No longer an Indian state . . .
As of October 30, Jammu & Kashmir is no longer an Indian state. The semi-autonomous status of the state was suspended in August with the revocation of Article 370. After three months of lockdown, cutting off communication networks, and incarcerating local leaders, India’s Modi government this week officially broke the state into two union territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. These ‘new’ territories will be governed directly by India’s central government. Under Article 370, the erstwhile state of J&K had its own constitution, a state flag (other Indian states don’t have a flag), and autonomy over its internal administration. The Indian government has maintained that the removal of Article 370 will allow the people of J&K to assimilate with the rest of the country.
'Unlawful and void’: China . . .
China has called out the Indian government’s actions as “unlawful and void." According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the two new union territories now include an area that is within China’s ‘Line of Actual Control,’ which demarcates a disputed border area between China and India. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar responded that the change was an “internal matter” and had no implications for “either the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control with China. India is not raising any additional territorial claims.” Interestingly, President Xi Jinping did not mention Kashmir during his mid-October visit to India.
Radicalization fears . . .
The revocation of Section 370 and subsequent Indian government actions in J&K have been widely viewed as an infringement of Indian citizens’ democratic rights. Many fear that the continued tension in the region since August 2019 has left no space for open conversations and may instead push people towards radicalization. The Muslim majority state has remained a hotbed for insurgency and terrorism for almost three decades as factions in support of separation from India collided with Indian military forces, leading to loss of life and economy in the valleys. Meanwhile, the first-ever elections for the Block Development Council, which allows for a more grassroots approach to governing the people, took place in Jammu & Kashmir last week with a 98.3 per cent turnout. While the elections may hint at normalcy, the people of the newly formed union territories remain on tenterhooks regarding their future, which appears to be increasingly drawn either by militants or New Delhi.