The Supreme Court of India brought the hearings to a close regarding the petitions that challenged the abrupt imposition of direct rule in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) in 2019.
The sudden directive from New Delhi sparked widespread protests, extensive arrests, and stern criticism from Pakistan. A move that caused unrest and saw the alteration of laws that had stood for nearly 70 years.
On the 5th of August 2019, a swift presidential order revoked the special autonomy that IIOJK enjoyed for several decades. Through the abrogation of Article 370 in the constitution, individuals from other parts of India were suddenly endowed with the right to buy property within this disputed region and establish permanent residence there.
The Kashmiri populace has perceived this move as an overt strategy to alter the demographic balance in the Muslim-majority area, potentially with an influx of Hindu settlers. A decision that provoked the local inhabitants and incited a vehement objection from Pakistan, vowing to explore every feasible avenue to counteract what it deems as unlawful steps taken by the Indian government.
The helm of this critical judicial scrutiny is a panel of five judges led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud. The bench deliberates on the move’s legality, especially given the absence of the usually requisite parliamentary approval for such significant constitutional amendments. Currently, there has been no specified timeline for when the verdict will be rendered.
During this period of legal scrutiny that spanned 16 days, the Supreme Court heard diverse perspectives, including submissions from government attorneys, constitutional specialists aligned with Kashmir’s pro-India political factions, and several other parties contesting the directive.
India has had a long history of deploying a massive military presence in the disputed Himalayan region. This territory has been the focal point of three wars between India and Pakistan and the epicentre of an armed uprising against Indian dominance, claiming thousands of lives since 1989.
The Aftermath of the 2019 Decision
The revocation of Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status in 2019 paved the way for individuals from other regions of India to procure land and secure government positions there. This policy has been widely denounced as an act of “settler colonialism” by critics. Furthermore, there have been numerous reports of a severe clampdown on media freedom and public protests, signalling a gross infringement on civil liberties.
Despite these criticisms, the Modi administration staunchly defended their decision during the court hearings, asserting that the changes have fostered “peace, progress, and prosperity” within the troubled territory. Centralizing New Delhi’s authority over the disputed region aligns with the longstanding objectives of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
As the territory witnesses a decline in armed confrontations between Indian forces and separatists, it appears India is strenuously working to reinforce its grip on the disputed territory, stirring diverse reactions from different quarters.
Additional news input was taken from the AFP