Operation Kashmir: The Finale

When Amit Shah was announcing revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A from India’s constitution, the Indian army and air force had been put on high alert in Kashmir. Mubashar Naqvi

Operation Kashmir: The Finale
India’s Operation Kashmir finally concluded with the repeal of Articles 370 and 35-A from the country’s constitution. The provisions granted special status to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region.

Monday, August 5 was a dark day in the democratic history of the world’s largest democracy. It started with Indian Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement in Rajya Sabha that his government had decided to scrape Article 370 through a presidential order.

Congress, the main opposition party, described the BJP’s move as a “catastrophic step.” In his first reaction, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “National integration is not furthered by unilaterally tearing apart Jammu and Kashmir, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land. This abuse of executive power has grave implications for our national security.”

Addressing the Lok Sabha after he moved the resolution to revoke Article 370, Shah attacked the Congress for “questioning” the status of the state, and added that the Parliament had the mandate to make laws on the state.

“Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it includes Pakistan-administered Kashmir as well,” he added.

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India (Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions), the state of Jammu and Kashmir had a special status under Article 370. The provision was drafted in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, who had by then been appointed prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir by Maharaja Hari Singh and Jawaharlal Nehru. Sheikh Abdullah had argued that Article 370 should not be placed under temporary provisions of the Constitution. He wanted ‘iron-clad autonomy’ for the state.
An all parties conference is being held today (Friday) in Muzaffarabad, the capital of the state, to deliberate on the situation in the region

Article 35-A is part of Article 370, which allows the state its own constitution, a separate flag, and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defence, and communications. This provision guarantees Kashmir a unique status within India. Article 35-A allows the legislature of Indian-administered Kashmir to define who the state’s permanent residents are. It applies to all of Indian-administered Kashmir, including Jammu and Ladakh.

The BJP government has bifurcated the state into two union territories: Jammu and Kashmir (which will have a legislature) and Ladakh (which will not).

Curfew in Kashmir

News agency ANI reported that when Amit Shah was announcing revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A from the constitution in Rajya Sabha, the Indian army and air force had been put on high alert. All of Kashmir was in a war-like situation with curfew and Section 144 imposed in several districts. Mobile phones and internet services were shut down while three prominent politicians of the Indian-administered Kashmir - Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and Sajjad Lone - were placed under house arrest.

Responding to the central government’s move after Amit’s speech, Congress leader and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad strongly condemned the plan to revoke Article 370. He accused the BJP of murdering the constitution.

“Three chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir are under house arrest. That should be discussed first,” Azad said in the Rajya Sabha.

Pakistan’s response

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while denouncing India’s decision to divide Kashmir into two federal territories and to change its constitutional status, termed this an irresponsible, unilateral and irrational act. The Foreign Ministry, in a statement issued on Monday, announced that country will exercise all possible options to counter illegal steps being taken by the Indian government.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Islamabad would step up diplomatic efforts to prevent the revocation made by a presidential decree. He called the move a “violation of UN resolutions.”

Reactions from the political leaderships of the divided state

Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister and president of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was under house arrest when she tweeted, “Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy. Decision of Jammu and Kashmir leadership to reject Two Nation Theory in 1947 and align with India has backfired. Unilateral decision of GOI to scrap Article 370 is illegal and unconstitutional which will make India an occupational force in J&K.”

“Government of India’s intention is clear and sinister. They want to change the demography of the only Muslim majority state in India, disempower Muslims to the extent where they become second class citizens in their own state,” she tweeted again.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan believed that repeal of constitutional articles protecting the special status of Kashmir in the long run would not in any away affect the freedom struggle of the Kashmiris.

“Article 370 was initially inserted in the Indian constitution to appease pro-Indian Kashmiri leadership and to buy their loyalties. This move was aimed at perpetuating their illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, by repealing these articles, India has lost its support from allies like the National Conference and the PDP,” he said.

The AJK president urged the United Nations to take note of India’s decision which violated not only Security Council resolutions 91 and 122, but also all other resolutions on the Kashmir dispute.

Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, reacting to the situation in a hurriedly called press conference in Islamabad on Monday, said that by repealing the special status granted to Indian-held Kashmir, New Delhi had lost its control of the territory in its entirety.

The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, thoroughly a unanimously passed resolution on Wednesday, strongly condemned and rejected the Indian presidential decree that scraped the special status for disputed region.

An all parties conference is being held today (Friday) in Muzaffarabad, the capital of the state, to deliberate on the situation in the region.

Meanwhile, dozens of protests and demonstrations are being held every day across the region. At the same time, the valley is under siege with massive deployment of Indian military and paramilitary troops, complete with a communication blackout.

The UN, OIC, AI and other global bodies and international players expressed concern over the Indian government’s move to revoke the special status of Kashmir - a UN-recognized disputed territory - and the deteriorating human rights situation in the region.

Senior journalist Altaf Andrabi while talking to The Friday Times said with the repeal of Article 370, special status for the disputed state will be done away with, ensuring complete integration of the region into India. “Jammu and Kashmir will no longer have a separate flag and all Indian citizens will be allowed to buy or sell property and have right to vote in the region. It is, in fact, an evil plan of the BJP government to change the demography of the state. I fear Kashmiris may lose their separate identity,” Andrabi said.

The author is a journalist based in Muzaffarabad and tweets at @SMubasharNaqvi