Image Credit: Kashmir 1983 by Ole Holbech/Flickr; Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0.

Written by Moonis Ahmar.

On 31 October 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, which was presented in Parliament by the Indian government on August 5, came into force. It divides India-occupied Kashmir (IOK) into two union territories consisting of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). From October 31, J&K will be fully integrated into the Indian Union and India’s tricolour flag will be hoisted by the Governor of J&K in Srinagar to mark the final absorption of the territories into India.

Unlike October 27 and August 5 – which are remembered by the people of J&K as days which symbolise Indian occupation – October 31 will be celebrated in India as the day when the special status of J&K formally ended. On October 31, the new Lieutenant Governors of J&K and Ladakh, Girish Chandra Murmu and Radha Krishna Mathur, respectively, were sworn into office. The recently held J&K local body elections were completely boycotted in the Kashmir Valley, where the voter turnout was negligible, but such dismal participation has not had an impact on the Indian state.

Will the administrative and financial measures taken by New Delhi to deepen its control over J&K be counter-productive and further aggravate the hatred amongst Kashmiri Muslims against the Indian state’s occupation?

Since October 31 has been declared an historic day by New Delhi – which realises the age-old dream of Hindu nationalists of annexing J&K into the Indian Union – the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now focusing on implementing the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act by allowing Indian nationals to buy property, cast their vote and permanently settle there.

As an incentive to 450,000 government employees of J&K, the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations of increasing salaries will be effective from 31 October 2019. Most importantly, under the Reorganisation Act, delimitation of electoral constituencies will also take place, which will benefit the Hindu nationalist BJP.

According to a report entitled ‘J&K Delimitation Process to Start after October 31’, published on 23 August 2019 in The Economic Times, ‘the delimitation of parliamentary and assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir will start only after October 31… As per the norms, the J&K delimitation commission will be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge… The process will start after October 31 and it will be undertaken by the Election Commission of India.’

In order to ensure better communication linkages between IOK and the rest of India, the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link is expected to be operational by 2020. If IOK is connected by rail, New Delhi hopes to further strengthen its hold over Muslim-majority Srinagar and other towns in the Kashmir Valley. Once the Act is implemented in full by the Indian government, it may not be possible for the Supreme Court to roll back these measures.

A two-pronged strategy has been formulated by the Modi regime to deal with its action of 5 August 2019. First, to punish eight million people of Muslim-majority IOK by depriving them of basic freedoms to travel, communicate, offer Friday prayers in mosques and conduct peaceful protests by cutting off the internet and mobile phone services, imposing a curfew, and carrying out arbitrary detentions and search operations. Nearly three months have passed since India imposed these cruel methods of castigating the Muslim Kashmiri population to prevent them from raising their voice against the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A.

Second, along with the punitive measures, the Indian government is tightening its control by taking administrative measures to erase the identity of Jammu and Kashmir. Carrots are also being offered to the people of J&K in the form of development programmes and investments to promote tourism, particularly in the Valley. The pay hike for government employees in J&K and the introduction of the railway system are tactics to diminish the resistance of Kashmiri Muslims to the military occupation.

While addressing a public meeting in Delhi, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said that the ‘benefits of abrogating the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 will be beyond the imagination of people after October 31 and will unfold one by one’. India is certainly using psychological tactics to convince the people of these ‘benefits’. And it doesn’t matter to the Modi regime if the Valley’s eight million beleaguered people hate the Indian military and its occupation, because the regime considers land and not people as a source of its power.

Will October 31 mark a new era of brutal Indian control over J&K, or can one expect a better quality of life for the locals because of their integration with the Indian Union? Or, will the administrative and financial measures taken by New Delhi to deepen its control over J&K be counter-productive and further aggravate the hatred amongst Kashmiri Muslims against the Indian state’s occupation?

If analysed in the context of national liberation movements across the world, Kashmir’s case is unique because the core of the resistance against the Indian occupation is in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, but those fighting for self-determination are confronting a country which has deployed around a million security personnel to quell the movement. The Kashmiris are also handicapped because they are not getting any military or logistical support from across the border, despite Pakistan’s moral, diplomatic and political support.

The growing confidence of the Modi regime may be an illusion, but the fact is that India has been able to get away with the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35-A. Neither the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) nor the UN General Assembly has been able to pass a resolution to condemn the Indian assault on J&K. For India, its global networking with key world leaders – including the US President – is an indication that it doesn’t care about the criticism unleashed by the President of Turkey and the Malaysian Prime Minister in regard to its blatant violation of human rights in IOK.

India’s power consolidation in J&K is also indicative of a strong BJP government which has a two-thirds majority in the lower house (Lok Sabha) of the Indian Parliament. And although the BJP achieved a pyrrhic victory in the recent state assembly elections of Haryana and Maharashtra, the diminishing voices against Modi’s Kashmir policy is another indication of J&K’s marginalisation in the Indian political scene, as the opposition parties and human rights organisations maintain a low profile.

The Modi regime shows no compunction in using unabated force against peaceful demonstrations in the Valley, implementing the lockdown and giving a practical shape to its policy of ethnic cleansing by settling non-Muslims in the Muslim-majority area. The new governor in Srinagar installed by New Delhi has made it clear that state elections in J&K will only be held once the delimitation commission has completed its work, so that pro-liberation and independence parties are marginalised.

Ironically, Pakistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and IOK will commemorate October 31 as a day which legalises New Delhi’s control and ensures the transformation of J&K to be just like any other Indian state. Along with February 5, August 5 and October 27, another day has been added to the calendar on which to condemn the Indian occupation of Kashmir.

Will IOK ever see the light of freedom or will its beleaguered population simply be engaged by their outside supporters in celebrating such days? Pakistan’s defence policy for dealing with India’s occupation of J&K is providing New Delhi with enough space to further consolidate its power there.

Dr Moonis Ahmar is former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Meritorious Professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi, Pakistan.

*This article was originally published by The Express Tribune and has been republished with the permission of the author.  Articles published by The Asia Dialogue represent the views of the author(s) and not necessarily those of The Asia Dialogue or affiliated institutions.

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