National and International Issues

End Kashmir’s Quarantine: It Wants Freedom!

“Planet earth is shutting down. In the struggle to get a grip on Covid-19, one country after another is demanding that its citizens shun society,” wrote The Economist in one of its recent editorials and warned: “But there is worse. Troubling new findings suggest that stopping the pandemic might require repeated shutdowns.”



The people of the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) have been familiar with these stifling and repeated shutdowns, clampdowns and lockdowns for the past 72 years. The situation has worsened since August 5, 2019. Each lockdown has ended with thousands of innocent Kashmiris losing their lives and livelihoods.


The BJP-RSS have started taking steps to turn Jammu and Kashmir into a Hindu state by robbing Kashmiris of their state, identity, land and rights. This is Saffronisation, very much like the Aryanisation of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.


When quarantined for the Coronavirus, whether on ships or facilities on land, people all over the world have experienced feelings of claustrophobia, paranoia and even asphyxiation. That is an apt metaphor for Kashmiris for whom the occupied territory for the most part of their existence has been one mega torture cell haunted by the ghosts of the torturers and the tortured whose dark shadows cannot be exorcised.

India does not allow independent representatives and delegates to visit IOJ&K because it has so much to hide. The first thing it wants to hide is that the majority of the 140 million people are not with India; and the second reality they want to conceal is the most gruesome crimes against humanity that have been committed by the occupation forces against unarmed, non-combatant civilians. The documentation of these crimes could never be easily obtained because human rights violations in the occupied territory have always been perpetrated under the thickest pall of state secrecy, and even then the evidence that became available has been enormous and damning. But after the August 5 crackdown, whatever little footage or imagery used to trickle out has dried up.

For good three months, August through September 2019, the harrowing Kashmir story dominated world screens, newspaper front pages and social media portals. That has changed because of other developments – the Brexit, focus on U.S. elections, the Coronavirus, and India’s appalling legislation and brutal actions against its own citizens. These diversions have provided a convenient cover to India to complete its dark agenda in IOJ&K.

It may be recalled that on August 5, India invaded IOJ&K, with a combined strength of 900,000 troops to occupy the territory, divide it into two parts and designate them as union territories to be controlled directly by the federal capital Delhi, like colonised protectorates, and deprive the Kashmiris of their exclusive rights to their land and resources. On that day, India announced that IOJ&K was no more disputed, as recognised by the United Nations, and that its people had absolutely no right to determinate their political future. Ignoring the uproar and excoriation in the international media and influential Western parliaments against its outrageous actions, the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (BJP-RSS) regime has unleashed a reign of terror, all the while trying to give a false impression of ‘normalcy’ in the Valley of Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu. Nobody believes them. The regime has taken all these unlawful measures without a shred of the consent of the people. It was all imperial diktat from Delhi wrapped in colonial hubris.


Indian occupation is an abomination and the rest flows from it. All these crimes are being committed with impunity under the garb of the two draconian laws – the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA). Unfortunately, the exact figures of fatalities, torture and other rights abuses are not available because of the smothering siege and information blackout. All the more reason that the global community should addresses these issues with enhanced attention and a sense of urgency.


IOJ&K is once again passing through a catastrophic phase of systematic and systemic killings, massacres, blindings by the use of pellet-firing shotguns, torture, enforced disappearances, fake encounters, rape and sexual violence as an instrument of state policy, unmarked graves and internet and telecommunications blockade. Indian occupation is an abomination and the rest flows from it. All these crimes are being committed with impunity under the garb of the two draconian laws – the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA). Unfortunately, the exact figures of fatalities, torture and other rights abuses are not available because of the smothering siege and information blackout. All the more reason that the global community should addresses these issues with enhanced attention and a sense of urgency.

The BJP-RSS regime projects to its people its steps in IOJ&K as “a master stroke” and tries to peddle a specious argument that this “reorganisation” will bring “prosperity” to the state. Detractors say that the regime is in fact trying to shift attention from its dismal economic performance. None of this is true. The real force behind this move is the neo-fascist Hindutva doctrine that dates back to 1925, when the RSS was created as a spitting image of Hitler’s Nazism. The former doctrine was based on Hindu supremacy and the latter on the superiority of the German race. That the symbols and actions of the two organisations are similar is no coincidence; they were designed as such by Hindu supremacists.

The BJP-RSS have started taking steps to turn Jammu and Kashmir into a Hindu state by robbing Kashmiris of their state, identity, land and rights. This is Saffronisation, very much like the Aryanisation of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.

