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Kashmir: The Disputed Heaven | Analysing the Supreme Court Verdict

Jahangir, the Mughal emperor who reigned in Medieval India from 1605 to 1627, says about Kashmir, “Gar Firdaus, rahe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.” A rough English translation would be, “If there is ever a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here it’s here.”  For ages, poets, artists, and writers have compared Kashmir to heaven. Indian Cinema has always romanticized the beauty of Kashmir with several songs being shot in its valleys and lakes. Movies like Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) and Yahaan (2005) have shown Kashmir not merely as a beautiful shooting location, but also as an integral part of the storyline. The representation of Kashmir, however, greatly differs in both movies. 




The Conflicted Region 


For a common Indian citizen, the beauty of Kashmir is never the first thing that comes to their mind. Kashmir is a disputed territory with India, Pakistan, and even China claiming parts of it. Since the Independence of India and Pakistan’s partition from it in 1947, the two countries have fought three major wars for Kashmir in 1947, 1965, and 1999. The state of Kashmir has been a victim of constant violence from insurgents, the Indian army, and cross-border terrorists. In all cases, it is always the innocent civilians who are affected.


The first war between India and Pakistan ended after the United Nations interfered, calling for a ceasefire between the two. Pakistan considers the issue of Kashmir as an International dispute. India, however, refuses to accept it and calls the conflict a “bilateral issue” and an “internal matter.” India’s claim on Kashmir has been a topic of debate both in India and internationally. 


Post the 1980s, Kashmir saw a rise in the number of insurgencies as well as targeted and planned terror attacks. Press Freedom in the Kashmir Valley has always been extremely low. 



Roots of the Kashmir Issue


Under British rule, Jammu and Kashmir was a Princely State ruled by a Raja (king). In 1947, India finally gained independence but at the cost of a partition based on religion that led to large-scale killings and atrocities on both sides. Pakistan was formed as a country of Muslim majority while India decided to be a Secular State with a Hindu majority population.  


Partition was followed by the organization of States and Territories and the demarcation of borders of the two countries. All the Provinces and Princely states had the choice of joining either one of the countries or remaining independent. Most Princely States had signed the Instrument of Accession with peaceful negotiations and joined the Union of India while some needed more efforts. 


Kashmir in 1947 was ruled by Raja Hari Singh, who sought independence for Kashmir, reflecting the local sentiment known as Kashmiriyat, emphasizing a unique Kashmiri identity characterized by religious and cultural harmony.


Both India and Pakistan believe that Kashmir “belongs” to them, the latter does so because of the Muslim majority population of the valley. Kashmir had signed the Instrument of Accession with India in 1947 in return for military aid after Pakistan had sent tribal infiltrators to capture the state. The result of this is that one part of Kashmir, which they call Azad Pakistan, is under Pakistan’s control. India calls this occupation illegal. 


 Article 370 and beyond


Kashmir was granted provisional autonomy under Article 370 of the Indian constitution in 1947 when it joined India. The Article that came into effect in 1949 allowed Jammu and Kashmir to have a separate constitution of its own and deny property rights to outsiders. 


The elected leader of Jammu and Kashmir was called the Prime Minister of the State. Elections in the state have historically been controversial, with allegations of rigging.


On 5th August 2019, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government abrogated the special status given to the state under Article 370 while the state was under President’s Rule. The state was also bifurcated into two Union Territories- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh to be under the direct control of the Central Government. 


 New Map Of India Shows Union Territories Of Jammu And Kashmir, Ladakh


During the revocation of the article, the Indian Government had cut communication lines and internet from the Kashmir Valley. Many Kashmiri politicians were being arrested and the valley was deployed with many additional security forces. While the process has been deemed undemocratic by many, the Government has constantly justified its ways by stating that it was necessary for peace. 


Last Monday, on the 11th of December 2023, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India gave its verdict on the constitutionality of the 2019 abrogation after it was challenged by petitioners. The Top Court upheld the President’s power to repeal Article 370 stating that it was only a “temporary provision” and that the state of J&K never had internal sovereignty. The Supreme Court also called for the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir to be restored as soon as possible.


Conclusion


According to The Deccan Herald data, there has been a significant decline in militancy and terrorism in Kashmir since 2019, with tourism flourishing. However, concerns have been raised by the local population about outsiders now being able to settle in the state. The Indian Constitution does not permit non-tribals and outsiders to buy land in many Northeastern States of India to protect their Tribal Identity. The fear of a loss of unique identity due to demographic changes looms large among Kashmiris.


The Kashmir issue is nuanced and complex.  Internationally, India and Pakistan continue to blame each other, while within India, different political parties engage in the blame game. The youth of the country must educate themselves about the issue, amplifying the silenced voices of the valley.



The hyperlinks are the sources that I have referred to for this article.


Edited by Matsoarelo Makuke.


Pictures by-


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