By Gurmukh Singh OBE | OPINION |
One wonders whether the Indian Government has considered the military implications of the retention of Kashmir in India. With half or more of the population hostile, it would have to maintain an army of occupation. – British civil servant, William Barton, 1949
The state of Jammu and Kashmir (and Ladakh) has been stripped of its special status enshrined to Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. The Kashmiri people were completely cut out and not consulted in the process. The state is now like any other Indian state controlled by Delhi.
As I watched the legislative proceedings in the Indian Parliament and the celebrations in the country that followed, I was reminded of what William Barton wrote in 1949. This mountainous part of the Indian subcontinent is now the most militarised zone in the world with three nuclear powers, India, Pakistan and China surrounding it. Indian states around this area, including Punjab, no longer feel safe. However, it can be argued that, militarily, not much has changed.
The historical background is that the Anglo-Sikh Treaty of Lahore in 1846 gave the kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir to the Dogra Gulab Singh in return for his betrayal of the Khalsa Raj. The last Maharaja of the Dogra dynasty, Hari Singh, handed over the region regardless of the Muslim majority to India on 26 October 1947. In 1949, William Barton (quoted above) wrote about Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activities in Jammu and Kashmir and the wholesale expulsion of Moslems from the Jammu province.
In 1952, the founder and president of Bhartiya Jan Sangh, Syama Prasad Mukherjee, announced his commitment to the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir. In August 2019, with the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir, the longstanding dream of Bhartiya Jan Sangh, RSS/BJP has been realised. The danger is that this dream can rapidly turn out to be a worse nightmare than before.
The Kashmiri separatist movement against Indian rule has been growing for over 30 years. Demographically, in 1941, nearly 80 percent of the population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was Muslim. Today, of the14.5 million population of Indian Jammu and Kashmir, 68.3% are Muslims, 28.4% Hindus, 1.9% Sikh and 0.9% Buddhists in addition so hill tribes.
The BJP-led Indian Government believes that by stripping the state of autonomy after 70 years, a historical blunder has been corrected. That a long term objective of the Sangh Parivar has been achieved. The government says that the absorption of Kashmir into Indian will bring development to the region.
In the meantime, National Conference President Farooq Abdullah has told the Indian Government that fiddling with the special status of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is unconstitutional and de-limitation and trifurcation of the state would be aggression against people of the state.
This means that by this move India has antagonised even moderate Kashmiri Muslims who, otherwise, would have either preferred to stay with India or asked for an independent state. This military occupation will continue to drain Indian military and economic resources at an increasing rate, stunt the growth of the region while the nuclear threat continues to hang over the whole region. The impression gained by impartial observers is that this has been a strategically bad move by India.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The article first appeared at The Panjab Times, UK. See here.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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