In Focus

Changing Dynamics of Kashmir Dispute: A Bird’s-Eye View

Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir depicts the oppression and brutality of Hindutva. From repealing acts to enforcing repressive laws, Modi government, led by right-wing religious extremism, has put humanity to shame.


Kashmir was a princely state before partition. It was a Muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu monarch. On June 3, 1947, the British government announced a partition plan which allowed these princely states to join either Pakistan or India1. Against this backdrop, on August 12, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, offered a standstill agreement to both dominions, i.e., India and Pakistan2. Pakistan accepted the accord; however, India demanded to discuss the modalities before ratifying it. This created suspicions and resultantly, on October 22, 1947, Operation Gulmarg started in which 60,000 locals/ex-servicemen and 2000 tribesmen participated3. On October 26, 1947, Maharaja of Kashmir hastily signed an instrument of accession with India. It provided an opportunity to the Indian government to intervene militarily in Kashmir. On October 27, 1947, Indian army landed at Srinagar airport4. Since then, Kashmir is under the illegal occupation of India. So far, Pakistan and India have fought three full-fledged wars besides other military escalations. Meanwhile, in the last 75 years of independence, various solutions surfaced to resolve the issue, but it could not be materialized due to India’s inflexible attitude. Furthermore, the Kashmir issue took a somber turn when India abrogated Article 370 and 35A of their constitution on August 5, 2019. 
What is Article 370 and 35A?
Article 370 of Indian constitution came into effect in 1949. It pledges autonomy to Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) to make her own laws (except defense, finance, foreign affairs and communication), keep a separate flag and deny property rights to outsiders. Similarly, Article 35A came into effect in 1954 through a Presidential Order, which was an extension of Article 370. This article further prohibited non-natives to buy land, settle permanently, get government jobs or to receive educational scholarships within the state5. In 2019, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) based its election campaign on the revocation of special status of Kashmir. It was their top priority election manifesto. On August 5, 2019, the government of India abrogated Article 370 and 35A and IIOJK was divided into two union territories, i.e., Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. People of Kashmir believe that the motive behind this move was to carry out demographic changes in Kashmir by authorizing non-Kashmiris to buy land and exploit the local resources6. Critics, besides corroborating these apprehensions, are also of the view that these developments in IIOJK are similar to the settler colonialism of Israel in Palestine. Further, legal experts are also of the opinion that Article 370 cannot be revoked without seeking prior consent of the constituent assembly of IIOJK7. India is heading towards accomplishing her nefarious designs by using a two-pronged strategy, i.e., violation of human rights and fast-tracking demographic change. 
Surge in Human Rights Violations
Based on the anticipatory analysis of a fallout by the local residents of Kashmir in response to the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, India reinforced the already deployed 700,000 troops in the valley just before making these illegal constitutional amendments8. The state’s leaders were put under arrest, communications were blocked and tourists were asked to leave IIOJK. It was the longest ever curfew imposed in Kashmir’s history. In a year’s time, enforced disappearance of 11,000 young Kashmiris took place. Until August 2020, since the change of status, 214 Kashmiris had been martyred and 1390 others were critically injured9. Indian army has been granted unlimited powers to suppress Kashmiris under a couple of draconian laws which include: Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA), Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA), Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act 1990 (TADA), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 (POTA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 2019 (UAPA)10. Since 2019 until November 2021, 2,300 people were arrested under UAPA alone11. Application of UAPA has been increased by 12%. An individual arrested under this law can be kept under detention for 180 days without trial. In the last three years, 1,346 habeas corpus petitions have been filed in IIOJK High Court. By August 2022, 32% increase has been recorded in the petitions of forced retention by the Indian authorities. 180 journalists have been called by police for interrogation and 27 have been arrested since August 2019. Over 450 people from the civil society have been stopped from travelling abroad without any judicial instruction12. 60 occurrences of crackdown on human rights activists and other journalists have been noted by the watchdogs13. Tactics like killing at gunpoint, harassment and intimidation are being used to suppress the voices with each passing day in IIOJK. Unlawful killings and casuality ratio of civilians has increased by 20% since the promulgation of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 in IIOJK14. Details of human rights violations in the month of August 2022 alone are appended in table 1, courtesy of Kashmir Media Service:15
Revised Media Policy 2020 and Film Policy 2021 are other clampdown strategies to control the local media. Forced closure of Kashmir Press Club in the recent months is a vivid example of enforcing Media/Film Policy and challenge freedom of expression in the IIOJK16. Access Now in their report of the year 2021 observed that people of IIOJK experienced 85 internet shutdowns in 2021 which is the highest ever in the world17. India is doing all this purposefully so as to suppress Kashmiris not to object to any of their illegal actions until they turn the tide in their favor, i.e., turn Kashmiris into a minority. 
