, the planned business summit will involve more than 250 businessmen investing in cement, education and tourism. While countering Kumar’s plans for business investment in IOK, a former finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Haseeb Darabu, described such plans as “absurd” in view of the prevailing situation in the territory because, “you need a peaceful environment for investment… today it is very volatile”.
Whatever may be the challenges faced by the Modi regime in IOK after the promulgation of the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act, one thing is certain: the Indian government is unwilling to take a back foot on ending IOK’s special status and is now proceeding with Plan B. According to this, first the land of IOK will be colonised by using state land to establish non-Muslim settlements and providing it to various Indian companies for their so-called investment and business activities. After the promulgation of the reorganization act, there is now no legal hitch for Indian nationals to buy property and permanently settle in IOK. The plan will ensure that the BJP government alters the demographic complex of Kashmir by settling hundreds and thousands of non-Muslims there in four years’ time.
A counter-narrative, however, argues that despite the BJP’s plans, it will not be able to win the hearts and minds of the local people. The level of hatred among the overwhelming Muslim Kashmiri population against India has reached new levels since August 5 and no amount of financial incentives in the form of investments will work. Even former BJP stalwarts like Yashwant Sinha and Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad and P Chidambaram have pointed out that anger and frustration among the people of Kashmir has deepened and cannot be healed unless the August 5 act is reversed.
In this scenario, one can examine three realities which now shape things in IOK. First is the bitter truth that neither the Indian Supreme Court (SC) nor the opposition parties rendered justice to the valley’s beleaguered population as the main issue in India today has become the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the registration act. Seemingly, the attention has been diverted from Indian acts of cruelty and ethnic cleansing in IOK to protests and demonstrations against the CAA.
Second, the Indian strategy and policy vis-à-vis IOK is well calculated but has failed to render positive results. For how long the Indian military and border security forces will keep the Kashmiris under constant lockdown is yet to be seen. Regardless of the costs involved and the hatred of the locals, the BJP is convinced that its patience will pay dividends. It may be wishful thinking to control the emotions of Muslim Kashmiris but New Delhi’s mindset has no room for rethinking. Knowing that the issue of IOK’s status has been marginalised because of protests against the CAA, the BJP regime is confident that with time, the situation in the valley will return to normal.
Third, muted international pressure and the absence of practical assistance from Pakistan to the Kashmiri resistance provided adequate space to New Delhi to remain steadfast on its path. In October last year, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) had announced crossing the Line of Control (LoC) to reach their counterparts in IOK as a show of solidarity but Pakistan’s Prime Minister appealed to them not to resort to such activities as it might provoke India. As a result, the JKLF announced the postponement of its march for six months. It is to be seen whether the JKLF will resume its call for a march in the coming month now.
If India is able to get away with its reorganization act, which is akin to colonisation of the disputed territory, the day will not be far when not only will the demographic composition of the valley change but New Delhi will then concentrate on implementing its age-old policy to absorb the Pakistan administered Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). India has often expressed its concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through what it calls “disputed territory of G-B”.
How the Indian designs against G-B can be countered and why the government of Pakistan has not been able to effectively expose New Delhi’s expansionist drive in IOK needs to be critically examined. When issues faced by Pakistan ranging from economic crisis to political discord remains at large, it will be highly improbable to put India on the defensive over its illegal acts in IOK. Furthermore, neither is there any seriousness nor determination on the part of elites to deal with any impending Indian armed incursion inside Azad Kashmir. Barring statements, speeches and rallies, no overt expression of support to Kashmiris is to be seen in Pakistan. As a result, taking advantage of Pakistan’s failure to strike when IOK was absorbed into the union, India is confident in implementing its Plan B.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2020.