Indian-administered Kashmir remains under an unprecedented lockdown, subject to a curfew and without phone and internet links. It followed the announcement that India’s only Muslim-majority state would lose its autonomous status. Article 370 of India’s constitution, in force since 1949, guaranteed Jammu and Kashmir the right to make its own laws in all internal matters, and denied property rights to non-residents. It was revoked by Narendra Modi’s Hindu right-wing nationalist BJP government. The legislative assembly, which should have approved the move, was suspended last year.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan accused India of “ethnic cleansing” in Kashmir, and his government asked for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the crisis.
Why is this event of interest to those who subscribe to the teachings of Epicurus? One has to go back for context to Indian independence. The first prime minister, Nehru, was born in Kashmir, which logically should have been awarded to Pakistan. But Nehru was determined to have his birthplace part of India. Thus began decades of wars and mutual hostility. Since 1947, the disputed Moslem territory has sparked three wars between India and Pakistan as well as a bloody 30-year insurgency. The Kashmiris now fear an influx of Hindu Indians, and will now be more susceptible to recruitment by Muslim insurgents backed by Pakistan, increasing the risk of military escalation – which between two nuclear-armed states is a frightening prospect.
All around the world, populist leaders are launching similar attacks on the rule of law and democracy (where it exists at all) based on deliberate misinformation, lies and the manipulation of votes and legal systems. It has taken centuries to establish forms of democracy, popular controls over the power-crazy, and the idea of a free Press, reporting fairly. All this now being undone. It will pass, but what will be left we have no idea. Not good for Epicurean peace of mind. (adapted and re-edited from an article in The Week, 17 August 2019)