India repeals Kashmir status after clampdown

People rally to protest and express support and solidarity with Indian Kashmiri people in Lahore on Monday. (AP)
Updated 06 August 2019

India repeals Kashmir status after clampdown

  • Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy, says political leader Mufti

NEW DELHI: The Indian government on Monday scrapped Article 370 of the constitution, which gave the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir a special autonomous status under the union.

In an unprecedented move, New Dehli divided the state into two union territories. The majority Buddhist Ladakh will become a union territory and the Hindu and Muslim areas of Jammu and Kashmir will become another union territory with a legislative assembly. 

A union territory is an administrative division directly governed by the center and their representatives. The local assembly under such administrative divisions has limited power.

Home Minister Amit Shah informed the Upper House of Parliament about the presidential decree before moving a resolution in Parliament abrogating Article 370. 

“The entire constitution will be applicable to the Jammu and Kashmir state,” Shah said.

He described the decision as “historical,” arguing that the scrapped law was preventing the integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian union.

In 1947, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir signed an instrument of accession with India. This was later formalized into the constitution in 1952, bestowing a special status to the state.

Under Article 370, New Delhi needs the approval of the local assembly to pass any bill except on those relating to defense, foreign affairs, finance and communication.

The decree also has the support of Article 35A, which gives residents of Kashmir special rights to live in the state.

The abolition of the article has drawn sharp reactions from the political parties in the valley and outside.

“Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy,” former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti said.

In a series of tweets, she said that the “decision of the Jammu and Kashmir leadership to reject two-nation theory in 1947 and align with India has backfired. Unilateral decision of government of India to scrap Article 370 is illegal and unconstitutional, which will make India an occupational force in Jammu and Kashmir.”

She warned that “it will have catastrophic consequences for the subcontinent. Indian government’s intentions are clear. They want the territory of the state by terrorizing its people. India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises.”

Omar Abdullah, leader of the National Conference, said the change is a “total betrayal of the trust that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had reposed in India when the state acceded to it in 1947.”

He called the decision to scrap the law as New Delhi’s “aggression against the people of the state.”

Opposition Congress Party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad described it as “a murder of democracy and an aggression against the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Abdullah, Mufti and other political leaders have been under house arrest in Srinagar since Sunday evening.

The state’s communication network has been blocked since yesterday, preventing people from reacting to the political upheaval.

Since Friday, the state has been put on high alert with the government issuing an advisory asking tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave immediately. 

In the last week, more than 38,000 additional troops have been sent to the state to deal with potential unrest. The Jammu region of the state has also been put on alert.

“The government has imposed section 144 in Jammu to ban any kind of gathering,” said Amjad Shah, a Jammu-based journalist from Rising Kashmir.

Constitution expert A V Gupta said that “this is a foolish decision by the government of India.”

“Article 370 was the only link between India and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. By scrapping it, you are making the state a separate country,” Gupta added.

He told Arab News that “the government’s decision is highly undemocratic and against the spirit of the constitution and democracy.”

“Article 370 has been challenged in the Supreme Court many times and the court rejected any move to scrap it. Now if the matter goes to the court, I suspect the apex court will refer it to the larger constitutional bench,” he added.

Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, editor of the Kashmir Times said: “Constitutional experts believe that the article is the only link between India and Jammu and Kashmir and if you remove it then there remains nothing.

“This is a government which does not believe in constitutional and judicial propriety.”

She told Arab News that “New Delhi took an unprecedented political decision affecting the 7 million people of Jammu and Kashmir by putting the entire state under curfew.

“This might invite violent backlash and unheard of reactions. This might push the valley further into the vortex of deep uncertainty”.

Amnesty International said that New Delhi’s decision “is likely to inflame prevailing tensions, alienate the people in the state and increase the risk of further human rights violations.”


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 14 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”