Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted this week that his decision to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy will end “separatism, corruption, terrorism” in the restive region.
The Hindu nationalist-led Indian government dissolved a constitutional provision (Article 370) that granted limited autonomy to New Delhi-held Kashmir. The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also deemed the Kashmir territories held by Pakistan and China to be part of India, angering Islamabad and Beijing.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars and a minor conflict over the Kashmir. China and India have also clashed over the region. Beijing mostly stays in the shadows of Kashmir-related disputes between India and Pakistan, providing Islamabad military and economic support to defend its position. India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety.
In response to New Delhi’s actions, Pakistan expelled the Indian ambassador and downgraded its diplomatic relations with its neighbor.
During the first address to the nation since his government’s unilateral decision to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, Modi declared, “No one has been able to justify how Article 370 … [was] benefitting people.”
Kashmir autonomy has only resulted in “separatism, corruption, terrorism, [and] family rule,” he added, according to the Hindustan Times.
Citing the same speech, the New York Times (NYT) added, “He said that revoking the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, and turning it into a federally controlled territory would bring a cleaner, less corrupt government, more security and a stronger local economy.”
Pakistan, India, and China all have competing claims to the Himalayan region of Kashmir. Islamabad has ceded control of some of its Kashmir territories to its ally China. India disputes China’s occupation of land on its side of the Line of Control (LOC).
Despite a 2003 ceasefire between New Delhi and Islamabad, clashes between the two nuclear-armed countries continue along a border — the LOC — that separates the Indian and Pakistani Kashmir regions.
Early this year, tensions in Kashmir brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
The annulment of IOK’s autonomy came amid an indefinite security lockdown and a communication blackout, including the blocking of phone lines, the Internet, and news outlets that continue today. New Delhi has also flooded the region with security forces. Indian authorities have already arrested more than 500 people.
On Thursday, Modi defended his actions, implying that parts of Indian Kashmir could be granted autonomy again.
“If things improve, Jammu and Kashmir doesn’t have to be a union territory always,” Modi declared.
BJP included revoking Article 370 in a 2019 manifesto highlighting the party’s ambitions.
“Abolition of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir was the dream. … It is now a reality,” Modi said, according to the Inquirer.
“We used to live under the impression that we can change nothing and it will remain the same. We thought the same about Article 370 that it will stay forever, but we removed it,” he added.
Human rights groups and the United States have accused the BJP of encouraging Hindu extremist violence against Muslims.
Critics have accused Modi and the BJP of wanting to turn India into a Hindu-only nation.
Modi said that rescinding Kashmir’s autonomy would render the restive area more secure.
“A new era has begun,” he proclaimed, adding, “We took a historical decision. Our brothers and sisters from [Indian Kashmir] were deprived, but now they have equal rights. Now, everyone is equal in the country.”
Violence at the hands of Pakistan-linked terrorist groups has long plagued Indian Kashmir. India accuses Islamabad of backing terrorists and separatists seeking independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Pakistan accuses New Delhi of human rights violations against pro-Islamabad residents, namely cracking down on dissenters.
Echoing a similar assessment from last year, a United Nations report released last month highlighted a rise in human rights violations and killing of civilians in Indian Kashmir. New Delhi denied the accusations.
“Most human rights activists … have called the move [to rescind Kashmir’s autonomy] one of the most undemocratic, unconstitutional and authoritarian steps any Indian government has ever taken,” the New York Times reported.
India is considered the world’s largest democracy.