It’s been more than two weeks since Articles 370 and 35A were repealed. And though there have been a handful of protests and the communications blackout in Kashmir largely continues, thankfully there have been no incidents of serious violence reported thus far.
In light of this, the Hindu American Foundation recommends the Government of India take the following steps to deliver on the promises made in the creation of the new Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Restore communications: Although partial communications have been restored, it is critical that full communications are restored to Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh as soon as they can be safely and securely.
The people of Kashmir need to be reconnected with the rest of India and the outside world. Opening up communications will also allow journalists and civil society groups to present a full picture of conditions in the region, reducing speculation about the on-the-ground situation, and restore the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and press.
Schools, businesses, government reopened: The reopening of schools and government offices earlier this week was a positive step. Any other businesses or institutions that remain closed must also open as soon as they can be safely and securely. Ensuring that all schools, businesses, and government offices are open and fully functioning will help the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh return to their normal lives.
Any further delays may undermine the positive intent with which the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A was done, as well as its intended effects.
Safety and security of Kashmiris protected: Along with the above steps, key to returning to a sense of normalcy and delivering on the rights, privileges, and opportunities promised with the change in administrative status of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, is ensuring that future communal violence and terrorism are prevented.
To this end, Indian security forces must abide by international human rights norms, as well as respect the civil rights of all Kashmiris, including those peacefully protesting.
Timeline for creation of Jammu and Kashmir legislature as a Union Territory: A timeline for Jammu and Kashmir’s future democratic representation as a Union Territory must be produced and adhered to immediately.
As with the opening of schools and businesses, the people of Kashmir must be presented with a clear roadmap for how their needs will be addressed by Delhi. Accompanying this must be public assurances and concrete action towards effectively addressing legitimate grievances of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Steps towards extending women’s, LGBT, SC rights and programs: Women, children, scheduled castes and tribes, and LGBT people, in addition to all residents of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh must proactively be informed and educated about federal laws affording them civil rights and equal protection, as well as educational and employment programs which they may avail themselves of. Concrete steps must be taken to build or fortify the necessary infrastructure in the region to carry out the enforcement of both.
Plan for repatriation and reintegration of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits: A clear road map must be developed and implemented for the safe and legal return, resettlement, and reintegration of exiled Kashmiri Hindu Pandit community members, the indigenous inhabitants of the region who were ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley nearly 30 years ago.