Can the BJP now remove Article 370?

Why India is playing with fire in Kashmir

Question: The Indian central government abolished the special status for the northern troubled region of Kashmir on Monday by presidential decree. Several regional politicians were placed under house arrest on Monday, demonstrations were banned and telephone and Internet services were said to have been restricted. Which rights are affected by this?

Answer: Some of the privileges in today's state of Jammu and Kashmir based on a law of the then Maharajah from 1927 are primarily representative. For example, according to which the region is allowed to pull its own flag on the masts. Its red color symbolizes the blood of the rebels from the fight against the Hindu Dogra dynasty, who fell victim to a massacre in 1931.

With the exception of foreign, defense and telecommunications agendas, politics in the Indian part of Kashmir is generally not determined from Delhi, 800 kilometers away, but in the two regional capitals Srinagar (in summer) and Jammu (in winter). At the same time, there has been an increased army presence since the beginning of an armed uprising in 1989, and since 2018 the region has also been temporarily ruled directly from Delhi.

More important, however, are the realpolitical dimensions of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Federal Constitution: The government itself can determine who is a so-called "permanent resident". Their most important privilege is the right to own - and buy - land in the state. Previously, government jobs and training grants were reserved for these "permanent residents".

Question: Why is this right so important to the advocates of Kashmiri autonomy?

Answer: As the only Indian region with a Muslim majority - and also located on the border with the Muslim archenemy Pakistan - many Kashmirians have always been concerned that the region could lose its character due to the influx of Indians from the south. In fact, as early as 1927, this fear was behind the Maharaja's initiative to ban the inflow from the neighboring state of Punjab by law.

After the founding of modern India in 1947 - and that of modern Pakistan in the same year - the 1954 law was also reflected in the Indian constitution. Article 370 guaranteed the special rights of the state of Jammu and Kashmir until Monday.

Question: Why is the federal government taking this step right now?

Answer: The Hindu nationalist ruling party BJP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has long been a thorn in the side of the special rights of Jammu and Kashmir. Even before his re-election in May, Modi argued for the "full integration" of the region into the Indian central government. Contrary to the assessment of analysts who fear a further destabilization of the already crisis-ridden border region, a majority in the Indian lower house Rajya Sabha has now found itself to lift the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. A division of the state into two territories is also in the room.

"The entire Indian constitution will in future also apply in Jammu and Kashmir," said Interior Minister Amit Shah following the vote in parliament, explaining what is likely to be the most momentous change of course by the Indian government in seven decades.

Question: How are political dignitaries reacting in Kashmir?

Answer: Mehbooba Mufti, who was the region's chief minister from 2016 to 2018, spoke on Twitter of the "darkest day of Indian democracy" and "catastrophic consequences". A little later, like other leaders of the regional elite, she was placed under house arrest. Mufti, who had ruled in a coalition with Modi's BJP until the previous year, described the situation as "ironic", since precisely those elected MPs who have always fought for peace are now under arrest.

Omar Abdullah, also a former chief minister, is believed to have been arrested. In a statement he spoke of "fraud" against the Kashmiri people and called for calm.

Question: Are there unrest to be feared?

Answer: Thousands of soldiers were brought to Srinagar even before the parliamentary resolution passed, and the Indian army and air force are on high alert. All gatherings were banned and the schools and universities in Srinagar were closed. On Friday, the Indian government issued a terror warning, and thousands of Indian tourists left the region in panic.

Pakistan, which traditionally sees itself as the protective power of the Muslim Kashmiri and lays claim to the area, wants to keep "all options" open, as the government in Islamabad said on Monday. (flon, 5.8.2019)