From this point onwards, Jammu and Kashmir are to be governed by Delhi as a union territory. Immediately following the decree, the Indian authorities imposed an extensive blockade on Kashmir. Military presence was stepped up in the already heavily militarised capital of Srinagar and travel bans were put in place. All communication lines were cut, local politicians were imprisoned or placed under house arrest.
Modiʹs decision added fresh fuel to an explosive situation between India and Pakistan: in recent days, a number of soldiers on both sides have died following exchanges of fire at the "line of control". As a result, Pakistan symbolically celebrated its 72nd Day of Independence on 14 August in Muzaffarabad, the capital of "Azad Kashmir" (Free Kashmir), Islamabadʹs name for the portion of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. At the celebrations, Prime Minister Imran Khan said, "Modi has made a strategical error. Heʹs played his last card. Now, theyʹve made Kashmir an international issue."
In the course of a diplomatic offensive, Pakistan held a special meeting of the UN World Security Council in order to bring the issue of Indiaʹs "illegal activities" to the table. The Indian side defended itself against what it viewed as interference in its domestic matters. Imran Khan issued a promise: "We will approach any international forum necessary (…) We will go to the international Court of Justice." The Prime Minister of Pakistan also warned against "Nazi-inspired" Hindu-nationalist ideologies, of which Modi has been a follower since childhood.
Modi is pursuing a long-term plan
Modi appears to be pursuing a long-term plan as regards his strategy on Kashmir; he will not be easily dissuaded. For one thing, the shaking up of the only Indian state with a Muslim minority fits with a vision of a Hindu India, one where Muslims will ultimately not be tolerated. Allowing non-Kashmiris to acquire land and property in Kashmir will lead to Kashmir gradually becoming populated by Indian citizens from other parts of the country – indeed, this is the hope of the Hindus who were obliged to leave Kashmir as a result of religious and political tensions.
Ultimately, Modi would not be Modi if he wasnʹt hiding massive economic plans behind this decision. Modi likes to present Kashmir as a failed state and promises to improve infrastructure and improve quality of life for Kashmiris. But what is feared is the gradual destruction of an as-yet relatively untouched region with idyllic nature and an intact local economy, which is largely based on nature tourism, craftsmanship, horticulture and pasture farming.
Critics fear that Modi will follow the example of the other mountain states of Himachal and Uttarakhand, where, in recent years, thanks to capitalist logic, excessive development, chaotic road-building and rapid urbanisation have caused enormous environmental damage. Industrial waste and growing quantities of rubbish, and waterways and forests polluted by mining have shaped the once untouched nature in this area.
For Hamid, the boy who threw stones, walking along the meadows in Gulmarg, one thing is certain: "We donʹt want to belong to India or Pakistan. We want azadi!" "Azadi" means freedom in Kashmiri and has become a catchword for the dream of independence from India – it is often scrawled on walls and buildings. But after decades of semi-imperialist politics from New Delhi, Kashmir seems further from freedom in Modiʹs India than ever before.
© Qantara.de 2019
Translated from the German by Ayca Turkoglu