THE World Sikh Organization of Canada said on Monday that it is deeply concerned by the Government of India’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave the State of Jammu and Kashmir the right to its own constitution and decision-making processes for all matters except defence, communications and foreign affairs. Article 370 dates back to 1949 when Kashmir agreed to become part of the Indian Union on the condition that it would retain a degree of autonomy.
The revocation of Article 370 came unannounced and accompanied by a bill to divide and reorganize the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. The freshly divided state of Jammu and Kashmir would relinquish major powers to the Central Government but would retain a state legislature while the newly carved out state of Ladakh would be under direct central governance.
The WSO said the shocking measures adopted on Monday, came after the deployment of 35,000 extra troops into Kashmir in recent days – an area that is already one of the most militarized regions in the world. Authorities have also suspended internet services, creating a blackout of the entire region. Many Kashmiri political leaders have been arrested and taken into custody. Late Sunday in Kashmir, Indian forces laid steel barricades and razor wire on roads and intersections and issued a security order banning public meetings, rallies and movement and the closure of schools.
WSO President Mukhbir Singh said: “The Indian Government’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and the division and reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir is shocking and unprecedented. Kashmir joined the Indian Union based on the terms set out in Article 370 and to withdraw those protections without due process or consultations with the people of Kashmir flies in the face of democratic values and norms.”
He added: “The Indian government has acted in an authoritarian manner by stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its constitutionally mandated autonomy and relegating it to an occupied territory. The rule of law and basic democratic values have not been respected. We fear for the people of Kashmir as their political leadership is under mass arrest and their civil rights have been suspended. The international community must not silently observe as human rights are trampled in Kashmir.”