Elections

From 1987 Assembly Election To Article 370 Abrogation, Watershed Moments In Kashmir's History

Dates that shaped Kashmir’s collective memory

Slices of Kashmir: A protest against the scrapping of Article 370
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When asked about the impact of August 5, 2019, a Kashmiri lawyer invoked one of the most memorable quotes of the 20th century. He referred to the late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who is reported to have said when asked about the influence of the French Revolution, “Too early to say.”

August 5, 2019

This day is seen as a major milestone in the recent history of Kashmir, as on this day the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government abrogated Article 370, significantly altering the status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). This move led to the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The abrogation led to widespread changes, including the removal of the state flag and the annulment of the Constitution of J&K. As the government imposed a total communication lockdown; internet, mobile phones and fixed telephone service lines were suspended, and this continued for nearly five months. Thousands were arrested, including prominent political figures such as former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

May 2020

Subsequently, the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were seen locked in a tense stand-off following clashes in May 2020. In the Galwan Valley, on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), 20 Indian Army personnel and an undisclosed number of Chinese soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat. This was a major clash between the two countries, the most significant since the 1962 war.

A man being detained in Srinagar in 1985
A man being detained in Srinagar in 1985
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February 21, 2021

While the situation in J&K remained relatively calm post-abrogation, over a year later, on February 21, 2021, India entered into a ceasefire agreement with Pakistan bringing peace along the Line of Control. However, tensions escalated in the Ladakh region following the abrogation. Soon after the abrogation of Article 370, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated that “China does not recognize the Ladakh Union Territory illegally set up by the Indian side”.

March 1987

The current election campaign for the three parliamentary seats of Kashmir saw political leaders revisiting the events of 1987. The 1987 J&K assembly election led to widespread allegations of electoral fraud, believed to be responsible for the armed revolt and shaping the region’s political landscape for decades to come.

Rajiv Gandhi with Farooq Abdullah in 1996
Rajiv Gandhi with Farooq Abdullah in 1996
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July 1988

In July 1988, a wave of demonstrations, strikes and attacks on government infrastructure was seen as an onset of insurgency in J&K. By 1990, Kashmir was engulfed in full-fledged insurgency.

August 9, 1953

This day is etched in the collective memory of Kashmiris as a moment of profound betrayal. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, instrumental in Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Indian Union, was abruptly removed from power and imprisoned. This event deepened the emotional rift between Srinagar and New Delhi, leading to prolonged political turmoil. New Delhi’s decision to oust Abdullah proved costly, sparking the Plebiscite Movement. This period also led to significant dilution of J&K’s special status until 1971. The region transitioned from having its own prime minister and Sadr-e-Riyasat to chief minister and governor positions in 1965, a significant political shift.

Despite the historical significance of events dating back to 1953, during the recent elections, political discourse in J&K and beyond centered around the events of August 5, 2019. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in his rallies, warned against any attempt to reverse the abrogation of Article 370. “Although the Congress can’t return to power again, if it happens by chance, I would warn the Congress to not dare to change Article 370. Kashmir is part of India. Your (Congress) politics of appeasement is over now,” said Shah.

In Kashmir, political leaders, particularly Omar Abdullah, described the current election as a test case for Kashmiris to prove the event of August 5, 2019, as a historical wrong. Addressing his rallies, the vice president of the National Conference would often say, “Don’t vote for the National Conference if you feel the decision of August 5, 2019 was right. Don’t vote for us if this decision has changed your lives for the better.” Ironically, the BJP chose to not contest in Kashmir for the first time.

(This appeared in the print as 'Watershed Moments')

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