, 48 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
As an Indian American who has now lived in the US for 25 years, my connection to current news events there is fairly tenuous other than around major political or sports events. However recent developments on #Kashmir have been of historic significance.
In the Western media we are seeing reporting and Op-Ed's reflecting Pakistan's point of view & journalists approach the topic from the perspective of sympathy to the "underdog" which is the supposedly beleaguered Muslim population of the region.
I think this reporting has been at a very superficial level and leaves a lot of holes in providing appropriate context. In particular, comparisons to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to the China Uyghur Muslim persecution are completely off-base.
This is an attempt to clear the air. First of all let us get the geography straight. Reports just say "Kashmir" but the actual state in question is "Jammu & Kashmir". Which is still not completely descriptive as the region in questions is really three distinct regions.
The state of Jammu & Kashmir was comprised of the Kashmir Valley (Muslim majority), Jammu (Hindu majority) and Ladakh (narrow Buddhist & Hindu majority).
The population of the entire state is 12.5M of which slightly more than half (55%) is in the Kashmir Valley, 43% was in Jammu and 2% in Ladakh. Keep in mind that Ladakh area wise is the largest of the three but sparsely populated & shares a border with China (Tibet).
The Kashmir Valley is about 7M people of whom almost all today (96%) are Muslims, but that reflects a murderous religious cleansing terror campaign against Hindu (and Sikh) residents in 1989-1990 that decimated non-Muslim population, which was ~10% prior to this forced exodus.
Anyway, there were per the 2011 census ~6.6M Muslims in the Kashmir Valley (96%), 1.8M in Jammu (33%) and 130K in Ladakh (46%). That leaves 1 out of 3 residents as non-Muslim (mostly Hindu, some Buddhists and Sikhs). In Jammu 2 out of 3 residents are not Muslim.
So one thing that is always ambiguous when journalists report on the region is that are they talking just about the Kashmir Valley or the state as a whole? Because Western reporters never include a single opinion from non-Muslim residents in their reporting.
The Us equivalent would be someone reporting on a political controversy in New York or Florida but not interviewing anyone but White residents of the state.
So that is the geographical and demographic context. The next tweets in this thread will focus on political context.
I was a teenager in North-Central India (Uttar Pradesh) when the Kashmir Valley exploded into a national level secession movement. India at that time had state controlled TV media and most adverse news was suppressed. However we all heard about Muslim terrorists killing Hindus.
Many of the trickled into refugee camps in and around New Delhi which was a city I often visited to see relatives, so people had heard about it. In general, the attitude of most Indians has been to hold on to the Kashmir Valley by any means necessary.
There are a number of reasons for that. 20% of the population of India is not Hindu (roughly 70%/10%/10%/10% Muslim/Christian/Sikh/Other) and there are close to 200M Muslims in India in a country of 1,400M people.
Indians have always been proud of having a secular Constitution and State, uniquely in South Asia. India is the most ethnically and religiously diverse nation in the world bar none. Each and every resident of J&K has always been a full fledged citizen of India.
So it is a hard pill for any Indian to swallow that 7M Muslims in the Kashmir Valley feel that they cannot be equal citizens of India and must secede to Pakistan.
It would raise questions about the unity of the country and its tradition of religious diversity. It would put a question mark against the nearly 200M Muslims in the rest of India.
So that is the rationale for why Indians feel an emotional and visceral reaction against allowing even just the Kashmir Valley region to secede.
Regarding the historical backdrop from the partition of Colonial India to accession of J&K to India and subsequent wars with Pakistan see the BBC recap below which is surprisingly even handed for BBC:
Now regarding what the Modi Government has done, they have removed the special autonomy granted to J&K by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. These provisions allowed J&K to have a separate Constitution and together with another Article 35A ...
... prevented other citizens of India from acquiring land and property in J&K. If residents of J&K got married to someone else, neither their spouse nor their children would be allowed to acquire real estate.
Any changes made to Indian law would not apply to J&K, which include recent reforms such as legalizing gay sex, banning Triple Talaq instant Muslim divorce and other reforms such as making inheritance laws gender equitable.
The autonomy led to the rise of a few Muslim family political dynasties who played a double game - acting as advocates of remaining in India, while turning a blind eye to Jihadi terrorism sponsored by Pakistan.
