On 5 August, the Narendra Modi-led government removed the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution. The government downgraded the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. It then enforced a communications blockade in the region, which is still ongoing. The government has since claimed that the situation on the ground is peaceful, and that people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have all welcomed the move. News reports from the region, however, contradict this claim.
In “State Subjects,” The Caravan is featuring a collection of voices from various parts of the erstwhile state. Aamir Sohail is a Ladakhi who holds a master’s degree in criminology and justice. He explains why he wanted the region to be a union territory, but does not trust Ladakh’s politicians to safeguard its interests.
On 5 August, I woke up to the sound of Whatsapp notifications flooding my phone. When I opened my chats, I saw that my friends from home, in Ladakh, had shared articles which claimed that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government had bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. I had heard rumours that the centre was planning something big in Kashmir, but no one knew what it was going to be.
After reading one article, I was left feeling numb. I could not believe that Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution were effectively nullified. In one of the videos I received, I saw people in Leh coming together in the town square, dancing to Ladakhi songs in full fervour by swinging their scarves—each scarf was printed with a lotus symbol. It did not make sense that I was not feeling the same joy as them.
I always hated that I had to explain to people where Ladakh was located. Most people always made some racist remark when they heard “Ladakh”: “Oh, I heard it is in China.” “Does it come under Nepal?” “So, you are from the North-East?” I thought if ever Ladakh got the status of a union territory, it would be a historic moment for the people of our region—we would finally have our own separate identity, one which does not need to be defined in terms of Jammu and Kashmir. The only positive aspect of the news was that we, Ladakhis, would no longer have to make arduous journeys to Jammu or Kashmir for official work. But I could not help thinking about what must be happening in Kashmir.