UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — India’s decision to abolish Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy has provoked anger and division in the remote Himalayan region, even as supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi cheered the surprise move.
Since the shocking Moody decree last week, protests and celebrations in many cities have widened religious fault lines between communities in this strategic region.
Kashmir has been divided into Indian and Pakistani territory since the two countries gained independence in 1947. Indian Kashmir has been plagued by a separatist insurgency that has killed tens of thousands.
The new resolution provides for the division of the Indian part of Kashmir into two areas directly under the authority of New Delhi.
The international focus has been on the Kashmir valley, where thousands of troops have been deployed, telephone lines and Internet are blocked to prevent opposition movements to protest the Indian government’s decision.
But those arrangements have not prevented tensions from spreading to other parts of the state, which will be cut in half under the new administrative arrangements.
In Ladakh province, on a mountain slope on the border with China, the Buddhist minority welcomed Moody’s decision to cut the area from the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.
“Ladakh has finally gained her freedom,” said former Indian diplomat Funchok Stupdan, who now runs a research center in Leh, the region’s largest city.
He explained that Buddhists suffered from marginalization and exclusion from government positions and other opportunities.
Despite the small population of Ladakh province, its alignment with the Chinese provinces of Tibet to the east and Xinjiang to the north has increased its strategic importance to New Delhi.
Stopdan said the region needed development.
“You can’t keep the area in a frozen state when the whole area on the other side (in China) gets roads and railways under the Belt and Road project.”
“New Delhi had to do this to change the status quo. This is a major blow,” he said.
– “An undemocratic move” –
On the other side of Ladakh, many of the Shiite Muslim community, which makes up the majority of the population of Cargill, was shocked. Traders closed their shops for several days after the government announcement, amid sporadic clashes between protesters and police.
“This is an undemocratic step. It has to be reversed,” Asgar Ali Karbalai, a former member of the local parliament, told AFP by telephone.
Under the new arrangements, Ladakh will not have a local parliament.
“They are confiscating our voice,” said Karbalai, who led some protests.
“The debate on this issue may become sectarian now. I feel that most Muslims in Ladakh are opposed to it and the Buddhists support the move.”
But even in Cargill, many are looking to boost the primitive economy, as Moody pledged that tourism and film will develop Ladakh and Kashmir if peace prevails.
Gulzar Hussain, who runs a museum of artifacts from the ancient Silk Road that was passing through the region, said the decision “will certainly lead to greater economic opportunities, tourism and growth for everyone.”
– Street celebrations –
While Srinagar, Kashmir’s largest city of 1.2 million people, remains under curfew, life is returning to normal in Jammu, a city of more than 500,000 people.
Hindus and Sikhs make up more than 60 percent of Jammu’s population and have repeatedly complained about the dominance of Muslim-majority Kashmir in politics and business.
A number of community leaders were seen dancing in the streets of Jammu waving India’s flags after Moody’s controversial decision.
“After 70 years of discrimination, luckily we were finally heard,” Jamrau Chamber of Commerce and Industry Secretary Gazrav Gupta told AFP.
“The Jammu youth who have moved to other Indian cities for education and job search will be able to return with our land finally opened for Indian investments and growth,” he said.
According to media reports, government security restrictions were lifted in several areas of the city, but this did not prevent Muslims from organizing some small demonstrations.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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