Kashmir, a paradise lost?

Midnight is remarkably intertwined with the fate of India. It was the wee hours of midnight when India overthrew its colonisers of 200 years and won its freedom almost 72 years ago. It was the past midnight on 5th of August, 2019 when India unforgivingly discarded everything its founding fathers believed in and decided to tear down Jammu-Kashmir. 72 years later, complete darkness has now engulfed the paradise on earth.

Kashmir’s struggle

Before 1947, Kashmir was a princely state called Jammu and Kashmir. The lush green mountains with the backdrop of the Himalayan range and forever blessed with clear blue skies had rightfully earned its name of Paradise on Earth. But Kashmir was troubled. It has always been.

During partition, thanks to Kashmir’s then-ruling King Hari Singh, Kashmir had joined India instead of Pakistan under few special conditions, all of which were met. According to these conditions, Kashmir remained the only specialised state in India, complete with its own flag, constitution and prime minister. Kashmir had the freedom to make its own laws and decisions, except for foreign affairs, military moves and communications which remained under the central’s control.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Thanks to this certain degree of autonomy, Kashmir could make rules regarding property ownership and fundamental rights, even bar Indian residents of other states to buy properties in Kashmir, a law which protected the locals from being outnumbered by their own countrymen from different states.  

Many aspects of this autonomous facility of Kashmir became a futile gesture under the Indian state in the years to follow.

Prime Minister became Rajyapal. Its constitution became merely a booklet in the corner shelf.

But Article 370 still protected the residents of Kashmir. It protected the ownership rights and the constitutional autonomy of the only Muslim majority state in India, at least formally in papers.

Revoking Article 370 was in the 2019 election manifesto of BJP. But few had thought it would actually get implemented. Few had assumed that BJP would have the audacity to tear down the only string that still kept the troubled Kashmir bound together with India and risk riots, communal turbulence and to speak of the worst, outright war with Pakistan.

The fall of Kashmir

But it happened. The sign was clear from the first few days of August. Thousands of additional troops were deployed. An emergency was declared. Tourism, schools, pilgrimages were called off. And when everyone was assuming that only section 35A of the constitution, which allowed special rights to Kashmir, would be scrapped, Modi’s Government revoked almost the entire Article 370, stripping Kashmir completely of its autonomy.

Kashmir will also be divided into two federally governed regions. One will combine Muslim majority Kashmir and Hindu majority Jammu. The other will be the Buddhist majority and Tibet influenced Ladakh.

Kashmir lost its flag, its constitution. Kashmir’s leaders were put under house arrest. Its people are now susceptible to general Indian laws and rules. Any Indian national can now buy property in Kashmir and Kashmiris no longer hold the right to decide their own fate.

BJP’s complex relationship with Hindu right-wing

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Hindu nationalist and right-wing groups are welcoming it while protests are breaking out in Kashmir. Amit Shah says the move amends “mistakes in the past” and that will pave the path for development in Kashmir. But in reality, it’s a catastrophic decision. Especially considering the fact that Kashmir has had a troublesome history with Indian ruling since the last 30 years. Separatists sentiment had been growing steadily with movements and unrest breaking out every now and then.

Many fear that the new move will allow Hindu right-wing majority to take over native Kashmiri land and turn the locals into a minority group. Some go even further assuming an ethnic cleansing on the plate, given BJP’s extremist sentiments in the past.

Midnight’s children no more

Kashmiris had long been dreaming of and fighting for an “Azaad Kashmir”. With this new move in place, that dream is long gone. With populism quickly rising in world politics, India has sealed its fate for the foreseeable future. First with the landslide victory of BJP in the 2019 elections and now with the stripping of Kashmir’s autonomous status. India has put the final nail in the coffin and is on its way to becoming the monster it defeated 72 years ago.

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

The Julian Assange case is a morally tangled web. For many of his followers, Julian is a trailblazing hero. Someone who exposes information that never should have been hidden, despite mounting personal risks from powerful states and their instruments. To his foes, Julian is a criminal for hurting international diplomacy by exposing documents that jeopardise international relations.

The Julian Assange saga

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

Love him or hate him, Julian Assange and his crusade against state confidentiality have somewhat topped the news for the past seven to ten years since he took refuge in Ecuador Embassy in the UK skipping bail. He was charged with a sexual harassment case and faced extradition to Sweden, which had later been dropped. Over the time period of seven years, Ecuador’s stance on Julian’s asylum has grown colder due to various reasons. It took its hardest fall when Wikileaks started exposing personal accounts of Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno. A week ago Moreno said that Assange was violating the terms of his asylum by being involved in Wikileaks and its operations. What followed was an invitation of The Scotland Yard to the Ecuador Embassy earlier yesterday and the arrest of Julian Assange according to UK laws.

Wikileaks and its lone crusade

Julian Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006 with a goal of exposing confidential information. Wikileaks hit the news four years later when it exposed video footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq. Since then Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange had sparked countless debates on both sides of the moral compass. Veteran newspapers like The Guardian have expressed their different viewpoints with Julian’s ideology of believing in publishing stories that should not be published. At the same time, liberal media has portrayed Julian Assange as a messianic figure of sorts in this age of information.

An antagonist? Not yet

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

“Information should be free” is a popular term. But it covers a substantial amount of moral grey area when a bigger perspective comes into play.

Julian Assange might be an antagonist in the diplomatic books of many states but he is no criminal.

The convoluted mess of all the charges brought against him will require time and effort to untangle. The debate of absolute right and absolute wrong will stretch to further lengths in this particular case and this arrest will lead him to face charges for skipping bail under the UK laws. But extraditing him to the US will certainly be a dark day for free journalism.