Needless to say J&K did not benefit from the 1990s economic reforms in India that unleashed an economic boom and the tourism industry in the Kashmir Valley completely dried up. At one point J&K per capita income was inline or above national average it is now 25% below.
What the Modi government did was remove the special status granted to J&K and break up the state into two Union Territories - J&K and Ladhak. You might ask why not three regions?
I think it is because the Modi government did not want to create a territory where 95%+ of the population was Muslim. Keeping Jammu together with Kashmir Valley results in 1 out of 3 residents of J&K being non-Muslim. Ladakh is a sparsely populate region with little violence.
Unlike a State, a Union Territory is administered directly by the Indian Federal Govt. So this will completely eliminate from the political scene the two major Muslim political dynasties in J&K - the Abdullah family and the Sayeed family.
This is my view good as it will eliminate a lot of political corruption and the principal-agent conflict. These families had really just enriched themselves and their political position. Remove of special status and conversion to Union Territory renders them meaningless.
Now let us be clear, Pakistan has open sponsored terrorism against India for decades and will continue to do so. India can expect major terror attacks in J&K as well as other parts of India. No one in India is under any illusions.
This is a very long game, and it will take at least one generation (30 years) to get to a point where the situation is completely peaceful in the Kashmir Valley. The bottom-line is that most Indians are united on this, regardless of political affiliation.
If Modi lost the next election in 2024 and even if a Communist government was in power, there is very little chance that their policy on J&K would differ very much other than in public rhetoric. That is because a religion based secession would be disastrous to India's identity.
Now getting back to current events, there has been a communications blackout on landline and cell phones and restrictions on movements of the public. The restrictions on movement seem to have been eased, but not phone restrictions. That is undoubtedly leading to hardship.
I am of the view that at least landline service should be restored immediately and cell and internet service gradually. Once that happens we can expect to see large political demonstrations and protests.
That is inevitable but such has been the situation for 30 years, not much will be different. I am a Hindu so take my views with a grain of salt, but to me I have very little sympathy with separatist Muslims in the Kashmir Valley.
India has Muslims in positions of power and influence in Government and in Sports and Entertainment. Some of the biggest movie stars are Muslim minorities. Every Muslim of J&K had more than equal citizenship in secular India.
There was simply no reason for a secession movement other than religious fascism. Did the Indian state crack down hard and commit human rights abuses? Absolutely 100% it did. But that is inevitable once an armed terror movement funded by an enemy country starts.
I do feel for all the hardships faced by J&K residents (both Hindu and Muslim) with the communications blackout. I hope phone service and Internet are restored soon. I feel for those Muslim families that have a missing son or father locked up in jails without any knowledge ...
... or perhaps even worse killed by Indian security forces. However there is a path now open for economic development of the state should the local population shun violence.
There has been a lot of idle speculation that the Modi government will change the demographics of the Kashmir Valley. There is zero chance of that happening. India has no equivalent of the Israeli settler movement in the West Bank.
No Hindu in their right minds is going to rush to the Kashmir Valley and snap up land, because the Indian government is simply powerless in ensuring their security.
What is more likely is that Indian Muslims from outside of J&K might take advantage of opportunities to buy land and start a business. Even they might be reluctant to do so as separatists have recently killed Muslims they deem disloyal to separatist goals.
Bottomline the Kashmir Valley will remain Muslim majority for a very, very long time. Nothing will change in terms of religious mix.
I realized that my replies to a comment were not part of the main thread, although I see them as essential to it. Those interested can read them here:
Finally in the Netflix era where Indian movies and shows are being showcased to a global audience, here are some movie recommendations:
These are all movies made in India and they show that Indians are open minded on the issue, aware of the human cost of the conflict
Hamid - My favorite movie on the conflict shown from the perspective of a Muslim boy with a missing father and his unlikely phone relationship with an Indian soldier
Haider - An adaptation of Hamlet set in Kashmir by a leading Indian movie director Vishal Bhardwaj.
Hotel Mumbai - Not on Kashmir conflict per se but a good retelling of events of the Nov 26, 2008 attacks, a unique terror attack in global history, which was a forerunner to similar attacks seen in Western cities such as the 2015 Paris terror attacks.
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