Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state in the whole of India. Until very recently, the state held special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This status effectively allowed inhabitants of the Kashmir region to live how they wanted to live, rather than having to follow the laws of the increasingly dominant Hindu nationalist regime. It is this regime which has now removed Kashmir’s special status, and is in the process of dividing the region into two states: a Muslim-majority state and a Hindu-majority state. If it is not clear by now, religion plays a major role in the identity of Kashmir and its relationship with India. By altering the status of Kashmir, the BJP government argues that it is trying to put every state in India on a level playing field. Yet, this dramatic political move does not signal equality for all, instead demonstrating the BJP’s desire to make India a Hindu, rather than multi-faith, country.
Kashmir, India and Pakistan
To understand the relationship between Kashmir and India, you have to understand the relationship between Pakistan and India. After India became independent in 1947, the country was split into two countries: India and Pakistan. Logically, the Kashmir region would have become part of Pakistan, as Pakistan was to be a Muslim-majority country and Kashmir was a Muslim-majority state. Numerous wars followed a lack of decision as to which country Kashmir would be a part of. No referendum has ever been carried out to make this decision, and so, as the result of conflict, India, Pakistan and China each control parts of the region.
Political commentators argue that Modi’s removal of Kashmir’s special status is a sign that he will be hostile towards Pakistan, and this could lead to yet another war between the two countries. The removal of Kashmir’s special status, however, is not simply a warning signal from India to Pakistan. It is the latest in a string of events that shows the Indian government is not just allowing the persecution of Muslims, it is actively encouraging such actions. Modi’s BJP government is striving to remake India as Hindu nation, and removing Kashmir’s special status will lead to the imposition of Hindu nationalist policy in a Muslim state.
Religion and Conflict
The political situation in India is an example of what happens when you have a powerful religious majority and a weak religious minority. This situation is partly the fault of colonialists, who carved up South Asia with reckless abandon, and it is partly the fault of the nature of religion. The majority of people who believe in a religious claim also believe that their religion has a monopoly on what is good and what is true. As we know from centuries of religious warfare, this zealous belief in religious supremacy can often contradict the claims of the religion these believers claim to follow. One step that some Christians in America have taken is to distinguish themselves from the ideology of Christian Nationalism – maybe it’s time for Hindus in India to argue against Modi’s Hindu Nationalism?