Article 370: Revoking or Provoking?

Diya Jain '23

For such a small piece of land, the long-disputed territory of Kashmir sure knows how to stir up big trouble. Its origin story could be to blame for a history characterized by war, invasion, rebellion and a mess of laws and legislation riddled with technicalities that confuse the state of its very entity. Or maybe it could be pitied as collateral damage, caught in the perpetual military, political, and economic crossfire of national arch-enemies India and Pakistan, the superpowers of South Asia. Or perhaps, still, it is the strong, arguably stubborn nationalism held by its people. Whatever the case, the region has always teemed with complexity and controversy. And with Article 370 abruptly stripped of its authority this past August, tensions have been higher than ever.


In the months following August 5th, 2019, Western news outlets teemed with reports centering around the usually non-confrontational politics of South Asia, spurred by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unprecedented order to revoke Article 370. This bill, which was written into the Indian Constitution as it was being adopted in 1949, granted the region of Kashmir special status as a semi-autonomous part of India. The decision to quash this bilaterally significant bill will not only undermine the very uniform, uncontested national identity of Kashmiris while disrupting their daily lives, but could very well also cast a negative shadow on the Indian government and its intentions – and possibly serve to contest its current status as the world’s largest democracy.


This particular piece of law has been an imperative part of the foundation that allowed Kashmir to grow and thrive, culturally and economically. Under Article 370, only permanent residents were granted the right to buy and own property in Kashmir, a regulation that protected Kashmiri demographic majority in the area and ensured that it would retain its strong sense of nationalism without being overrun by outsiders. It took into particular consideration Hindus from India overwhelming the Muslim population and attempting to render the region an Indian state in essence (since they were unable to do so through official law). 


It also guaranteed that Kashmiris would be prioritized in job and money distribution and that the issue of overpopulation wouldn’t arise, creating a need to seek aid from a more powerful nation. Kashmiris have felt protected and respected by these policies as well as other niceties, such as the possession of its “own constitution, a separate flag and freedom to make laws”.  


Not only has India taken initiatives to rescind this autonomy through their decision late this summer, but they also imposed strict curfews enforced by military personnel on the Kashmiri population, and issued a state-wide communications block.  PM Modi’s actions have been bashed by critics as corrupt and unjust, while others celebrate them as strokes of decisive, powerful leadership. 


As an American-Indian whose whole extended family lives in India, and whose parents were raised there, I feel that it is important for me to support the country when it does something commendable. This is not one of those times. It is important that India has some accountability for its violations of Kashmir’s rule as an independent state. 


I was surprised and disappointed in the government’s decision and their means of implementing it. By enforcing a military occupation in Kashmir under the guise of “public safety concerns” in the face of such a change, the democratic superpower essentially used a scare-tactic to assert their dominance over the state and quash the possibility of rebellion against the decision. 


Concerns have already been raised regarding the religious motivation for such a decision – Kashmir is India’s only Muslim majority state, and with Prime Minister Modi has made clear his strong Hindu values as a trademark of his identity. There is a common consensus among Muslim Kashmiris that the decision could’ve been an attempt to undermine Muslim representation in Kashmir, with the intention of bolstering Modi’s political support in the one part of the country where he doesn’t see much. This opposes the fundamental ideals of secular equality and democracy upon which the country has prided itself for years. 


My family in India wouldn’t exactly agree with me on this matter. On their side of the world and of the conflict, India’s actions are completely justified; the country is only doing what is in their best interests, and the ends do justify the means. In fact, they see it as India simply governing their land. But, based on the technicalities that draw Kashmir’s borders as its own, self-governed state, it is clear that India’s overreach into their political systems and the daily lives of its people shouldn’t be tolerated. It is important that this clear violation of rights and law be condemned by other influential countries on the world stage, to send the message that such blatant authoritarian action cannot be displayed by a namely democratic nation without repercussions, or at least without significant backlash. 


So, it seems that this tiny nation will continue to spark some disagreement. Perched on the explosive border between Pakistan and India, the stakes are definitely high. What must be determined is how Kashmir itself will react – will it allow itself to be tossed around by India’s latest decision, or it will it stand up for itself, and risk the use of force by India and possibly inciting Pakistan from the other side? The land may be small, but the decision that lay ahead of it will undoubtedly have monumental consequences.