Two years after the Republic of India democratically reintegrated the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh into the Indian union, the Hindu American Foundation congratulated the people of Kashmir on their democratic progress and economic development.
On August 5, 2019, the Government of India abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution (temporary and transitional provisions), creating the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The change in administrative status extended the same civil rights enjoyed by Indian citizens in the rest of the nation to residents in the region. All Kashmiri people now enjoy the full rights and citizenship of their neighboring Indian states, including protections for scheduled castes and tribes and equal rights for women, amongst other positive changes. It also increased the freedom of movement by allowing residents of the rest of India to more easily settle in the region.
Moreover, despite dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government and Kashmiri people have participated in local democratic elections, paved the way for new development projects, and substantially increased security by making significant progress in rooting out Pakistan sponsored terrorism.
As a Union Territory, Jammu & Kashmir is ruled directly from New Delhi, but with the provision to split administrative powers between the governor and the chief minister.
Now, nearly two years later, it is time for the Government of India to extend statehood to Kashmir, while retaining the expansion of civil rights that the region has enjoyed as a Union Territory. Doing so will further empower the people of Kashmir and complete the reintegration process.
At the same time the Government of India should prioritize the resettlement of the indigenous Hindu population of Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits.
Driven from their homes and ethnically cleansed from the Valley of Kashmir some 30 years ago, in what became known as the Kashmiri Pandit Exodus, those Pandits who were not able to emigrate have been living as internally displaced persons for three decades, unable to return to their ancestral homes.
Since the abrogation of 370/35A not nearly enough has been done for the Pandit community, facilitating resettlement for all those Pandits who wish to return to Kashmir will further right the historical wrong of the Exodus.