Territorial conflict over the Kashmir has been an apple of discord between India and Pakistan started after the partition of India in 1947 as both states claimed the entirety of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir dispute arose in full swing at the international level, when on 5th August 2019, India removed its special status given to Kashmiris by the Indian constitution articles 370 and 35A. India divided it into two territories Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. From that time India has continuously tried to alter the demography of the region by settling Hindu migrants in India illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and delivering around 3.4 million domiciles to non-Kashmiris particularly Hindus to dilute the Muslim majority status. Kashmiris are suffering due to the discriminatory policies of the BJP-led Modi government whose agenda is to promote Hindutva ideology.
The ground reality is different from presenting and shown by the Indian government. India claims that post revocation of Article 370 brought development, peace, jobs, and investments in IIOJK whereas it became a cause of frustration, chaos, and disorder for Kashmiris. All sectors of the economy of J&K have witnessed a steep decline after the abrogation of Article 370. The claims made by the Indian government regarding real estate investment in IIOJK can be gauged from the fact that real estate is suffering at the all-India level. Financial specialists are enquiring from India how many youth from Jammu have got jobs post Article 370 revocation let alone Kashmir. The leadership of IIOJK has appealed to the people irrespective of their affiliations to understand the nature of assault imposed on J&K in the form of abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. “This assault has become a poison which can reach Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh, Punjab, and other states”. Human development indicators of IIOJK pre and post Article 370 bust the myths that are being created by the Indian government.
Gupkar Alliance in its joint declaration has also rejected the Indian government’s assertions by saying much of “the propaganda blitz, engaged in by even the Prime Minister and Home Minister” can be laid to rest by examining the State’s pre-2019 record on the growth and human development front. Due to the communications blockade, curfews, and occupational forces threats, the economy of Kashmir lost INR 178.78 billion and more than 90,000 jobs in the sectors of handicraft, tourism, and information technology in the first five months alone, after the abrogation of Article 370.
Furthermore, the horticulture sector is in severe distress, tourism is in shambles, and students are suffering because of the ongoing internet blockade. It is for the first time in the past 75 years that rural Kashmir is facing such a great degree of economic slowdown. Hundreds of farmers were forced to either sell their produce at throwaway prices or just watch their produce rot. The Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI) has repeatedly said that no major economic activity has taken place in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.
As per the ORF survey 40 percent of the businesses, including hotel and transport industries, depend on pilgrims and tourists but due to the deteriorating law and order situation and continued restrictions, people are reluctant to visit the IIOJK. Farooq Amin, general secretary of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) said that “if Kashmir’s economy was on the ventilator before, it is now dead”. At this point, the narrative of economic progress falls flat in the face of the restrictive and heavily militarized zone that IIOJK continues to be. Instead of opening up the valley to industries, the oppressive Indian government’s move made it unlivable even for those rooted in IIOJK. BJP government claims that “Leading entrepreneurs have expressed their interest in investing in Jammu & Kashmir”. But in today’s world, economic growth cannot happen in a closed environment. Drenched in financial despair, the highway to hope has crumbled in IIOJK.
On the other hand, there is a huge difference between the situations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and the liberated part of the Kashmir which also draws a clear distinction between freedom and subjugation. The people of Azad Kashmir have all the basic rights and civil liberties, the army does not patrol the streets of cities and towns, and the citizens are not arrested, detained, or abducted against their will and made enforceable disappeared as compared to IIOJK. IIOJK’s refugees who took shelter in Pakistan, AJK government provide these refugees residential facilities, food and catering their need of education and health in collaboration with Pakistan government.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is called a blessing for the region will also bring immense benefits to the Azad Kashmir people. The establishment of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and construction of the Mansehra, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, and Mangla expressway will connect most areas of Azad Kashmir with the CPEC route that will bring about a major and significant change in the lives of the people here. Azad Kashmir students have a special quota in all Pakistani universities and colleges as well as seats are allocated in all sectors of jobs in Pakistan. The international community should pay attention to the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri people, if the atrocities against the people of Kashmir are not halted, the peace and security of South Asia will remain elusive.