The Supreme Court of India, while hearing petitions challenging the legislation which revoked Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) autonomous status, instructed the BJP-led government to indicate a timeframe within which the region’s statehood will be restored. As expected, no specific commitment was made. Instead, what followed were repugnant and untruthful claims about the absence of an official challenge to the decision, an alleged failure of IIOJK’s constitutional machinery, and repeated disturbances warranting such drastic measures.
Such claims by General Tushar Mehta, the government’s representative, seem to neglect and brush over one key fact; Kashmir is and must remain a disputed territory, as per the UNSC resolution. To devolve its status to a union territory is not only in violation of said resolutions, but it propagates the idea that its constitution is subordinate to India’s–entirely false and misrepresentative. In reality, India has illegally occupied the region, and exercises extrajudicial control in a rather fascist manner that has resulted in a shockingly high death toll, and human rights crisis that all—India and the international community—seem to avoid addressing.
Beyond this however, what is most problematic is the demographic changes that the Indian government is making to the region. By revoking Articles 370 and 35-A, restrictions on property rights and citizenship laws were alleviated and Hindu settlers were relocated to the region to alter the demographic makeup. With Kashmiris being casted out from their own land, and more Hindus relocating, the likelihood of the region gaining its eventual autonomy through a plebiscite reduces dramatically. By not committing to a date for reinstating Kashmir’s statehood, the Indian government is not only confirming its strategic plan but through promises of legislative elections ‘anytime now’, it is maintaining an illusion of autonomy and eventual independence.
Beyond all this even, for Mehta to state that this is a matter of ‘national security’ or that there was no challenge to the dissolution of IIOJK’s assembly is rather distasteful. This ‘national security’ is Kashmir’s fight for independence after having experienced decades of instability, proxy control and now direct occupation. The challenge to revoking the status of the region came in the form of resistance, outrage and violence as countless Kashmiris revolted. Even now, major political parties of the region have termed this development as a move to divert attention away from the human rights abuse, humanitarian crisis and systematic clampdown on Kashmir by the Indian government. One consistent demand has always been put forth; the restoration of democratic rights and a duly elected body.