New Delhi’s Demographic Designs in Kashmir

Hindu nationalists have long wanted to reshape the region. Now they are getting their chance.

Since 1989, when an armed uprising against Indian rule began in India-administered Kashmir, violence has killed more than 50,000 people, according to official figures. Hundreds of mass graves have been discovered, and the International Crisis Group has estimated that the region is home to 30,000 orphans and at least 1,000 “half-widows,” a term used for Kashmiri women whose husbands are among the missing but have not been proved dead.

On any given day over the past several years, young boys would throw stones at gun-wielding Indian soldiers in protest of a killing of a civilian or militant. And general feelings of dissent against Indian rule, which many Kashmiris see as an occupation, were commonly expressed.

It was against this background that, on Aug. 5, New Delhi ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian Constitution by revoking Articles 370 and 35A. At the same time, it set up India’s only Muslim-majority state to be split into two union territories—one comprising the mountainous region of Ladakh and the other combining the Kashmir Valley with the state’s Jammu region. Hours before the move, the valley was put under strict curfew with internet, landline, and mobile phone services and cable television all blocked at once.

Although New Delhi had already eroded much of what Jammu and Kashmir’s special status promised over the years, it had continued to perform two important tasks. First, it served the symbolic function of keeping hope alive for reconciliation with, and better treatment by, India. Second, and more importantly, Article 35A prevented any demographic transformation of Jammu and Kashmir—something Kashmiris have long feared—since it prevented outsiders from purchasing land.


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