The echoes of colonialism Leoni Connah suggests that Kashmir's future remains uncertain following India's revocation of its self-rule.

AuthorConnah, Leoni

Since 1947, relations between India and Pakistan have remained tense over the status of Kashmir. In the aftermath of Partition, India has tried to sustain its complicated relationship with the former princely state of Kashmir. However, on 5 August 2019, a presidential order revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, stripping Kashmir of the special status it has held for the past 70 years. This article explores the implications of this decision, international responses and the potential impact of this decision on Kashmir's future.

Article 370, which became an official article of the Indian Constitution in 1954, symbolised India's relationship with Kashmir. It not only gave Kashmir autonomy over the internal administration of the state but also allowed it to have its own constitution and its own flag. This set the state apart from other Indian states because it allowed the citizens of Kashmir to live under a unique set of laws. Over the following seven decades, however, India has issued a series of presidential orders that have reduced Kashmir's autonomy and steadily extended the Indian Constitution to Kashmir. These presidential orders undermined the status of Article 370, reducing Kashmiri self-rule almost to extinction.

The August 2019 presidential order delivered the coup de grace. As a result of this decree, Kashmir's constitution is no longer in effect and the Indian Constitution now embraces all Indian states. Because Kashmir no longer has autonomy over the internal administration of the state, outsiders will now be able to buy property there. At the same time as the revocation of Article 370, India's Home Minister Amit Shah introduced a 'Reorganisation Bill' in the Indian Parliament, which divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories --Jammu/Kashmir and Ladakh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to make Kashmir a union territory brings the state under the full control of the government of India. Although the Bill passed in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, the legality of the measure is still under scrutiny.

The decision to revoke Kashmir's special status has not occurred in a vacume, despite the unexpected announcement on 5 August. A brief account of Kashmir's turbulent history is needed to understand the events that served as a catalyst of the decision to revoke Article 370.

Kashmir has been a contested state since the catastrophic events of Partition in 1947. With the creation of Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country, Maharaja Hari Singh was undecided about whether his state, also Muslim-majority, should join either India or Pakistan. The first war for Kashmir began when a rebellion broke out in Poonch. Seizing the opportunity, thousands of Pashtun tribesmen invaded the rest of Kashmir in rebellion against the maharajah. This forced Singh to ask India for help; in return, he was obliged to sign the Instrument of Accession in Indian favour, giving the central government control over Kashmir's communications, defence and foreign affairs. (1)

In 1948, the United Nations suggested the need for a plebiscite, but India and Pakistan could not agree. In the following year, a UN-mediated ceasefire agreement, known as the Karachi Agreement, stated that the status of Kashmir would be determined according to the people's wishes. The Indian Constitution, which was created in 1950 and came into effect seven years later, included in Article 1 a statement that Kashmir was an Indian state. Article 370 provided the state with a greater degree of autonomy than other states in India enjoyed. However, by 1957 the possibility of the inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir having their promised plebiscite had diminished, as they became, constitutionally, an integral part of India.

In March 1965, the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir passed the Integration Bill, which gave Kashmir the status of a province of India, though it remained formally a state. This action not only contradicted the terms set out in Article 370 but also ignored the plebiscite promised at the time of Partition. Three months of fighting between India and Pakistan over the Rann of Kutch followed this...

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