India has been described as an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, shrouded in mystery. But Thursday, on the 73rd anniversary of its independence from British rule, it also became a monumental irony: Even as Indians celebrated the overthrow of colonial rule, the Indian army had turned the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir into an open air prison, where seven million residents were being held under curfew and banned from calling, tweeting, publishing — much less protesting. Their state legislature had been disbanded, their leaders were under house arrest, and the constitutional provisions granting them a measure of autonomy from New Delhi was suspended.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who engineered all this without any forewarning 10 days ago, is claiming that “fully integrating” — read: forcibly annexing — this ravaged state into broader India will turn it into a mecca of prosperity whose herbal products will find global markets and where tourists will once again roam. But there is every reason to suspect that Modi’s Kashmir stunt is meant to distract from the fact that instead of delivering growth and “acche din” — good times — to India as he had promised six years ago, he is presiding over a cratering economy.

Modi likes to surprise. But unlike his last big surprise, when he scrapped 80 percent of the national currency one evening three years ago as part of his so-called demonetization effort, his Kashmir move is wildly popular.

His Hindu nationalist supporters are cheering it because they have long dreamed of extending their religious dominion over this predominantly Muslim area. The Indian Parliament rubber-stamped Modi’s request to scrap Article 370, which had handed Kashmir special status to have its own constitution and flag, and Article 35A, which restricted the rights of non-citizens to own land (a …read more

Source:: The Week – World


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