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India: Kashmir autonomy upheld by Supreme Court

This time it’s final. India’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s decision to end the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir, home to insurgents for decades. The 2019 decision, which allowed New Delhi to directly rule the Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir, represents “the culmination of a process of integration and as such a meaningful exercise of power,” he said. in his verdict.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately welcomed the decision, which he called “historic.” It is “a glimmer of hope, a promise of a better future and a testament to our collective determination to build a stronger and more united India,” the Hindu nationalist leader said on X (formerly Twitter).

India’s Supreme Court also ordered on Monday that elections be held in Jammu and Kashmir next year, saying it should be put on equal footing with other Indian states “at the earliest,” with voting to be organized by September 30. , 2024.

Disabling communication

The end of Kashmir’s limited autonomy was accompanied by direct rule from New Delhi, mass arrests, a complete shutdown of the state and a communications blackout that lasted for a month as India beefed up its military in the region to contain protests. The decision was challenged by Kashmir’s pro-India political parties, the local bar association and individuals, leading to Monday’s verdict.

Prime Minister Modi’s hard-line policies have been highly controversial in Kashmir but have gained widespread acceptance across India as the insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people over decades has largely subsided. Authorities have sent hundreds of soldiers, paramilitary forces and police into the main city of Srinagar to thwart any protests.

The abrogation of Article 370 has been a key plank of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since its inception and the Supreme Court’s decision will be taken ahead of next year’s elections.

“Some battles are fought to be lost”

Kapil Sibal, one of the lawyers arguing for the repeal to be declared unconstitutional (the Supreme Court held hearings on the issue for 16 days), was philosophical about the matter. “Some battles are fought to be lost,” he wrote on X before the verdict was announced. He said the lawsuit was intended to ensure that “history records unpleasant facts that generations should have known.” “Only history is the final arbiter of the moral compass of historical decisions,” he added.

Since suspending Article 370 in 2019, Indian authorities have restricted media freedom and public protests, sharply curtailing civil liberties. The changes allowed Indians from outside the region to buy land there and seek government jobs and scholarships, a policy that human rights advocates denounce as “settler colonialism.”

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which have claimed sovereignty over the entire Himalayan region since independence in 1947. Since then, this has been the cause of two of the three wars between them. The Indian-administered territory suffered more than three decades of unrest, leaving tens of thousands of people dead. Delhi accuses Pakistan of supporting the separatists, which Islamabad denies.

Since 2019, the separatist uprising in Indian Kashmir has been largely suppressed, although young people continue to join it. More than half a million Indian troops are stationed in the territory to quell an insurgency that broke out in 1989. As of 2023, just over 120 people have been killed, two-thirds of them rebels.

Source: Le Parisien

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