On eve of 2nd anniversary of loss of autonomy, regional chapter of Congress Party questions New Delhi’s claims
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Hindus in Jammu province of Jammu and Kashmir are apprehensive about outsiders taking over jobs and businesses after the loss of the region’s unique political status, and are demanding constitutional guarantees to prevent this, a top politician said.
Ravinder Sharma, the chief spokesman of the Jammu and Kashmir chapter of India’s Congress Party, told Anadolu Agency that the Hindu nationalist government had said the scrapping of the region’s autonomy would end the insurgency and usher in an era of growth.
“Has militancy ended? No. Has the distance between Dil [the heart of Kashmir] and Dilli [New Delhi] been reduced? No,” he said.
On Aug. 5, 2019, the Indian government annulled two laws of the Indian Constitution — Article 370 and Article 35A — which loosely governed India’s relationship with the disputed Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir.
Though hollowed out over the past seven decades through changes to India’s Constitution via underhanded methods and pliant Kashmiri pro-India regimes, Article 370 still nominally defined the region as having its own constitution and two houses of legislature that, unlike all other Indian states, could make laws independent of India’s parliament. The region had its own flag and until 1974 its own prime minister and a post equivalent to that of the president of India.
Article 35A barred all outsiders from purchasing property and applying for government jobs in the region. Effectively, it helped the local legislature to define the ‘permanent residents’ of the region and safeguarded jobs and land rights, not only for 68.31% of Muslims but also *28.43% of Hindus and nearly 4% of other minorities.
The scrapping of the autonomy and gradual transformation of the region’s demographics into a Hindu majority has been the cornerstone of the Indian Hindu right’s ideology. Its abrogation has sparked fears of “settler colonialism” in 17 of the 20 districts in which Muslims are a majority.
But in the Hindu-majority Jammu district, which looks at Muslim aspirations for secession with disdain, people’s insecurities have grown, said journalist and political analyst Tarun Upadhyay.
He said the largest Hindu ethnic group, Dogras, is a small group, and the fear of being overwhelmed by Punjabis from the neighboring Punjab region had driven them in the first place to ask the last Hindu king in the 1920s to restrict jobs and properties to the original inhabitants only. The same protection was then enshrined in the Indian Constitution after India’s independence under Article 35A.
“The fear of being overwhelmed by outsiders is coming back to the Dogras,” Upadhyay said.
“So it is the Hindus of Jammu who demanded protections. But the same Hindus don’t bat an eyelid when they have to choose between Indian nationalism and Kashmiri yearning for secession. But the realization that is sinking in is that the BJP government made Dogras sacrificial lambs because they wanted to control Kashmir,” he said, referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Recently, traders in Jammu protested when people from some Indian states were given licenses for running liquor centers. Upadhyay sees the protest as a sign of disenchantment against some of the Aug. 5 decisions, especially New Delhi’s non-committal stance on jobs and land.
Congress Party spokesman Sharma said his party has announced Aug. 5 as the “Day of Struggle” so that the region, which was “deprived of its identity as a state and stripped of all other rights to land and jobs,” regains these rights.
Ram Kishore, a businessman from Jammu city, told Anadolu Agency that the common masses are by and large happy about the abrogation of Article 370, but they want the guarantees under Article 35A to land and jobs restored in some form or other.
“Let politicians do politicking over political status. I only want job and land security for my children and children of other people,” he said.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965 and 1971. Two of them were over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
Thousands have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989, according to several human rights organizations.