Another year has passed since India abrogated Article 370 and ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomous status, turning it into an annexed and federally-controlled territory. Since then, the restless region has seen continued human rights violations, demographic changes, and a push to delimit the territory in order to allow Assembly elections to take place. India claims it is providing economic development and promoting democracy in Jammu and Kashmir when in fact it continues to breach international law. India’s attempt to show the valley as one where Kashmiris are finally reaping the dividends of peace is a smokescreen for a region where everything is far from normal. This article will analyse India’s actions in the past year and argue that despite Modi’s attempt to hide what is going on from the international stage, India’s continued clampdowns and authoritarianism in Jammu and Kashmir must not go unnoticed.
Human Rights Violations
According to the Human Rights Forum Jammu and Kashmir and their recently released report, ‘Two Years of Lockdown: Human rights in Jammu and Kashmir’, India’s human rights violations are continuing. Whilst India claims that Kashmir is now more peaceful, releasing data that the number of terrorist incidents have fallen by 59 percent compared to the year before, most Kashmiris are not feeling the effects of this so-called peace. Human rights violations continue to occur in the form of arbitrary detentions, with nearly 1,000 people still in jail, including children and elected legislators and the prohibition of public assembly under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. While 4G internet services were resumed in February 2021, eighteen government employees were dismissed due to ‘anti-national activities’ on social media, further eroding freedom of expression in the region.Moreover, new security measures prevent journalists from being near counter-insurgency operations and media outlets are intimidated into censoring themselves. In the district elections held in December 2020, journalists said that they were being harassed, intimidated and obstructed from reporting.
On September 26, 2020, the Jammu And Kashmir Official Languages Act, 2020 was passed which added Hindi as one of the official languages of the territory. On October 26, 2020, India passed the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Fifth Order, 2020 which allowed non-locals to purchase land in Jammu and Kashmir. These laws aim to reshape the demographic and linguistic landscape of Jammu and Kashmir and concerns have been raised by the UN.
In February 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief released a statement stating the changes in the territory risked undermining minority rights and urged India to ensure that Kashmiris’ economic, social and cultural rights were protected. Moreover, they said that “[t]he loss of autonomy and the imposition of direct rule by the Government in New Delhi suggests the people of Jammu and Kashmir no longer have their own government and have lost power to legislate or amend laws in the region to ensure the protection of their rights as minorities… [t]hese legislative changes may have the potential to pave the way for people from outside the former state of Jammu and Kashmir to settle in the region, alter the demographics of the region and undermine the minorities’ ability to exercise effectively their human rights”. They also expressed concern that the number of successful applications for domicile certificates from outside the region may mean that demographic change on a linguistic, religious and ethnic basis have already started. The language used by the Special Rapporteurs is significant and the implication is clear – India is violating Kashmiris’ right to self-determination and changing the demographics of the area. The latter is in flagrant violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
In May 2021, a government website also referred to the population in Jammu and Kashmir as predominantly Hindu. The InvestJK website which is run by the Industries and Commerce Department stated under a section regarding the temples that could be visited in the area that “be it Kashmir or Jammu, the population is predominantly Hindu.”A per the 2011 census of Jammu and Kashmir, 68.31% of the region is Muslim and 28.44% are Hindu. As fears of demographic transfer are heightened, the description was not considered innocent given BJP’s continued desire to erase Muslims from the area.
Delimitation and Elections
Local elections were held in December 2020 to choose rural development officials. They were called suddenly with parties only having a week to register candidates before polling began. Many Kashmiri politicians remained in detention while the New York Times reported that “hundreds of thousands of political workers for India’s Hindu-nationalist ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, traveled through the region carrying banners and signs, hoping to make a strong showing in a mostly Muslim territory where it has traditionally been loathed”. The BJP ultimately won 3 seats out of 280. The New York Times, as one of the few international media outlets allowed to visit the region on what it itself called “a tightly controlled, government-organized trip”, described the BJP’s win of 3 seats (out of 280) as it making “some inroads”. The use of this phrase to describe what can only be seen as an out and out failure and rejection on the part of Kashmiris of the BJP is confusing and somewhat alarming.
