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The rights of Kashmiris are under attack

The breaking up of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is intended to break the will of the people, says HARSEV BAINS

ON August 5 the Modi government conducted a lightning strike against the Indian constitution, democracy, federalism and the principles of secularism. 

Through a presidential order, through resolutions and through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, it has abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and the subsidiary provision stemming from it, Article 35A.

Jammu and Kashmir has been robbed of its right to statehood and has been divided into two union territories, one of which, Ladakh, which also includes Kargil, will not have any legislative assembly. 

Both will be subject to the authority of the central government. Thus the 29 states of India have been reduced to 28, courtesy of the Modi government.

The left and democratic forces in India have strongly opposed these unprecedented measures. 

They are unconstitutional, illegal and authoritarian. They constitute an attack on the principle of unity in diversity. It is not just an abrogation of the special status under Article 370 but an abrogation of democracy itself.

Till now any discussion about changing the rights or the boundaries of a state has been through discussion and agreement of state governments.

This is mandatory under Article 3 of the Constitution of India. But the BJP government blatantly violated this provision in Jammu & Kashmir. 

It thus sets a dangerous precedent. The centre under Modi and Minister of Home Affairs Amit Anilchandra Shah is using its brute majority in parliament to ride roughshod over the rights of the states. 

The parallel exercise in this context for the delimitation of constituencies also points to the actual game plan of the Modi government. 

It is to change the demographic nature of the state, beginning with a reordering of constituencies through delimitation to give more weight to the non-Muslim areas. With the removal of the permanent resident status under Section 35A this can be easily manipulated.
 
The method used is also an assault on the constitution. A presidential order under the very article which was being scrapped — Article 370 — was used to modify another article, Article 367, which in turn was used to revoke the essence of Article 370. 

By this ploy the mandatory concurrence of the state legislature was usurped by the governor since the state is under president’s rule. There is no doubt that this is a fraud on the constitution and murder of democracy.

The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir was put into lockdown. More than 10 million phone lines have been disconnected and public transport has been stopped. 

The internet has been suspended, offices and shops are closed, people can only go out for emergencies and have to navigate barbed wire and barricades manned by armed troops, newspapers and cable TV have been virtually suspended. 

Jammu and Kashmir is now being treated as a virtual occupied territory.

All the leaders of all major parties in the state, including two former chief ministers and CPI(M) central committee member and four-time member of the legislative assembly Yusuf Tarigami, along with hundreds of others, are either in custody or house arrest. 

If indeed, as the Modi government claims, it is doing this for the betterment of Jammu & Kashmir, then why are they afraid of the people? 

National integration cannot be done at the point of a gun or through coercion. 

The BJP and its various “allies,” including certain television channels, have started a massive disinformation campaign about the history of Kashmir, the leaders of the national movement, the people of Kashmir and are falsifying history. 

Troll brigades on WhatsApp and other social media platforms are spewing out venom against all those who oppose these draconian measures.
 
In the narrative of the Hindu nationalist street fighter wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP, the Kashmir valley is a hotbed of separatism and terrorism because of its religious composition. 

Their inherently anti-Muslim bias makes them hostile to any democratic aspirations of the Kashmiri people. 

When they advocated the abolition of Article 370, what they meant was that the people of the valley have to be suppressed under a security-state apparatus.

For the RSS and the Modi-Shah duo, Kashmir is a piece of land that belongs to undivided India, while its people have to be treated as aliens because they are Muslim. 

They want Kashmir, not Kashmiris: their nationalism is of the land, not its people. For them, it is not people who make a nation, but only its borders and its land.

The RSS and the BJP have been assiduously working to heighten the communal divide between Jammu and the valley. After the Modi government came to power at the centre in 2014, these efforts were scaled up significantly. 

The hard-line approach of crushing civilian protests by force and shunning all political dialogue has worsened matters in the state. 

In the past few years, it is the local youth who have joined the militancy in ever increasing numbers. The figures show a steady rise in the number of security forces and militants killed.

The abrogation of the special status to Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370 and breaking up of the state has more to do with breaking the will of the people of Kashmir and changing the demography of Kashmir. 

This is the real intent of the Modi-Shah measures.

Further, under Modi rule the federal character of India has come under attack. The rights of the states in the political and financial spheres are being eroded and all powers are being taken by the centre. The attacks on the rights of Jammu & Kashmir are part of this centralising authoritarian trend.

The left and democratic forces in India are committed in their fight against this and assert that these measures are totally against the unity and interests of India as a whole. 

This is the time for all who believe in the values of democracy and human rights to come together and stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Jammu & Kashmir for the restoration of democracy and for its full autonomy.

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