I share your concern over the announcement by the Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution has been revoked by Presidential Order. Article 370 grants special status and guarantees significant autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, the unilateral decision of revocation, made by the Indian government, undeniably betrays the accession of 1947.
In August 1947 India and Pakistan won their independence from Britain; as Kashmir and Jammu were predominantly Muslim, some expected both to go to Pakistan. The ruler of the princely state, Maharaj Hari Singh, had initially intended for both to become independent, but in return for India’s help during an invasion from Pakistan, he vowed to join India.
This sparked further conflict causing the UN to intervene. In July 1949, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire and the region became divided; the Western portion of Kashmir came under Pakistani rule and the larger portion came under Indian rule. The region is one of the most militarised zones in the world and tensions have remained.
In 1949, when Kashmir became divided, Article 370 was added to India’s constitution providing a certain degree of autonomy to Kashmir and Jammu. Under Article 370, the state of Jammu and Kashmir were free to draft their own constitution, have a separate flag and have independence over all matters apart from foreign affairs, defence and communications. The unilateral revocation of Article 370 has served to increase already heightened tensions within the area and has further betrayed the trust of the Kashmiri people.
I am deeply uncomfortable with reports of deployment of thousands of Indian troops to the area and I have major Human Rights concerns over the actions of the Indian authorities. There have been curfews implemented, mobile and internet services shut down, media blackouts and reports of protestors facing excessive force and having weapons used against them, including the use of cluster munitions on unarmed civilians. This constitutes a violation of International Humanitarian Law.
I will support efforts for peace and reconciliation in Kashmir and I urge the Government to support the people of Kashmir. I strongly believe that human rights violations are not internal but the concern of the whole world, including the United Kingdom.