Located north of the Himalayan mountain range and sandwiched between Pakistan and China is a small nation known as Jammu and Kashmir. In recent weeks, the country has been a major focus on the world stage after it was officially absorbed into the Republic of India. This is a result of the scrapping of Article 370, a constitutional provision rooted in a complex history between India and Jammu and Kashmir.
An agreement, formally known as the Instrument of Accession, was signed in 1947 after a Pakastani invasion of Jammu and Kashmir, officially making the state an Indian territory.
After this, the last ruling king of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh, and the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, appointed the first Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdulla. It was then that Abdulla and Nehru began drafting Article 370, a provision that aimed to give the people of Jammu and Kashmir independence and democracy, while also maintaining its Indian statehood.
Ultimately, Article 370 became a temporary provision in the Indian Constitution that gave Jammu and Kashmir the status of autonomy, with the exceptions of communications, defense, finance and foreign affairs. It gave the state the ability to craft its own constitution and legislation, but in regards to the stipulations previously mentioned, it was required to confer with the Indian government.
Last month, the Indian Parliament voted to revoke Article 370, stripping Jammu and Kashmir of statehood and sparking global uproar — many voices resounding in support while many others crying in outrage.
The removal of Article 370 has been at the forefront of Indian politics for years. The ruling party of India, as well as the current Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, argue a moral responsibility to address the issues plaguing Jammu and Kashmiri’s government.
During a speech on Indian Independence Day, Modi stated, “The old arrangement in Jammu and Kashmir… encouraged corruption, nepotism, but there was injustice when it came to rights of women, children, Dalits [lower-class citizens], tribal communities… How can we accept such a situation?”
Another provision, known as Article 35A, grants special privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. This provision was also revoked by Parliament, as evidence indicated deliberate discrimination against women and non-permanent residents.
Immediately following these decisions, the Indian government proceeded to block all internet access and telecommunication in Jammu and Kashmir, assign more troops to monitor the state and detain Jammu and Kashmiri’s pro-separatist government officials. All of these actions have been taken in an effort to suppress any violent protests or terrorist activity.
Despite this, demonstrations continue while the world remains split on the issue. Many are critical of India’s actions and deem the situation as an attack on fundamental human rights.
Entrepreneur and small-business owner, Abdur Rashid, is a Jammu and Kashmiri citizen and fears the recent legislation.
“We have got a special identity because of Article 370 and 35A. If these are removed, then what will be left?” said Rashid. “It will push the state to uncertainty…People in Kashmir will be rendered landless and homeless in their own state…There will be no jobs for locals, and it will lead to rising poverty.”
Meanwhile, other citizens fully support the Indian government’s recent actions. Yana Meerchandani, a resident of Jammu and Kashmir, is in favor of the removal of Article 370.
“Yes, there has been a communication shutdown. Even I am unable to get in touch with my loved ones, with my family members,” said Meerchandani. “But, you know, I feel safer now with the scrapping of Article 370. I feel that now Kashmir has a golden future. It will now be completely integrated with mainland India’s economic development policies.”
Meerchandani hopes for a better public education system and brighter futures for Jammu and Kashmiri youth.
Viewpoints on the issue are deeply split and remain the source of turmoil in the Indian subcontinent. While many see the removal of Article 370 as an attack on the constitutional and sovereign rights of Jammu and Kashmir, others perceive it as a step towards healing a state plagued with violence, corruption and political unrest.