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Fragility and Rule of Law in Kashmir

Fragility and Rule of Law in KashmirKashmir is a region in South Asia with disputed territories in India, Pakistan and China. It is known for its diverse and vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, rich music and a wide range of clothing. Located in the Himalayas, Kashmir now stands as a symbol of fragility and the fight for the rule of law due to political disputes.


The Jammu and Kashmir territories have been under dispute since the Partition in 1947 when the British Raj withdrew and India and Pakistan separated based on religious divisions. With a Muslim majority, Kashmir had the choice to join either country. Initially planning for independence, the Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh later acceded to India after a tribal invasion, setting the stage for the fragility and ongoing struggles for the rule of law in Kashmir.

However, the Maharaja’s agreement to join India was based on terms outlined in Article 370 and Article 35A. Article 370 granted Kashmir autonomy to create its own Constitution, make laws and have its flag, while Article 35A ensured equal opportunities for Kashmiris in land ownership, employment and assistance. The Indian government deployed its army to counter the tribal invasion and although the United Nations (U.N.) established a ceasefire, both Indian and Pakistani troops remain in the region as of July 2023.

Political System in Kashmir

On August 5th, 2019, the Indian government revoked Articles 370 and 35A. The revocation undermined the rule of law in Kashmir and deprived citizens of the same rights and liberties they once had legal entitlements to. Jammu and Kashmir lost their state status and became Union Territories (UT), regions administered entirely by the central government, further contributing to the political fragility of the region.

Citizens of Jammu and Kashmir have had limited political participation since the last state assembly elections in 2014. While India prides itself on being one of the world’s largest democracies, the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s state status raises concerns about the fragility and the rule of law in Kashmir. With the new UT status, both executive and legislative power rests with the central government and the State Assembly of Kashmir has been dissolved. This lack of representation has led to calls for the restoration of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir.

Human Rights Violations

In addition to the ever-changing and fragile system of government, arrests and enforced disappearances of activists and journalists have become increasingly common, undermining the fundamental principle of the rule of law in Kashmir. Notably, journalist Irfan Mehraj was arrested by the National Investigation Agency for exposing human rights abuses. 

According to the Free Speech Collective, the arrest of Irfan Mehraj is “an alarming indication of how far the authorities will go to clamp down on independent journalism.” The organization emphasizes the need to stop targeting independent journalists in Kashmir, allowing them to practice their profession without fear or favor.

Furthermore, the government has imposed numerous internet shutdowns, restricting communication and preventing the flow of information. In 2021 alone, Jammu and Kashmir experienced 85 internet shutdowns, violating the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression, as ruled by the Indian Supreme Court. This demonstrates the fragility of Kashmir, where the government perceives freedom of the press as a threat. 

Additionally, the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act grants the military broad powers in Jammu and Kashmir, leading to further human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture and rape. These violations often go unpunished, fueling controversy and perpetuating human rights abuses.

Political instability and human rights violations directly contribute to poverty in Kashmir. The region’s militarization, as seen through policies like the Armed Forces Act, is a leading cause. Additionally, 73% of people lack access to health care and 43% of children are out of school. The forced disappearances, violence and arrests have caused distress and instability within family structures, hindering socioeconomic success. Political instability has worsened inflation, with no state government creating opportunities for Kashmiris.

Take Action

Kashmir Action provides a variety of resources to educate individuals about the crisis in Kashmir. The website is run by the organization, Justice For All, which addresses issues and politically mobilizes for causes that have not garnered sufficient international support. For instance, Justice for All advocates for independent Kashmiri media, creates petitions for specific issues in Kashmir, organizes protests and provides educational material. In 2020, the organization reached more than 6 million social media interactions and distributed 75,000 educational brochures. A few ways to support Justice for All include signing petitions, making awareness posts and reading their reports.

Helping Hand for Relief and Development is another organization dedicated to providing direct humanitarian aid to Kashmiris on both sides of the border. It offers resources to those in need through its campaigns across the world. For example, in 2021, the organization provided in-kind gifts to 4,718,872 containing food, furniture, hygiene items, school supplies, medical equipment and clothes. The essential items in the relief kits assist people across the globe living in poverty while alleviating their suffering. Moreover, Helping Hand’s Kashmir Relief Campaign goes to projects such as Winter Relief, Ramadan Food, Water for Life and the Medical In-Kind Gifts Program. These campaigns are especially important for global poverty alleviation as they provide necessities to vulnerable populations in Kashmir. 

Looking Ahead

The people of Kashmir continue to show resilience under the unstable political system and the ongoing human rights violations that undermine the rule of law. Raising awareness of the attacks on human rights is pivotal to garnering international support. While political instability and human rights violations contribute to socio-economic disparities in Kashmir, taking both political actions and donating to humanitarian aid play a crucial role in shaping a brighter future for Kashmir. 

– Mehreen Syed
Photo: Unsplash