India’s Supreme Court Upholds Repeal of Kashmir’s Special Status

In a landmark decision, India’s Supreme Court has upheld the repeal of special status for the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, a move initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2019. The revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution granted the region significant autonomy and led to its division into two federally administered territories.

The five-judge bench declared that elections should be held in the region by September 2024, emphasizing the need to restore Jammu and Kashmir as a state “at the earliest.” Chief Justice DY Chandrachud asserted that the state does not possess internal sovereignty distinct from other states.

Justice SK Kaul, in a concurring judgment, suggested the establishment of an “impartial truth and reconciliation commission” in Kashmir to investigate human rights violations by both state and non-state actors over the past decades.

The revocation of Article 370 was a key promise by Prime Minister Modi in 2019, and the court’s decision precedes his bid for a third term. Local politicians in the region, including former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, expressed disappointment, with Abdullah stating on social media that he was “disappointed but not disheartened.”

Jammu and Kashmir, once a princely state that joined India in 1947, has been a source of tension between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, leading to two wars and a limited conflict. The region was divided, with each country controlling different parts separated by a ceasefire line.

Security measures in Kashmir have been intensified following the court’s decision, reflecting the historical volatility of the region. The revocation in 2019 was accompanied by a communication blackout and the detention of activists and opposition leaders.

Article 370 granted Jammu and Kashmir its own constitution, a separate flag, and legislative authority over various matters, including permanent residency, property ownership, and fundamental rights. The revocation aimed to integrate Kashmir into the rest of India, a stance long held by Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Critics argue that the BJP’s move is an attempt to alter the demographic character of the Muslim-majority region by allowing non-Kashmiris to buy land. The Supreme Court began hearing petitions challenging the government’s decision in August, with petitioners highlighting the unique nature of Kashmir’s relationship with India.

While many restrictions imposed after the revocation have been eased, occasional communication restrictions persist, drawing criticism from rights groups who view them as measures to suppress dissent. The picturesque Kashmir valley, despite these challenges, attracted over 16 million tourists in 2022. The government has expressed readiness to hold state elections and restore statehood, emphasizing its commitment to the region’s development and stability.

Leave a Reply