National and International Issues

Save Kashmir Now

One year has passed since the Hindu extremist government, backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which advocates and practices Hindu supremacism, grudgingly and deceptively took away the cosmetic autonomy given to the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) back in the 1950s. Concomitantly, it robbed Kashmiris off their established and recognised rights of permanent residence/citizenship and acquisition of property, as well as privileges covering public sector jobs and educational scholarships. 


Now whatever the Indian government has done to the Kashmiris especially in the past one year (and before) is a flagrant violation of international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, international humanitarian law in general, and the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir. There is a long list of India’s crimes against humanity in the territory, but the most despicable and culpable amongst them are genocide, systemic ethnic cleansing, war crimes against non-combatants, and the use of excessive force without respecting the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality, under the false pretext of fighting terrorism. If our current world order, impartially and non-selectively, pursued international rule of law, instead of realpolitik, Indian officials responsible for these crimes would be in the dock in an international tribunal like the Nazi officials were after World War II. All the “lawless” laws applied in IIOJ&K and actions taken there by India are modeled on Nazism and fascism.



The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not authorised to take these illegal measures, because the territory had been declared disputed decades ago by the United Nations Security Council whose future had to be decided by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in a UN-supervised referendum. Although India had tried all the tricks in its repertoire to annex the territory, it had failed in its mission because till August 5, 2019, after the passage of 72 years of the independence of Pakistan and India, the vales and hills of Kashmir resounded with the slogans of Azadi (freedom) and self-determination. For India, it was and remains an alien territory, whose population has never accepted India’s illegal writ. On the other hand, the flame of their aspiration for affinity with Pakistan continued to burn brighter each passing year. 
The violent-extremist BJP-RSS regime felt that the only option left for them was invasion, occupation, annexation and colonisation of the occupied part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Their 900,000 troops brazenly invaded the territory and laid siege to it, which was buttressed by a punitive security lockdown, a communication blockade and massive brutalisation of the people. The Indian occupiers knew that the population, despite such draconian measures, would not capitulate to foreign occupation of their land. They knew that no matter how many people they killed, Kashmir would remain a nursery for freedom. So they resorted to naked, blatant settler-colonialism. As I write these lines, the occupation authorities are, on a fast track, importing and transferring hundreds of thousands of Hindus from all over India to illegally settle them in the Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and making it their “own/Hindu” state. 

Since the repeal of Articles 370 and 35A, India has taken a series of steps to merge Jammu and Kashmir into its federation, out of which three stand out. 


The Indian occupiers knew that the population, despite such draconian measures, would not capitulate to foreign occupation of their land. They knew that no matter how many people they killed, Kashmir would remain a nursery for freedom. So they resorted to naked, blatant settler-colonialism. As I write these lines, the occupation authorities are, on a fast track, importing and transferring hundreds of thousands of Hindus from all over India to illegally settle them in the Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and making it their “own/Hindu” state. 


First, it divided the occupied part of the state into two Union territories (federal/federally administered territories) – Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir – which would be ruled directly by Delhi, without the consent of the people. Ladakh, in fact, will have no legislature, while IIOJ&K, will have a puppet Assembly of handpicked henchmen. 
Second, it annexed the occupied territory with the Indian Union (their term for federation) and showed it as its sovereign geographical territory. The fig leaf of the constitutional and juridical pretence was removed. The promises made to Kashmiris, Pakistan and the United Nations were barefacedly broken and the Hindutva zealots gloated over this breach. They did not stop at that. They had the temerity to show Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir as part of India’s geographical boundaries in the fake maps they issued last November. 


New domicile rules ease new Hindu settlers and create huge barriers for the Kashmiris by demanding a large number of documents before they could be issued the requisite certification. This is a well-crafted formula for discrimination, exclusion and displacement of Kashmiris. The ultimate objective is to permanently change the demographic composition of the illegally occupied state. 