India has further pushed through the delimitation of the valley to ensure that Assembly elections could take place in the territory. Delimitation entails the redrawing of boundaries for an Assembly seat to represent population changes over time. The aim is to redraw them so that the population per seat remains similar. Assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir were last delimited in 1995 and as per part V of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019the number of Assembly seats would increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to be in favour of Jammu. A Delimitation Commission was established in March 2020 which was to delimit Jammu and Kashmir within the year.It was granted a year’s extension earlier this year due to delays as a result of the Covid shutdown.
Modi said in August 2020 that elections would be held in Jammu and Kashmir after the delimitation process was over. In June 2021, he further said that his government planned to hold elections in Jammu and Kashmir ‘soon’.While some leaders such as Omar Abdullah questioned the timing of the decision given delimitation was to take place across the country after 2026, they still attended an all-party meeting held by the Prime Minister in the capital which was likely about the scheduling of Assembly elections. India’s aim to make Jammu and Kashmir part of the country proper in the guise of democracy is a worrying development made all the more concerning given it seemingly has the support of local parties which attended this meeting.
Shortly after restoring 4G internet services in February 2021, India hosted a visit to Jammu and Kashmir for foreign envoys who interacted with elected representatives of political parties following the District Development Council (DDC) polls. This was the third delegation to Jammu and Kashmir following August 5, 2019. The 20-member delegation included the EU and French ambassador to India, as well as representatives from four Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) — Malaysia, Bangladesh, Senegal and Tajikistan. Malaysia’s presence is the most disappointing given it was one of the few countries to express concern over the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.The Chargé d’Affaires from the Bolivian Embassy said after the visit that “[w]hat we are realising is that democracy took place here. It is impressive.” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister correctly stated that these ‘guided tours’ are a smokescreen in order to divert attention away from India’s egregious human rights violations in the valley.
While the UN has continued to express concern about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, global events, including the Covid pandemic and the peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan have come at a great time for India as attention is diverted elsewhere. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken visited India at the end of July 2021 and largely focused on China and Afghanistan, with Kashmir not remaining a major issue for discussion even if it might have been spoken about behind closed doors. Meanwhile as tourists from India, unable to travel abroad, flock to the Himalayan region, and India builds projects such as the world’s largest rail bridge connecting the valley to the rest of the country, it is hoping to indicate that all is normal in a territory where it is anything but.
Pakistan has said it is willing to engage in talks with India so long as it revisits its recent actions in Jammu and Kashmir. These actions include rescinding the abrogation of Article 370, reversing demographic changes it is putting into place, and reducing troop levels in the valley. Pakistan has, as always, ensured that the occupation and unlawful annexation of Jammu and Kashmir continues to remain centre stage and its actions are those against which the world must take a stand. Meanwhile, India continues to host guided tours of the valley for gullible foreigners, pretends that democracy is flourishing in a state of disenchanted and disenfranchised Kashmiris and hopes that their plight of Kashmiris goes unnoticed. It is for Pakistan to ensure that this does not happen.
 Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, Two years of lockdown: Human rights in Jammu and Kashmir, 2021, August 4, 2021
 Foreign Policy, Modi Took Control of Kashmir 2 Years Ago—and Got Away With It, August 3, 2021
 Supra (n.1)
 The Hindu, No change in policy on Jammu and Kashmir, says U.S., February 11, 2021
 Supra (n.1)
 VOA News, Jammu and Kashmir Elections Take Toll on Region’s Journalists, December 15, 2020
 OHCHR, India: UN experts say Jammu and Kashmir changes risk undermining minorities’ rights, February 18, 2021
 AA, Gov’t website declares 97% Muslim Kashmir ‘predominantly Hindu’, May 11, 2021
 New York Times, Kashmir Votes, and India Hails It as Normalcy in a Dominated Region, December 22, 2020
 Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 (Act No. 34 of 2019)
 Ibid section 60
 The Indian Express, Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir: how, why, June 22, 2021
 BBC News, Jammu and Kashmir: PM Modi promises elections in Kashmir, June 25, 2021
 Supra (n.21)
 Hindustan Times, ‘Impressive’: Foreign envoys after visiting Jammu and Kashmir, February 17, 2021
 Observer Research Foundation, Occasional Paper – The Article 370 Amendments on Jammu and Kashmir: Explaining the Global Silence, May 27, 2021
 Supra (n. 28)
 The Times of India, India hopes to blunt Pakistan’s campaign on J&K with envoy visit, February 17, 2021
 Supra (n.2)
 Al Jazeera, Pakistan ready for India talks if Kashmir actions ‘revisited’: FM, April 26, 2021