On 5th August 2019, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir went under lockdown not because of a pandemic but due to the arbitrary actions undertaken by the Indian government in revoking the special status given to the state under Article 370 and Article 35(A). Invalidating the state’s right to political autonomy, its credibility to form its own constitution, its jurisdictions to own property and citizenship and lastly the sovereignty to protect its own fundamental human rights.
Article 370 gave free rein to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to pass its own legislation except in the matters of defense, foreign affairs, and communication, while the Article 35(A) provided the states with the right to declare citizenship safeguarding the rights of its citizens. Now with the designation rescinded the parliament can directly intervene with the amendment of domicile laws, bringing the state right under the constitution of the Indian parliament and making it abide by its regulations. The decision was met by opposition and speculation reading India’s true motives by changing the demographic landscape to undermine the state’s Muslim majority.
The revocation of Article 370 and by extension Article 35(A) comes with unprecedented implications for the Muslim majority state, resulting in further deterioration of relations between the two neighboring countries. The once established princely state has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan, there has been a history of violence in the Indian administrated territory of Jammu and Kashmir. However, it has never been orchestrated with such ferocity. The ramifications that came with the abrogation unleashed a set of events marking the beginning of a humanitarian crisis. Even before the bill was passed, thousands of Indian troops were deployed in the state to crush any resistance, followed by house arrest of political leaders, banning of public movements, indefinite shut down of schools. Shortly afterwards citizens were detained, and the lockdown was imposed blocking communication channels with the suspension of internet services, the whole state went off the grid, isolating it from the rest of the world
Under the banner of “restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,” United Nations took its first communication notice on 16th August 2019. Initiated by Pakistan and called upon by China. United Nations Security Council held its first closed-door meeting to contemplate the Kashmir issue exclusively, against India’s persistent declaration deeming the matter as an internal affair. Initially, the council maintained its neutral stance in issues relating to self-determination. Later, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General gave a statement calling for ‘maximum restraint’ and restating the UN’s position that ‘the status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means, following the UN Charter’ (UN News 2019).
However observing the continued brutality by the Indian forces against the people of Jammu and Kashmir, with reportedly 8 million citizens under security curfews and communication blockades, the United Nations response became a direct vocation. With a statement from independent UN experts urging India to end communications shutdown in Kashmir “The shutdown of the internet & telecommunication networks, without the Government justification, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity & proportionality”.
With the situation coming to no resolve, the United Nations debated the Kashmir issue for the second time in six months. The next communication came on 27th February 2020 on alleged “mass crackdown targeting those expressing dissent against the decision taken” by the Central government. However, both the efforts were met by silence. In the communication, the UN special rapporteur further added “We regret that no response has been received to either communication, in particular the former. We remain deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations.”
The third publicized communication came on 4th may 2020 after a 60 day response time, to express “grave concern over alleged excessive use of force, ill-treatment during arrests and detentions”. The main focus was on oppression and inhumane practices against Muslim Kashmiris and people belonging to minorities based on their religion and ethnicity. The alleged acts were found to be violating fundamental human rights requesting to conduct an investigation into the assertion of persecution, killing, misconduct, and torture requiring action to be taken against the oppressor. The United Nations have been a mitigating force in the Kashmir dispute, Since seven decades it has observed the people of Kashmir be on the oppressed side of history, they have faced brutality in the most inhumane form; have been subjected to arbitrary rulings, been forced to face political and geographical turmoil. However, their freedom of expression and the right to personal autonomy has never been more suppressed. United Nations condemns such a repressive form of violence, the communication blockade has completely restricted their fundamental rights, and their freedom of expression, an authoritarian regime has been imposed under forced coercion. United Nations have dispensed a continued response regarding the Jammu and Kashmir situation, but in order for the lockdown to be terminated, it needs to take concrete measures to finally liberate the people of Kashmir once and for all.