On August 5, 2019, the Central Government of India put an end to article 370 of the Indian Constitution which provided autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, an autonomy which dated from shortly after Independence.
Pre-Independence Kashmir was ultimately divided between India and Pakistan with part of Pakistani Kashmir later ceded to China and is called Aksai Chin. The status and divisions of Jammu and Kashmir have been an issue of confrontation between India and Pakistan. (1)
Within Indian Kashmir, there has been continuing unrest and violence due to armed insurgencies, groups working for greater autonomy or independence, and the presence of a large number of Indian troops. (2)
Jammu and Kashmir was, for Jawaharlal Nehru, a central element in building a “secular and plural India” although in practice much of the politics in Jammu and Kashmir have focused on majority Muslim interests and minority Hindu concerns.
Regarding the root causes of militancy, one school of thought maintains that economic negligence contributed to the rise of extremism. Another school believes that the political suppression of the late 1980s forced the young to join extremist groups.
With the August 5, 2019 change of status, Jammu and Kashmir have become separate Indian states. Ladakh is now directly administered from New Delhi. Ladakh is an area of Tibetan culture with a largely Tibetan population. Ladakh has always been uneasy with being ruled by the Muslim majority of Jammu and Kashmir.
After August 5, a large number of Kashmiri political figures were arrested. Some were put in prison, others under house arrest. Internet and telephone communications with the rest of India were cut. There have been reliable reports of torture on some of those arrested.
The situation in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh merits watching closely. Tensions among India, Pakistan and China can grow. The erosion of the rule of law is real and can continue to disintegrate. Negotiations in good faith are necessary, but there is no current framework for such negotiations among governments. There may be an avenue for Track II – nongovernmental negotiations – such as those proposed by the Association of World Citizens. We need to be alert as to these possibilities.
Notes 1) See Dennis Kux. India-Pakistan Negotiations. Is Past still Prologue? (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2006) Josef Korbel, Danger in Kashmir (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966) 2) See Wajahat Habibullah, My Kashmir: Conflict and the Prospects for Enduring Peace (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2008) Widmalm Stein, Kashmir in Comparative Perspective: Democracy and Violent Separation in India (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2002) Howard B. Schaffen, The Limits of Influence: America’s Role in Kashmir (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2009)
Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.