Indian Government led-by BJP is all geared to fulfil it poll promise to “integrate” Kashmir within India. Its legal and policy circles have commenced a constitutional lawfare on Kashmir from different verticals. The lawfare focuses on repealing Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution which confer a special status on J&K in line with the Instrument of Accession signed by the ruler of J&K in 1947.
Tension is at an all time high along the Line of Control (LoC) after Indian troops resorted to using cluster bombs on civilians in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Imran Khan called a meeting of the National Security Committee to discuss the usage of banned munitions by Indian troops and reports of Indian government’s efforts to scrap the special status of Indian held Kashmir from the Indian constitution.
The Kashmir has been the cynosure of world attention since 1947 and a source of bitter rivalry between the two arch-foes, India and Pakistan. With BJP at the helm of affairs in India after a resounding electoral victory earlier this year, Kashmir finds itself at the precipice of a dangerous lawfare, one which is likely to thrust Kashmir once again in the international limelight.
This time, more than ever before, for all the wrong reasons. This lawfare emanates from BJP’s poll promise to undo the special status of Kashmir and integrate it within India to bring it on par with the rest of India. Simply put, the objective is to rewrite India’s social contract with Kashmir and its people.
Reportedly in 2015, We the Citizens, an RSS based think tank, challenged Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution (more on these Articles below) claiming that they violate the Constitution. BJP tried, but couldn’t fulfill this promise during its first term.
Under Modi 2.0, this lawfare can be seen gaining momentum. The intensity of the situation demands that the government also reach out to the political leadership of the country to create a consensus on the policy to tackle the provoking and jingoistic steps of the Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi.
Government after government has done so in times of crises and it helps build the morale of negotiators and troops. Since the Hindu nationalist Bharti Janata Party came to power, it has tried in one way or another to up the game in the scenic valley to keep it drenched in blood. Over the past few years, besides using deadly pellet guns on unarmed civilians and leaving scores of people blind or maimed, it has increased ceasefire and airspace violations along the Line of Control.
The arrest of former chief ministers, blanket ban on all communication and right to assembly, turning out tourists, and above all the sudden deployment of tens of thousands of military personnel, clearly indicated that Modi was finally going to honour his campaign promise to his core hardline voter base.
Yet it seems Islamabad had done little homework and did not raise much of an alarm beyond appealing to the United Nations. New Delhi, on the other hand, has clearly factored in the fury this move will unleash in Kashmir; not to mention parliament itself. Recent actions by the Indian government are not really surprising.
By ordering tourists to leave it can control information, leaving little room for the media and the general public across the world to know the facts. Also, sane quarters in the BJP and India should question the Modi government’s policies in Kashmir. The recent back-to-back statements by US President Donald Trump, offering mediation, should be enough for the Modi government to understand that its missteps are being watched over the world over. The timing, too, is important.
Delhi would not have forgotten the humiliation that came after Pulwama. And Trump’s recent remarks about mediation risked unnecessary international exposure. Surely, Modi is going all the way in changing the demographics of Kashmir. Next he will facilitate his hardline base to spread there and dilute the Muslim majority. Pakistan’s only option, really, is to get the international community to push India towards talks.
Now what makes Article 370 India’s constitutional blackhole is the fact that although Article 370 gives the President of India the power to repeal, amend or modify Article 370, any such act requires ratification by the erstwhile J&K Constituent Assembly.
Eminent legal jurists of India are of the view that since the Constituent Assembly ceased to exist, any Presidential order repealing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution would be null and void. Fortunately, Pakistan is increasingly finding itself on the right side of the Kashmir discourse as its policy is more outward looking in the sense that it is multilateralist in approach and not hostage to political jingoism or legal surrealism as is the case with India’s policy.
It is hoped that Pakistan’s policy circles will realize that adding a new lens to the Kashmir prism will make the world see newer (and hidden) nuances on Kashmir and rid itself of the entrenched narrative on Kashmir which has, in the past, been used to weaken Pakistan’s position. In the face of India’s lawfare on Kashmir, Pakistan’s best bet is to snowball multilateral inertia by weaponizing international law to its advantage and making the world force India to return to the negotiating table.
PTI Government should demands negotiations, because Kashmir is on fire and forced Indian governement to come into dialogue table. The only other option, really, is yet more aggression at the LoC and possible threat of war.