Demographic Changes
A few months after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, Home Ministry of India enacted new domicile laws and introduced them on March 31, 2020 in IIOJK18. According to the definition, a domicile person is the one who has stayed in the state for 15 years or studied for 7 years or undergone an examination of class 10th or 12th in a local educational facility19. Similarly, on October 27, 2020, Indian Home Ministry issued a notification which removed the condition of buying land within the Kashmir region by local residents only. It has opened avenues for Indian citizens to buy, sell or use the land of Kashmir like the rest of India20. In August 2022, Indian Election Commission has permitted Indian soldiers and outsiders working inside Kashmir to cast their votes in the local polls, which becomes 2.5 million or one-third of the electorate. Elections are scheduled to be held at the end of the current year21. It is noteworthy that by the end of August 2022, Indian government had issued 4.2 million unlawful domicile certificates to non-native settlers. Apropos, Indian government is also in the process of gerrymandering and delimiting constituencies before the conduct of the forthcoming local elections based on geography, rather population. Resultantly, Hindu majority Jammu will get more seats, i.e., 43 rather than 39, which will further contribute to minimizing the Muslims’ political influence in IIOJK. Hence, Muslims’ political representation will reduce to 47 rather than 51 seats22.
The Way Forward
India’s uncompromising attitude and delaying tactics have been the main hurdle in the resolution of Kashmir issue since the very onset. During the period, a number of proposals came to the surface and also attracted the world’s attention, but unfortunately got dumped due to the elusive policies of India. Since August 5, 2022, India is closely following a David Ben Gurion’s – first Israeli Prime Minister – strategy or we may call it coercive approach to annex Kashmir, ignoring the international pressure and ethics. Also taking advantage of political instability and economic crisis in Pakistan, India is persistently busy in changing Kashmir’s dynamics into her favour at a fast pace. The former Chief Minister of IIOJK, Farooq Abdullah, has voiced his apprehension that the number of non-local residents may rise to 5 million, which is good enough to turn the local residents into a minority23. At the end, it may pave the way for India to voluntarily conduct plebiscite in IIOJK on its own terms, winning the poll and consuming Kashmir forever.
In order to keep a check on India, we will have to take some steps with immediate effect. These include: establishment of a Tetra Party Committee in consonance with China (a party comprising representation of people from Azad Kashmir, IIOJK and Aksai Chin) to expose India’s illegal actions and human rights violations across the globe; and conducting a symbolic plebiscite in consultation with Kashmiri diaspora scattered over the world. Plebiscite conducted by Sikh community in Canada, after the UK on October 31, 2021 is a recent example to demand human rights. Media campaigns including print, electronic and social media should be utilized to unfold India’s despicable designs and human rights violations on a regular basis. Social media campaigns are also needed to be streamlined to represent a coherent front to Indian propaganda as well as preventing further illegal actions against the aspirations of the people of IIOJK, besides diplomatic outreach coupled with track-II diplomacy. Pakistan must not let any opportunity be wasted in raising Kashmir issue at all international fora. Meanwhile, track-II diplomacy must remain in practice to come up other with solutions.
The Kashmir issue could not be resolved mainly because of India’s inflexible attitude. It kept changing its strategic and tactical posture after a certain period of time. Since BJP came into power, India has adopted a coercive approach. Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A is a true manifestation of their policy. India didn’t stop after changing the status of IIOJK, rather kept altering the regional geography and individual identities by introducing a number of clauses in Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. The core purpose of these mischievous actions is to turn the local residents into a minority, snatch their identity and absorb IIOJK forever.


The writer is a Gold Medalist in MPhil, International Relations.
Email: [email protected] 


1.      Dawn. 2021. "Kashmir And The Third Option", 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1610803/kashmir-and-the-third-option.
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4.      Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy (1846 – 1990), Roxford Books UK, 2017, 4, 125-126.
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12.    "India: "We Are Being Punished By The Law" - Three Years Of Abrogation Of Article 370 In Jammu & Kashmir - Amnesty International". 2022. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa20/5959/2022/en/.
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14.    "Repression Of Human Rights By India In IIOJK Increased In Last 3 Years: AI". 2022. Kashmir Media Service. https://www.kmsnews.org/kms/2022/09/02/amnesty-international-urges-india-to-end-repression-of-human-rights-in-iiojk.html.
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18.    Maqbool, Umer. 2022. "J&K’S Controversial New Domicile Law Faces A Legal Challenge". The Wire, 2022. https://thewire.in/government/jammu-and-kashmir-domicile-rules-legal-challenge.
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23.    Sanjay, Kashmiris Fear ‘Demographic Change, 2022

 

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