On August 5, 2019, the central government withdrew J&K’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union Territories — J&K with a legislative assembly and Ladakh without one.
The historic move had led to the imposition of restrictions on several political leaders and activists in the Kashmir Valley. Gradually, authorities lifted the curbs and released politicians under detention.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in late June met 14 political leaders from J&K, including four former chief ministers, to chalk out the future course of action in the union territory where he assured them that the state will have it statehood restored soon.
The meeting was the first such between the Centre and mainstream Jammu and Kashmir politicians after the division of the erstwhile state into two union territories in August 2019.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had recently urged the central government to expedite the process of the restoration of J&K’s statehood. Batting strongly for holding assembly elections, he said for the past four years, there is no representative in J-K, which is the biggest cause of underdevelopment in the union territory.
Political leaders, several of whom were put under house arrest citing security concerns and remained restricted for months, have been vocally critical of the Centre’s move.
NC leader Omar Abdullah, who spent seven months in detention which was challenged in the Supreme Court, said on Wednesday that after initially being “deeply jaded” he had realised that as a politician he didn’t have the right to “mourn” for long and could not let down the people struggling for their basic constitutional rights. On the eve of the second anniversary of the nullification of Article 370 of the Constitution, the former chief minister of the erstwhile state said that what had been done on August 5 had come as a shock to most people who were affected by the “sudden, unexpected and unconstitutional blow”.
A parliamentary panel chaired by Congress leader Anand Sharma will visit the Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir from August 17 to examine the administration and development of the region and review the working conditions of central police forces.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh has also said that his ministerial colleagues will soon start regularly visiting J&K. A schedule and a roster for the ministers will be prepared by the Centre in consultation with the Jammu and Kashmir administration. This experiment was carried out in January last year too when 36 Union ministers visited the Union Territory over a period of one month. A similar exercise has been successfully carried out in the Northeast for the last six years.
And even though the Centre says that terror activities in the region have declined significantly, life in Jammu and Kashmir continues to be patchy.
On its two-year anniversary, we take a brief look at its troubled history:
• After signing the Treaty of Amritsar, Maharaja Gulab Singh, a Dogra monarch, purchased the territory of Jammu & Kashmir from the East India Company in 1846.
• In the 1930s, Kashmiri Muslims were dissatisfied with the authority of then-Maharaja Hari Singh, believing that his policies were biassed against them. Around the same time, National Conference (NC), J&K’s first major political party, was founded, with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s political debut. The anti-maharaja Quit Kashmir movement was launched.
• In August 1947, India declared independence from the British Empire, and Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country, was established. India’s princely states, which were not formally affiliated with either India or Pakistan, had three options: remain independent or join one of the two countries. Three of these states, Junagadh, Hyderabad, and J&K, remained unresolved. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s home minister, sought to persuade the princely states that were uncertain to join India; and Maharaja Hari Singh signed a standstill deal with Pakistan.
• However, Hari Singh realised he needed Indian assistance when armed tribesmen from Pakistan reached J&K in October, 1947. He contacted Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel, who agreed to send troops if the maharaja signed an instrument of accession (IoA) in India’s favour, ceding control of defence, foreign affairs, and communication to India. Indian troops went in after Hari Singh signs the IoA.
• India took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations (UN) in January 1948, expressing concern about Pakistan’s forcible occupation of sections of Kashmir. The United Nations recommended a referendum, but India and Pakistan could agree on how to demilitarise the region. The issue continued to persist throughout the year.
• Hari Singh was appointed an interim administration in J&K in March 1948.Sheikh Abdullah was named the PM of J&K.
• In January 1949, the UN mediated a cease-fire between India and Pakistan (also known as the Karachi Agreement), allowing the two countries to keep control of territory they had at the time. There has yet to be an agreement on the referendum.
• Hari Singh abdicated in favour of his son Karan Singh in July 1949. Sheikh Abdullah and three colleagues attended the Indian Constituent Assembly to discuss Article 370 of the Indian constitution.
• The Indian constitution took effect in 1950. Article 1 declared J&K to be a state of India, whereas Article 370 granted J&K special status.
• In 1951, the constituent assembly of J&K, the body charged with drafting the state’s constitution, met for the first time. All members were from Sheikh Abdullah’s National Council.
• In the J&K constituent assembly in 1952, Kashmiri leaders discussed their relationship with India. This resulted in the comprehensive Delhi Agreement, which specified the state’s relationship with the union.
• Sheikh Abdullah was ousted as Prime Minister in 1953, supposedly due to a loss of cabinet support. He was replaced by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.
• A presidential order extended certain provisions of the Indian constitution to the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir in 1954.
• In 1956, the state of Jammu and Kashmir adopted its constitution and declared itself to be an integral part of India.
• The first legislative elections in J&K were held in 1957. The constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was dissolved and replaced by a legislative legislature. Govind Ballabh Pant, the Indian home minister, visited Srinagar, the capital of J&K, and declared that the state is now fully integrated into India. A plebiscite is therefore out of the question.
• An amendment to India’s constitution granted the supreme court and the electoral commission power over J&K in 1960.
• After a conflict with India, China took control of the Aksai Chin region in J&K in 1962.
• The titles of prime minister and sadr-i-riyasat were altered to chief minister and governor, respectively, in May 1965.
