Kashmir still roiled in conflict

The revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which allowed Kashmir a degree of autonomy, was perhaps the Indian government’s most undemocratic move against Kashmiris. The decision was made overnight, without consultation or political engagement with Kashmir’s various political entities. Feelings of betrayal and alienation now run deep among Kashmiris, who find no reason to place their trust in the central government.

The government’s declaration of Union territory status for Ladakh was another unilateral step taken without consultation of its residents. An increasing number of people in Leh are now echoing the fears expressed in Kargil in August 2019 about political representation, safeguards for land ownership, job security, domicile status and protection under Schedule Six of the Indian constitution.

Fears of wholesale demographic change are not unfounded. Under a new policy called the J&K Development Act, the term ‘permanent resident’ has been omitted. This allows outsiders to invest in Kashmir. As of September 2020, over 1.6 million residency certificates had been issued across the districts of Jammu and Kashmir. And under a new vague clause in the same act, corps commanders have been given special powers to declare an area ‘strategic’ for operational and training requirements. The rationale for declaring these areas strategic is unclear. For a state that aspires to live free of Indian military presence, these developments are cause for deep suspicion.

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