A Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has said that the abrogation of Article 370 will help in rooting out several terrorist organisations operating in Kashmir.
In an article published in the European Parliament’s monthly newspaper EP Today, MEP Tomas Zdechovsky said that “such terrorist groups are spreading violence in the Kashmir valley and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK)”.
These armed groups were reportedly responsible for attacks on persons affiliated or associated with political organisations in Jammu and Kashmir, including in the killings of at least six political party workers and a separatist leader.
In the lead up to the local elections in October 2018, these armed groups threatened Kashmiris who were attempting to participate in the elections, and warned of “dire consequences” if those running for elections did not immediately withdraw their nomination papers and publicly apologised for their actions.
“While armed groups have sporadically threatened political workers in previous elections, the number of attacks in 2018 is amongst the highest in recent times,” said Tomas.
Pakistan-based armed groups that operate mostly in Kashmir have also been accused of harassing and threatening nationalist and pro-independence political workers in PoK.
On August 2, last year, members of an unknown armed group attacked and burned down at least 12 schools in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer district. At least half of these were girls school.
On February 14, this year, a suicide bombing targetting the Indian security forces in Pulwama, was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
“India blamed Pakistan for continuing to support the group’s activities. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed to an international news organisation that JeM founder Masood Azhar was present in Pakistan,” the article read.
On May 1, the United Nations Security Council Da’esh and al-Qaida Sanctions Committee announced that it had added Azhar to its list of individuals or entities subject to assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.
Pakistan’s endorsed engagement and support of state-sponsored terrorism has also been confirmed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). (The FATF is an inter-governmental organisation that monitors money laundering and terrorist financing.)
The organisation had stated in February that Pakistan “does not demonstrate a proper understanding of the Terror financing risks posed by Da’esh, al-Qaida, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), Lashkar-e -Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Haqqani Network (HQN), and persons affiliated with the Taliban.”
It urged Pakistan to address its “strategic deficiencies” and complete its action plan.
The 2019 report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the human rights situation in Kashmir and PoK covering the period from May 2018 to April 2019, noted that “since the late 1980s, a variety of armed groups have been actively operating in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and there has been documented evidence of these groups committing a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings, killings of civilians, and sexual violence.
The UN report said, “while in the 1990s there were reportedly over a dozen armed groups operating in Kashmir, in recent years, four major armed groups are believed to be operational in this region: Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harakat Ul-Mujahidin. All four are believed to be based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.”
Furthermore, the report states that “two armed groups have been accused of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in Kashmir.”
The MEP said in his article, “In its fight against terrorism, and against acts of violence in Kashmir and also in India by Pakistani based terrorists and armed groups, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi had to act. His choice of action, whilst harsh and direct, was criticised by many who failed to understand his motive. On the August 5, this year, PM Modi revoked Article 370 through a Presidential Order and the passage of a resolution in Parliament.”
Article 370 of the Indian constitution gives a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, thereby allowing it to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal administration of the state.
This article, along with Article 35A, defined that the Jammu and Kashmir state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to the residents of other Indian states.
“The removal, temporarily or permanently of these articles, should be seen as a global stance against terrorist activities, where today terrorists exploit the principles of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights practised by the majority, whilst at the same time imposing fear, violence and killings as justification for their causes,” said the MEP. PM Modi understood the challenge he was undertaking with his sudden revocation of Article 370, although for those following his election campaign, he had already committed to undertake this initiative if his electorate were to appoint him.
Tomas Zdechovsky said, “With his landslide victory, his focus on genuinely protecting his people by prioritising the fight against terrorism remains unshaken… providing almost immediate justification to his actions, on 6th August, the day after his announcement to revoke Article 370, the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a dramatic speech that invited and incited further terrorist activity in India.”
“Incidents like Pulwama are bound to happen again, I can already predict this will happen,” Khan said, calling to his Parliament, people and Pakistan based terrorist groups. At the same time his Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, stated that Pakistan’s military will “go to any extent” to protect Kashmir.
Masood Azhar, chief of the Jihadi group, further explained that “now is the time that Kashmiris need to come out with unity so that the enemy will beg for peace and negotiations.”
“It is hoped that by the equal inclusion of Jammu and Kashmir state under the same constitution as India’s other twenty-eight states, India can ensure that its values of free and fair elections without intimidation, its values of diversity and religious harmony, and its fight against terrorism, can provide greater stability and security not only for the people of India, but for those throughout South Asia,” Zdechovsky concluded.