Move to change status of Kashmir
Malik Muhammad Ashraf
April 19, 2019
The pledges made by BJP in its manifesto for the polls also include building of Ram Temple in place of the Babri mosque demolished by the Hindu extremists in December 1992 as well as changing the status of Kashmir through repeal of article 370 of the Indian constitution which grants special status to the territory.
The pledge to build Ram Temple not only goes well with the Hindu extremists and the elements within India who stand for India for Hindus but is also reflective of the political creed of BJP. It ensures their vote for the BJP. The incident occurred when the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP organized a rally at the site involving 150,000 volunteers known as Kar Sevaks.
The demolition had resulted in several months of inter-communal rioting between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities, causing the death of at least 2,000 people. According to Hindu mythology Ayodha in Uttar Pardesh is the birth place of Rama. In 16th century a Mughal general, Mir Baqi, had built a mosque, known as the Babri Masjid at a site identified by some Hindus as birthplace of Rama. In the 1980s VHP began a campaign for the construction of a temple dedicated to Rama at the site with BJP as its political voice. Several rallies and marches were held as a part of this movement, including the Ram Rath Yatra led by L. K. Advani. In the backdrop of the foregoing realities, the pledge by the BJP to build Ram Temple at the site of the Babri mosque is likely to ensure Hindu votes for the BJP. Though it could lead to perpetuation of communal politics which can cause perennial fissures among different communities living in India particularly between the Hindu and Muslim communities but the BJP led by Modi is hell bent to use this card for ephemeral political gains.
The promise to undo article 370 of the Indian constitution could also prove to be a great seller during the elections but could have far reaching and disastrous consequences for the regional peace and security which could also undermine Indian interests in the long run. The Kashmiri leaders have already rejected the BJP move. Leader of the National Conference and former Chief Minister of IHK Farooq Abdullah addressing an election rally said “Repeal of article 370 will bring widespread unrest. Let them do it and it will pave the way for our Azadi. They are wrong, we will fight against it.” Mehbooba Mufti another former Chief Minister of IHK also warned against such a move. Other Kashmiri leaders have also condemned the BJP initiative in the harshest possible terms.
Pakistan which is a party to the Kashmir dispute and for whom it is the unfinished agenda of the partition has also warned that it would approach the UNSC if India changed the autonomous status of the Indian Held Kashmir guaranteed by article 370 of the Indian constitution. It is pertinent to point out that the BJP in its elections manifesto for the General elections 2014 also made a pledge to integrate the State of Jummu and Kashmir into the Union of Indian and in connivance with RSS initiated a move to have the Article 370 repealed.
Article 370 was added in the Indian constitution in the ‘Temporary and Transitional Provisions of the Constitution’s part XXI. Sheikh Abdullah did not approve of the move as he suspected that the special status might be lost gradually if it was adopted as a transitional and temporary provision. He wanted iron clad guarantees of autonomy. He in fact advocated independence from India, the demand which prompted New Delhi to dismiss his government in 1953. However in an agreement with Indira Gandhi government in 1974 he abandoned his stance for independence of Kashmir and accepted Kashmir as a constituent unit of the Union of India. The agreement nevertheless reiterated the fact that relations of Kashmir with the Union would continue to be government by article 370. Earlier the constituent assembly of J&K in the constitution adopted for the State on 17 November 1956 decided the accession of the state to India. Preamble and Article 3 of Part 2 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir state that the state of Jammu and Kashmir shall be an integral part of the Union of India. However the UN through its resolutions 91 and 122 repudiated the move by maintaining the question of accession of Kashmir to either of the states could be only determined through a plebiscite held under the auspices of the UN. That effectively nullified Indian claims of Kashmir being an integral part of India.
The High Court of Indian Held Kashmir in a land mark judgment in October 2015 held that article 370 of the article of the Indian constitution was a permanent provision and could not be abrogated, repealed or even amended. It further ruled that J&K retained limited sovereignty and did not merge with the Dominion of India after partition in 1947. It was a very significant development that not only negated the Indian claims of Kashmir being an integral part of India but reconfirmed the status of the state as a disputed territory. Another very pertinent point to be noted is that J&K has its own constitution and India has its own. You cannot have two constitutions in a single state. Therefore, in legal and constitutional terms India and J&K are two separate states. As is evident the Indian position on Kashmir is not credible from the legal perspective.
Modi also tried to use the Pulwama incident for political gains by committing the madness that nearly brought the two nuclear powers to the brink of war. Pakistan rightly exhibited restraint and sought the intervention of the international community to de-escalate the situation, which reflected its unswerving desire to have the mutual disputes including Kashmir resolved through peaceful means. Nevertheless the chances of the Modi government committing yet another aggression against Pakistan in the run up to the elections as revealed by the foreign minister are still there.
Modi government is treading a very dangerous course by raising the enmity bar against Pakistan as well as by continuing suppression of the freedom movement in IHK with ruthless military might and blatant violations of human rights. I do not see any possibility of India under Modi changing its anti-Pakistan posture and abandoning its killing spree in IHK which regrettably goes unnoticed by the UN and the world community. Pakistan does not have to wait for the Modi government to repeal article 370 of the Indian constitution to change the status of IHK before seeking intervention by the UNSC. It can even now approach the UNSC to forestall the eventuality by invoking the UN resolutions on Kashmir and urging their implementation. In spite of the existence of Simla Agreement Pakistan retains the right to invoke them.