Last week, the Indian government took major steps towards exacerbating the already volatile situation in Kashmir. Prime Minister Modi’s BJP government made drastic unilateral changes to fundamentally alter the demographic makeup of Kashmir and push a political resolution further out of reach.
Given that the timing of the Indian government’s actions to change residency laws in Kashmir precludes any resistance, it is imperative that the United States act quickly to:
State unequivocally that the forced demographic change represented by the new domicile law jeopardizes the basis for political settlements agreed to in international accords and UN resolutions.
Call on India to allow journalists to work without fear of retribution or arrest, immediately end its communications bans on the people of Kashmir, and release political prisoners so the world can hear from Kashmiris.
BJP changes residency laws: On May 18th, the Indian government implemented its plan to change residency requirements to allow a wider range of non-Kashmiris to rapidly qualify and receive residence status within 15 days.
Erosion of protected status: These unilateral actions directly contravene multiple UN resolutions and commitments from previous Indian administrations to maintain Kashmir’s special status and observe the right to self-determination.
Unpopular with Kashmiris: The move has drawn criticism from all Kashmiri political parties, including those who are pro-India, as they believe it is intended "to redesign the Union Territory's demography while the country is battling the COVID-19 pandemic." Disputes over outsiders owning land in Kashmir have led to civil unrest.
Hindu nationalist agenda: Making ethnic Kashmiris a minority in their homeland is a longstanding goal of Hindu nationalists and would preemptively nullify existing frameworks for a political settlement.
Regional Volatility: Kashmir remains at the center of tensions between India and Pakistan. Since the events of August 5th 2019, rhetoric has intensified threatening territorial integrity and nuclear fallout. This further escalation alongside rising tensions on the Indian-China border could lead to a disastrous outcome.
For more information, consult this open letter from the Kashmir Scholars Network (KSCAN).