The BJP-RSS regime’s designs have been further exposed by its precipitous steps in India itself to relegate Muslims and other minorities to second class subjects, rather than recognising their proven equal status. The duo’s zeitgeist is demolition, discrimination, exclusion and extermination of minorities. What is tragic is that this evil call has caught the imagination of millions of extremist Hindus through demagogic, populist and religious politics at the grassroots, as Hindutva pied pipers lead them to violence, revenge and wilderness. With their mindset, one does not foresee justice for the Kashmiris or peace, security and harmony in South Asia.

In the recent past, there has been talk of third party mediation on Kashmir ever since President Donald Trump made an offer along these lines last July in Washington D.C. Though the U.S. President has watered down his original offer under Indian pressure, Delhi has rejected any form of diplomacy on Kashmir and quickly reworked its position by calling it an “internal matter”, conveniently forgetting that since the 1972 Simla Agreement it used to refer to the issue as a “bilateral matter”. Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir rightly describe the issue as “trilateral” and “international”.


Of these, the most compelling task is the release of thousands of young boys, mostly children and teenagers, who are incarcerated and tortured in the concentration camps in the name of “de-radicalisation”. These “disappeared” boys, abducted from their neighbourhoods, are a challenge to the conscience of humanity.


Mediation is good for Kashmir, and any form of rule-based multilateral diplomacy, guided by the UN Charter is imperative for the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Without such intercession, the problem would not go away either because of the BJP-RSS’ oppression or because the major powers, notably the U.S., tip-toe to avert an India-Pakistan nuclear conflict. The U.S.’ tilt towards its “Indo-Pacific” partner loads the dice for the status quo and the continued suffering of the Kashmiris. Pakistan’s relevance and importance in the context of Afghanistan, though important and positive in itself and good for the long-term peace and stability in the region, sounds transactional at the moment. Pakistan has been heartened by President Trump’s positive characterisation of U.S.-Pakistan relations in his recent visit to India.

Mediations take time and span many administrations of the mediator and the parties to the dispute. No quick fix is possible. So while it is advisable to give a push to some sort of mediatory process, preferably involving the UN, saving Kashmiris from the punitive, unending siege is an absolute priority. Their civil liberties and fundamental freedoms must be restored. Of these, the most compelling task is the release of thousands of young boys, mostly children and teenagers, who are incarcerated and tortured in the concentration camps in the name of “de-radicalisation”. These “disappeared” boys, abducted from their neighbourhoods, are a challenge to the conscience of humanity. By rescuing these boys, the global community will be salvaging international law and the world order itself. Otherwise, it would be our version of the Hobbesian trap in this century. Similarly, more than 600 political leaders and activists across the political spectrum and including human rights defenders, are under detention without due process. Many of them are facing death sentences for demanding their right to self-determination. Yasin Malik, Asiya Andrabi and Shabir Shah are imprisoned in the notorious Tihar jail; they must be released and so should the 90-year old Hurriyat supremo Syed Ali Geelani who has been under house arrest for the past decade.


In the recent past, there has been talk of third party mediation on Kashmir ever since President Donald Trump made an offer along these lines last July in Washingtin D.C. Though the U.S. President has watered down his original offer under Indian pressure, Delhi has rejected any form of diplomacy on Kashmir and quickly reworked its position by calling it an “internal matter”, conveniently forgetting that since the 1972 Simla Agreement it used to refer to the issue as a “bilateral matter”. Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir rightly describe the issue as “trilateral” and “international”.


There are credible reports that large tracts of Kashmiris’ land is being parcelled out to thousands of RSS operatives and Hindu carpetbaggers to get them permanent foothold in the occupied territory. What’s more, illegal settlements for Pandits and ex-servicemen are being built like the West Bank. Banks are attaching Kashmiri landholding collaterals. Historically fictitious Hindu temples are being “rebuilt” to alter the demography of the region. This is all in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Additional Protocol I, the Statute of the International Criminal Court, several UN Security Council resolutions, and the overarching Rule 130 of Customary International Humanitarian Law. Land grab at this scale has never taken place since decolonisation. India must be held accountable!

Besides, reputed international organisations take pains to monitor elections in established or emerging democracies. And here in IOJ&K, before the eyes of the world, the BJP-RSS regime is engineering and crafting a whole new fake political class to foist it on the Kashmiri nation to legitimize its occupation and stage-manage “insider attacks” on Kashmiris. This farce should be stopped.

Silence or equivocation on the situation in Kashmir is equivalent to underwriting an impending genocide in IOJ&K. A “hands-off” approach will not stabilise the situation, but make it much more volatile. Get involved for the sake of justice and peace!


The writer is President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and a former Ambassador to the United Nations (in both New York and Geneva) and China.

E-mail: [email protected]
 

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