The story of distressed Kashmiris stirred again during an Imran-Trump meeting in July this year. Trump talked about Indian Prime Minister Modi’s offer about asking for mediation on Kashmir. But in August, India imposes Kashmir lockdown and puts Kashmiri leaders under house arrest. Restrictions on movement and assembly was imposed, Yatra Pilgrimage and mobile, Internet services were suspended as the disputed region plunged into uncertainty.
The measures came after the Indian government moved 10,000 troops to the region, followed by an unprecedented order asking tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave the Himalayan valley. Residents fear New Delhi has planned to engineer demographic changes. The latest spate of tensions began after India sent 10,000 more troops to what is already one of the most militarised regions in the world.
Nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers are deployed in India-administered Kashmir, where civilian protesters and armed rebels either want freedom or merger with Pakistan.
Meanwhile, along the Line of Control (LoC), a heavily militarised de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, there was a fresh surge in hostilities between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that the situation had the potential to “blow up into a regional crisis”. The only road to peace and security in South Asia runs through a peaceful and just settlement of Kashmir. Some 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the last three decades of armed conflict in India-Occupied Kashmir.
By repealing the Article 370 of the Constitution, people from the rest of India will now have the right to acquire property in occupied Kashmir and settle there permanently. Kashmiris as well as critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah also moved a bill to bifurcate the state into two union territories – Jammu Kashmir as one and the Himalayan Ladakh region as the other – directly ruled by New Delhi. After this, Jammu and Kashmir will be a union territory with legislature while Ladakh will be a union territory without legislature.
The move raises fears of further violence in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region where Kashmiri fighters and many residents have fought for the region’s independence or to join Pakistan. “There will a very strong reaction in Kashmir. It’s already in a state of unrest and this will only make it worse,” said Wajahat Habibullah, a former senior bureaucrat in Jammu and Kashmir.
The constitutional provisions, which were revoked, were introduced decades ago and included reserved government jobs and college placements for residents, in an effort to keep the state from being overrun by people from the rest of India.
Shah, also the BJP president, proposed that the regulation under the Article 370 would not be applicable after the presidential nod — a move which was slammed by the opposition. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the BJP had “murdered the constitution today”.
In 2015, Jammu and Kashmir High Court had ruled that the Article 370, granting the special status to the state, has assumed place of permanence in the Constitution and the feature is beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation.
Pakistan has to exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps taken by India regarding Indian-held Kashmir, stressing that region was internationally recognised as a disputed territory.
No unilateral step by the government of India can change this disputed status, as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. The decision will never be acceptable to the people of the occupied valley and Pakistan. The Indian Constitutional amendment was in violation of international resolutions as well as India’s own constitution.
India is no more constitutional democracy andit is now practically under Hindutva raj. India, through its unilateral actions, have also violated the Simla agreement and the UN charter. The whole international community needs to condemn the Indian move. Atrocities in Kashmir continue unabated. Extremist Indian government’s intentions are clear.
Kashmir Committee Chairman Syed Fakhar Imam should highlight the situation in occupied Kashmir and the use of cluster bombs on civilians by Indian forces, which is against international laws, and its aftermath in the world.
On the other hand, if India has turned occupied Kashmir and Ladhak into union territories, it is evident that it has lost hope. Kashmiris, that used to support them earlier, are also in jail or under house arrest. India has once again revived and internationalised the Kashmir issue. This will not solve the problem, rather it will escalate it. They will never be able to repress the issue.
Pakistan should also immediately call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Trump can be pursued by PM Imran Khan to pressurise India on Kashmir in return for Pakistan’s efforts for the Afghan peace process. Actually, a step forward rather than a defensive approach is the need of the hour. This is a matter of Pakistan’s national interest and all of Pakistan is united. The time has come for Pakistan’s political and military leadership to take collective decisions and show to the world that Pakistan is united for the Kashmiri cause.
Now, it is a test case for the international community. Pakistan expected the world to support the Kashmiris to have their special status restored. It was not enough to condemn India’s move which is against all international norms and international laws along with UNSC resolutions. Kashmir is recognised as a disputed territory in UNSC resolutions. India cannot alter its status through its parliament.
The Council of Europe and European Union should be approached along with the UN Security Council and other international forums and human rights organisations. This is illegal annexation of a militarily-occupied territory and completely unacceptable.