On August 5th, 2019, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, issued an order to repeal Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted Jammu and Kashmir special state status since 1954. This special status gave them their own legislative body that didn’t have to go through the Central Government of India. In lieu of Article 370, the Indian government passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, which divided Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories that are governed by the Indian government and allowed people from outside of Jammu and Kashmir to now buy land, start businesses, etc.
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) have been a point of conflict between Pakistan and India since the partition in 1947. J&K are Muslim majority areas, which makes the repealing of Article 370 by the Modi administration even more complicated since the ruling party of India is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a notorious Hindu nationalist party. Surprisingly, there was immense support from Indian citizens and politicians in repealing the article. However, the rest of the world sees this act as a humanitarian crisis.
Since repealing Article 370, there have been many actions taken by the Indian government that are highly controversial and point towards a humanitarian crisis. From enforcing a curfew to deploying thousands of troops to prevent an uprising to a social media blackout, it is clear that although the Indian government believes that they’re acting democratically, they are intentionally and systematically suppressing the voices of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. They also have illegally detained and placed former Kashmiri government officials under house arrest. This allows for the Indian government to control the narrative around the situation and project their so-called economic and political reasons in repealing the article.
Effects of the Bill on Women
It is not news that during wars and humanitarian crises, the most brutal effects fall upon children and women. Sexual violence against women has been used as a weapon in times of conflict repeatedly. In India’s history, we can point out several significant examples. During the partition in 1947, it’s estimated that between 75,000 to 100,000 women were raped and killed. Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh women were attacked alike and were used as political warfare. In Jammu and Kashmir in 1991, there was an alleged mass rape of J&K women by Indian military officers, which was never properly investigated or tried in court. History seems to be repeating itself in the current situation. BJP officials have made public comments about how repealing Article 370 would mean that Indian men can now marry [fair-skinned] Kashmiri women.
Haryana’s Chief Minister Lal Khattar also made a comment about bringing in Kashmiri women to address the altered sex ratio in Haryana due to female infanticide.
The objectification of Kashmiri women as viable commodities that Indian men now have access to is a dangerous and problematic idea to inculcate in the minds of young men by powerful political leaders. This leads to the dehumanization of Kashmiri women and strips them of bodily autonomy. Kashmiri women are not products of war that can be bought and exploited. The Indian government needs to hold the individuals that are using harmful rhetoric in objectifying Kashmiri women accountable and ensure the safety and protection of these women during this controversial political issue. We need to finally end the pattern of using the exploitation of women and their bodies as a political tool. Now is the time.