The recent action of the Indian government in removing special rights granted to the residents of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has generated a lot of criticism in the media. Some Democratic congressmen and senators have also criticized this action. These rights were granted temporarily under Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. Expecting violent protests in the state, as has been the norm for the last 30 years, the Indian government imposed certain restrictions on movement and communications.
The international media and the politicians do not appear to understand that the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will lead to tremendous benefits to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the “Howdy Modi!” event in Houston, people living in Jammu and Kashmir will now have the same rights and privileges as other Indian citizens. There is no denial of any fundamental rights Kashmiris as a result of this action. These special rights for the people of Jammu & Kashmir had generated a feeling of being different, which in turn was exploited by forces inimical to the unity of India and had resulted in loss of more than 70,000 lives during last thirty years.
The Abrogation of Article 35A will lead to gender equality there. Kashmiri women can now marry anyone outside Kashmir and still retain rights to her parents’ land and property, which she could not before.
Article 370 ensured that laws passed by the Indian Parliament are not automatically applicable to the state. Laws designed to provide additional legal and political or economic support to the Dalits and other weaker sections of India were not applied in Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, the law banning Triple Talaq would not be applicable.
Articles 370 and 35A ensured that no Indian or foreign entity can own property in the state. This provision essentially stopped all outside investment in the state. Kashmir is a very attractive tourist destination, but lack of outside investment has led to meager development of tourist industry in the state. Robust tourism means development of business and employment for hotels, restaurants, guides, transport workers and other manual workers as well as additional employment generated from associated infrastructure development. All these possibilities were denied to Kashmiris because of this provision.
Almost half of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is the high plateau area of Ladakh, populated mainly by Buddhists. However, because of low population, Ladakh got little development money and remained poor. Ladakhis will now be will be able to directly get development funds from the national government and develop a vibrant tourist economy.
Article 370 was incorporated in the Indian Constitution as a “temporary measure.” The provisions of Article 370 were not a part of the standard “Instrument of Accession Agreement” signed in 1947 by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir as well as by rulers of more than 500 other princely states. Continuing with the status quo for the last 70 years was not leading to any peace in the area.
The Indian government knew that there will be violent protests in the state after its action. Violent protests have broken out in the state at the drop of a hat during the last 30 years. Aware of this ever-present danger, the government decided that the situation should be handled with great care so that there is no loss of life. Based on this historical experience, the government decided to impose restrictions on communications and movement of the people so that there are no immediate violent protests.
The government has been gradually relaxing those restrictions. The result of the imposition of restrictions and their gradual relaxation has been that life is slowly returning to normal. Not a single bullet has been fired and there has been no loss of life during this period. This is an extraordinary accomplishment but has not been noticed either by the media or the politicians.
Indian Americans have traditionally supported the Democratic party and more than 75% voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. They have been dismayed and upset with statements that Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna have made. These comments suggest that either these leaders do not know enough about the situation or want to consider only one aspect of the situation. Indian Americans now need to educate these leaders before the next election.