Humayun Aziz Sandeela

On 5 August 2019, the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, repealed article 370 of the Indian constitution which for 70 years, had given Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) special powers over issues such as jobs and residency. In one fell swoop, everything changed. With a swift presidential order, the Himalayan region was brought under the full control of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and split into two union territories, no different from any other Indian state. Its politicians were imprisoned, phone services were suspended, an internet blackout was imposed and thousands of Indian military troops moved into the region to enforce a strict crackdown.

The people of Kashmir believe that it was not merely their land but it is also their identity that had been robbed. Indian Prime Minister justified this move on the grounds of bringing economic prosperity to the region, however, the people of Kashmir found themselves to be living in a region far more volatile, unstable, and economically fragile than ever. The unprecedented length of

economic lockdown, internet shutdowns led to huge economic losses and unemployment and cost the Kashmiri economy billions of dollars that was even worsened by the coronavirus lockdown that followed.

At present Kashmiris feel that they are facing an existential threat with India taking different steps to rob them of the very identity they have been proud of.

National Conference (NC) leader Syed Ruhullah Mehdi fears that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) wants to “teach Kashmiris a less

on because they are Muslims and also take their state away to make them their slaves. While asking NC workers to stand up and offer stiff resistance to New Delhi’s nefarious designs he said, “We need to give sacrifices and have faith in God. India will come down on its knees and plead before us but only when you try fighting.”

Ruhullah’s fears are evident from the plans of the Indian government after 5 August 2019, as it did little to encourage economic prosperity other than to change strict domicile rules, which had previously prevented non-Kashmiris from buying land, property and investing in the region and so far over 3 million domiciles have been issued to the non-Kashmiris.

Apart from bringing demographic changes, New Delhi also plans to hit the religious identity of Jammu and Kashmir by reviving 50,000 temples in the territory. As part of Narendra Modi-led fascist Indian government’s nefarious plan to make Jammu and Kashmir into a Hindu region in the shortest possible period of time, it has started executing the decision to build around 50,000 temples in the territory. In the name of rebuilding dilapidated temples, the Indian government has identified several historic mosques and monasteries where it is going to build the said temples. As per the notorious modus operandi of the RSS-BJP nexus, the Indian government has claimed that these mosques were built at the site of ancient Hindu worship places. The regime is using a special segment of Kashmiri Pandits to carry out the wicked plan.

On the other hand, around half a dozen political parties including four pro-India Kashmiri political parties and two Indian political parties, including the main opposition Congress Party formed People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on 22 August 2020 and vowed to fight for the restoration of the special status of IIOJK. They termed that India’s move “unrecognizably changed the relationship” between the region and New Delhi. It called the changes “spitefully shortsighted and unconstitutional” and sought to “collectively fight” them.

It seems to be a good omen for the people of Kashmir that leaders like Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have buried their personal hatchets and vowed to collectively fight for the sacred Kashmir cause by making a move for reverting to the status of IIOJK as it existed on 4th August 2019.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah regards it as a constitutional battle and wants to continue the struggle for restoration of what was snatched from Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh.

Mehbooba Mufti also seems to be hurt and bitter about how things have panned out in the occupied territory since abrogation of Article 370. In her views, India through speedy and systematic change of ground rules wants to disempower and dispossess residents of IIOJK. Released from confinement after 14 months, Mufti has been instrumental in pushing the fight for reinstating the special constitutional position of IIOJK. The PDP chief believes the PAGD verdict in the District Development Council (DDC) polls should serve as an eye-opener for Modi-led BJP to see which way the wind is blowing. The results of DDC polls have deflated BJP leaders’ tall claims regarding its popularity particularly in the Muslim dominated Kashmir Valley. The party could only win 3 out of 140 seats in the Valley. Even in Hindu dominated Jammu region, BJP could not perform as per its expectations. The BJP had failed despite using all government machinery to mould polls results in its favour and the results show that IIOJK people are against BJP and its Hindutva project. The outcome of DDC polls is not just a vote against BJP but also reflection of strong anti-India sentiment and a verdict against New Delhi’s 5 Aug 2019 illegal measures in Kashmir.

Despite being oppressed, it is time for Kashmiri political leaders to realize that the only way to success is by not playing into the hands of the oppressor. The alliance is a “landmark” in IIOJK’s political history. Perhaps for the first time since 1947, a democratic constitutional resistance is shaping up in Kashmir and it is for the first time that the mainstream [the term used to describe political parties that have traditionally contested elections in Kashmir] is clearly siding with the people’s sentiment. It’s better late than never, the stance and determination of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration should continue which is a good initiative and strong resistance in fight against the nefarious Indian designs of bringing in drastic demographic changes in the IIOJK that are deemed as a threat to the very existence of the people of Kashmir.

(The author is Sub-editor at Kashmir Media Service)

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