• Abdullah’s NC joined with the Indian National Congress in June 1965.
• The war between India and Pakistan lasted from August 1965 until January 1966. The Tashkent Declaration, signed by Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Ayub Khan, marked the end of the conflict.
• In 1966, the desire for a referendum in J&K resurfaces, and many armed groups emerged in the territory. The Plebiscite Front and the Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front are two of them (JKLF).
• In 1971, India and Pakistan went to war for the third time.
• In 1972, India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement, establishing the Line of Control as a ceasefire line.
• In 1975, Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah signed the Kashmir Accord, which reaffirmed Article 370 and J&K’s status as an integral part of India. Gandhi claimed that the “clock cannot be turned back in this manner” to pre-1953 Indian Union-J&K relations, implying that a referendum was not conceivable. Sheikh Abdullah abandoned his call for a plebiscite and returned to power as chief minister of J&K, aided by the Congress.
• In 1977, the Congress and the JKNC separated; the Congress withdrew its backing for Sheikh Abdullah’s government, allowing central rule to take over.
• Sheikh Abdullah was re-elected in J&K elections in July 1977.
• From 1977 through 1989, there was a continuous rise of militant outfits in J&K, as well as multiple shaky regimes, arrests, and executions of militant youngsters.
• In 1990, hundreds of Kashmiri youth died in clashes with Indian army after taking to the streets to oppose the Indian administration. As outfits like the JKLF acquired strength, central rule was announced. In the face of escalating violence, Kashmiri Pandits (Hindu Brahmins) left their hometowns. The Military Services Special Powers Act was enacted by the federal government, providing the armed forces new powers to combat armed militancy.
• Militant insurrection was on the increase in the 1990s. Several separatists were captured, including Yasin Malik. The Indian administration sought to talk to various figures in J&K. In 1993, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of 26 social and political organisations, was formed. Incessant violent clashes killed a huge number of civilians, armed personnel, and militants.
• In 1995, Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao made a statement in parliament reiterating his commitment to uphold Article 370. He insists that J&K was a vital part of India and that the president’s rule should be lifted.
• India outlawed the JKLF in February 1996.
• J&K held assembly elections in September 1996, and Farooq Abdullah of the JKNC formed the government.
• The centre appointed a committee to investigate the subject of autonomy for J&K in November 1996.
• In 1997, a J&K branch of the national human rights commission was established to examine human rights abuses in the state.
• India and Pakistan conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1998.
• Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Indian prime minister, visited Pakistan in February 1999.
• In June 1999, India and Pakistan declared war on one other over Pakistani infiltration in Kargil.
• Indian Airlines aircraft IC-814 from Delhi to Kathmandu was hijacked by extremists in December 1999. In exchange for the flight and the passengers being safely returned to Delhi, India released three insurgents.
• The parliamentary assembly in Srinagar was attacked in October 2001.
• Armed militants attacked the Indian parliament in New Delhi in December 2001.
• After decades of volatility, the Indo-Pakistani relationship stabilised in 2004. Manmohan Singh, the then Indian prime minister, meets with General Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan.
• From 2005 through 2008, armed forces, militants, and protesting civilians clashed in J&K, albeit not on the same magnitude as during the militancy’s peak.
• Terrorists linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba targeted a number of public sites in Mumbai, including a number of high-profile luxury hotels.
• In 2010, protests erupted in J&K following the assassination of a teenage militant.
• Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, pardoned 1,200 stone pelters in 2011. Near the Line of Control, the Indian Human Rights Commission discovered 2,000 unmarked graves.
• Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013 for his role in the 2001 parliament attack.
• For the first time in J&K, the BJP formed a government with the People’s Democratic Party in March 2015.
• Mehbooba Mufti succeeded her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, as chief minister in April 2016.
• Burhan Wani, another young militant, was killed in a shootout with military forces in July 2016. Massive protests occured in the state of J&K. For several months, a curfew was imposed.
• Armed terrorists attacked an Indian Army camp in Uri, J&K, in September 2016. The army struck across the Line of Control in retaliation.
• Thousands of people came to the streets in J&K to remember Burhan Wani’s death in July 2017. Militants ambushed visitors on their route to Amarnath, a famed Hindu shrine.
• The BJP administration ended its coalition with the PDP in June 2018.
• Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the legislative assembly in November 2018.
• In December 2018, the state’s central rule was declared.
• A vehicle carrying explosives crashed into an Indian paramilitary convoy in February 2019, killing 40 people. Across the Line of Control in Pakistan’s Balakot region, India conducted retaliatory strikes against terror facilities. Pakistan abducted and then freed an Indian Air Force pilot.
• In India, the BJP was re-elected for a second term in May 2019.
• In July 2019, US President Donald Trump proposed to arbitrate between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute.
• According to reports, a substantial number of Indian troops have been deployed in J&K. Pilgrims to Amarnath requested that they be allowed to return. This was due to the discovery of a landmine with Pakistani markings along the pilgrimage path.
• On August 4, prominent Kashmiri leaders were placed under house arrest, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Section 144, which prohibits gatherings of more than four persons in public locations, was enacted, restricting internet and cellphone services.
• On 5 August, Amit Shah, sought a presidential order repealing Articles 370 and 35A. J&K was be divided into two union territories: Ladakh (to be administered centrally) and J&K (to be administered locally with its legislative assembly).
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