India, the world’s biggest democratic government, is facing serious challenges to its democracy. To the North, in Kashmir, civil strife is rampant. China, Pakistan, and India all lay claim to parts of Kashmir but a crisis is arising under the Indian-controlled territory. Kashmir has been a point of contention since the Partition of British India in 1947.
On August 5th, a presidential decree was issued effectively repealing Article 370 of India’s constitution. This constitutional provision guaranteed special rights to the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir. These provisions included the right for them to have their own constitution. The constitution granted autonomy to make laws in most regards except communications, foreign affairs and defense. The revocation of Article 370 is not a good sign for the people of Kashmir.
India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but they each only rule a part of it. The tense relationship between these neighboring nations have led to three wars. Since the Partition in 1947 two out of three wars were fought over the disputed territory of Kashmir. India sent thousands of troops to the disputed region of Kashmir as they began to impose a strict curfew on the citizens of Kashmir. Eventually, all telecommunications and internet access across Kashmir was shut off.
Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, run government is a hardline Hindu-nationalist government. The party was successfully able to remove the semi-autonomy in the part of Kashmir it controls under India’s constitution and imposed the lockdown to avoid opposition against the removal of Article 370.
Effectively, this cut off the civilians of Kashmir from the rest of the world. The Indian government went on to arrest political leaders within the region for innocuous charges. This has worsened the already tense relations with neighboring Pakistan, which downgraded its diplomatic relations with India over these recent antagonistic moves towards Kashmir. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan recently addressed the United Nations about the crisis happening in the Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Narendra Modi is the unequivocal leader of the world’s biggest democracy and his meteoric rise can be attributed to many factors but namely it is his populist tactics and his “India First” platform. The idea of a one Hindu identity has defined Modi’s politics and the overall platform of the BJP. Modi has the unquestioned support of India and this was shown widely when he revoked part of the constitution and received massive support across India.
The revocation of constitutional provisions is dangerous for Indian democracy. In How Democracies Die the key indicators of an authoritarian are identified. These indicators cover many bases but the one that strikes Prime Minister Modi is his readiness to curtail civil liberties of his opponents and the press (Levitsky & Ziblatt, 23-4).
While the press remains free within India in Kashmir the military control coupled with the total communication blackout lead to no effective media coverage of the situation (Levitsky & Ziblatt, 23-4). The revocation of Article 370 is the clear cut indictor of his authoritative tendencies and the power he is able to yield when claiming Indian “national security” is under attack.
The situation in Kashmir is dire and the decisions made under Prime Minister Modi have furthered belief in his populist tendencies. With the complete support of his government, little opposition, and a mandate to govern Modi is primed to walk an authoritative path moving forwards. Modi’s focus on “terrorism” at the UN General Assembly and disregard for the statements made by PM Imran Khan about Kashmir is not a good sign moving forward. His continuing assault on the civil rights of the citizens of Kashmir display many undemocratic characteristics in the world’s largest democracy.
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Al Jazeera. “The Kashmir Conflict, Explained.” Kashmir News News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 27 Feb. 2019, www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/kashmir-conflict-explained-190227145750670.html.
“Kashmir: Why India and Pakistan Fight over It.” BBC News, BBC, 8 Aug. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/10537286.
Levitsky, Steven, and Daniel Ziblatt. How Democracies Die. Crown Publishing, 2018.
“Modi Tackles Kashmir Head On.” BBC, BBC, 9 Dec. 2014, news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/79583000/jpg/_79583688_modi.jpg.
“PM Imran Khan Historic Speech in U.N. General Assembly.” Youtube, 27 Sept. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlYU2z_10ZQ.
“PM Modi Speech At UNGA.” Youtube, 27 Sept. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i35L3WM8lE.
Whitehead, Andrew. “Article 370: India’s Move on Kashmir Will Fuel Resentment.” BBC News, BBC, 5 Aug. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-49233608.