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Why The Modi Govt’s Bid To Amend Article 370 Was Only The First Step

The constitutional coup by the Indian government vis-a-vis Kashmir far from being a culmination.

Preceding August 5, 2019, which will add to the burgeoning catalogue of dark days in Kashmir, there was a foreboding sense of intrigue in works. The deployment of additional troops to one of the most militarized zones in the world and more ominously, the very selective evacuation of tourists from everywhere in Kashmir amid pilgrimage season didn’t make sense unless one were to imagine the worst. But with stripping away of not only the autonomy enshrined in the Indian Constitution but also the entity of the state, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government did worse than the worst.

Armed even with a more significant majority than before, the Modi government went around surreptitiously to commit legal fraud to render the Article 370 of the Constitution, which governed the relations between the union and state, and Article 35A that protected the state from alien incursions through purchase and employments, ineffective. The Centre went even one step further by decreeing the nullification of the existence of the state itself through its bifurcation into two Union Territories — appendages of the federal government. All this was done after incarcerating the entire population of Kashmir through strictest enforced curfew by armed-to-the-teeth Indian security forces supplemented by concertina wires. People in Kashmir have been forced to suspend their biology till India consolidates its grip on the region.

Before the day when the Indian government issued that draconian decree and presented to the Parliament for rubber stamping, a kind of fatalism had taken hold in Kashmir. People refused to contemplate such a possibility as they placed too much, and in retrospect, wholly misplaced, faith in the provisions of the Indian constitution. The truth has been that successive Indian governments have used those very constitutional provisions to strip away the autonomy and freedoms using salami tactics. The adherence to constitutional guarantees and the rule of law are subject to the very acceptance by the people who are in power. Those human-made laws, unlike laws of nature, can and are subject to capricious violations if lawless persons become in charge.

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Modi, steeped in extreme right-wing ideology, was never going to be the one bothered by constitutional restrictions. To overcome those legal limitations, Modi and his wily protégé Amit Shah coopted the Hindu population of the country into the project of smothering the rule of law. Celebrations by the Hindu majority greeted the announcement of the decision of the abrogation of Article 370. Even the Opposition parties in the Parliament, barring a few individual exceptions, were lukewarm in their objections to the changes that were brought in by the government. The Opposition parties, as a matter of fact, saw defections from their ranks as some figures rushed in to congratulate the government for the measures to strangulate the entire population of Kashmir.

The constitutional coup by the Indian government vis-a-vis Kashmir far from being a culmination instead marks the first step of their cherished mission of humiliating and subjugating the population of Kashmir into submission for having defied the inalienable right of India over the province or specifically right over the lands and lakes of that pristine valley. Their next logical step would be to jig electoral boundaries to give an ascendency to Jammu region over Kashmir followed by the attainment of a majority for the Hindu right-wing in the assembly of now an inferior territory to be ruled directly by diktats from the Indian capital.

The step is akin to arrest of Yusuf Shah Chak instead of being treated sovereign by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Since that time Kashmir has been unable to throw off the yolk of foreign occupation-domination.

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