By Declan Carey
REVOKING Kashmir’s special status has allowed the Indian Army to commit human rights abuses in the region unchecked, an expert told the Redaction Report today.
The Indian government revoked Article 370 in August 2019, putting an end to Kashmir’s autonomy to have its own constitution, a separate flag, and the freedom to make laws.
Dr Subir Sinha, of SOAS University London, argued that while some reports suggest militancy has decreased since special status was revoked, the Indian Army has used the change to increase operations in the area, leading to people being physically attacked.
He said: “The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had the idea of revoking special status on their agenda since the 1950s, that there should be a full and, if necessary, armed, reintegration of Kashmir into the rest of India.
“Before Narendra Modi became chief minister of the state of Gujarat, for a while he was the secretary of the BJP in the early 1990s and at that time there was a lot of violence, and many, many killings.
“All restrictions on the Army’s actions were lifted when Kashmir’s special status was revoked. Kashmir already was a state of exception under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which meant that any crime they committed could not be investigated, including rates of mass killings.
“There are a lot of episodes of kids getting shot by armed forces, some of the shots in young people’s knees or eyes and that kind of thing, just to disable them completely.”
A report from the British House of Commons in 2019 admitted that since the region’s special status was lost, it became difficult to find out what was happening on the ground.
India’s Hindu nationalist BJP government announced its intention to revoke Kashmir’s special status during the country’s general election between April and May 2019, where it won a huge majority in parliament with 303 seats.
Kashmir has long been a centre of tension since India gained independence from Britain in 1947 with war erupting between India and Pakistan immediately after. It has also seen border skirmishes between India and China.
Amnesty International predicted the Indian Government’s decision to revoke special status would lead to increased tension and human rights violations.
Following the decision to revoke Article 370, Aakar Patel, Head of Amnesty International India, said: “What Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing over the last few days – the additional deployment of thousands of security forces, a blanket blockade of telephone and internet services, and restrictions on peaceful assembly – has already pushed the people of Jammu and Kashmir to the edge.
“To make matters worse, key political stakeholders have been placed under house arrest. Important decisions about Jammu and Kashmir are being decided by the Parliament without consultation with the people.”
However, the international community’s response to India’s decision to revoke Article 370 was mixed, with the UK and US taking very different approaches according to Dr Sinha.
He said: “I don’t think the UK could care less about this, given how close Priti Patel is to the Indian ruling party, and how much Boris Johnson openly admires Modi.
“We’ve had your Parliament’s parliamentarians come here, and we’ve shown them that the situation in Kashmir is all very much normal.
“But there are pressures from the US. And so last week, there was some Congress politician who said we must take another look at the revocation of Article 370.”
The High Commission of India in London was contacted for comment.
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