Third, the occupation authorities have promulgated New Domicile Rules that grant Hindu army personnel, civil servants, bank officials, university teachers and many others, who have served in the occupied land from 10 to 15 years, or do so in the future, as well their families to settle in Kashmir, buy land for settlements, qualify for affordable housing, compete for jobs, and acquire tracts of land to construct industrial estates. In addition, the so-called West Pakistan refugees, migrant workers from all over India and sanitation workers living in the IIOJ&K are being given these rights, while Kashmiris, especially Kashmiri Muslims, are being elbowed out. The process for new applicants from India, without the handicap of a security lockdown or internet restrictions, is being completed in record time, a fortnight, while the original inhabitants, chained by multiple lockdowns, are facing huge barriers to prove that they are Kashmiri citizens. The new domicile certificates have now replaced their permanent residence certificates (a proof of their state subject status) – one single document that they needed in the past for jobs, scholarships, and transactions of property. New domicile rules ease new Hindu settlers and create huge barriers for the Kashmiris by demanding a large number of documents before they could be issued the requisite certification. This is a well-crafted formula for discrimination, exclusion and displacement of Kashmiris. The ultimate objective is to permanently change the demographic composition of the illegally occupied state. 
Now whatever the Indian government has done to the Kashmiris especially in the past one year (and before) is a flagrant violation of international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, international humanitarian law in general, and the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir. There is a long list of India’s crimes against humanity in the territory, but the most despicable and culpable amongst them are genocide, systemic ethnic cleansing, war crimes against non-combatants, and the use of excessive force without respecting the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality, under the false pretext of fighting terrorism. If our current world order, impartially and non-selectively, pursued international rule of law, instead of realpolitik, Indian officials responsible for these crimes would be in the dock in an international tribunal like the Nazi officials were after World War II. All the “lawless” laws applied in IIOJ&K and actions taken there by India are modeled on Nazism and fascism. 
But the world order cobbled together after World War II is fraying. Polarisation has led to mutually hostile multipolarity. Taking advantage of the fierce rivalry between the U.S.-led Western bloc and China, India has projected itself as a counterweight to China. The West is busy coddling, cosseting and appeasing India, besides cultivating it because of the lure of the lucrative Indian market. But this is all smoke and mirrors because India would ultimately not be a pawn on the global chessboard against China. It is all a hoax and yet this new-found fascination with India creates a collective blindspot when it comes to Kashmir. The Western governments choose to look at Kashmir, if at all, through tinted glasses, and the ones tinted by India. This pattern of selectivity is reinforced by Islamophobic forces in India and the West. 
The Ladakh standoff demonstrated not just a discomfiture, but a glaring defeat for India. Despite India’s brinkmanship and subsequent spiel, everybody knew facts, and China gave a face-saving exit to India, because truly neither nation wanted a long, continuing flare up. After August 5 last year, India’s bravado had no limits as it went on to threaten to “take back” Azad Kashmir and Aksai Chin militarily. Pakistan did not take it lightly, nor did China. But China’s entry into the Kashmir conflict has two dimensions. First, Kashmiris and Pakistan experienced schadenfreude to see India repulsed at the Galwan Valley because of the Modi government’s high-handed, criminal conduct in IIOJ&K and its persecution of Indian Muslims. Second, it makes the situation even more complex and apparently intractable when people ask about China as the “third party” to the Kashmir dispute. 


Post-August 5, whispers turned into a crescendo. India’s reputation took a hit. It was no more a holy cow. Yet, the attention of those very forces that shone a light on the harrowing situation in Kashmir was distracted by other developments unrelated to Kashmir. The China-India standoff rekindled interest in Kashmir. 


Before the clash at the Ladakh Line of Actual Control (LAC), India had planned to launch another false flag operation or some sort of limited military adventure against Pakistan to christen its criminal genocide in Kashmir as the fight against terrorism. The purpose was to divert world’s attention from its unbridled repression in IIOJ&K. The beating from China may well have deterred Indian commanders from opening another front or it is probable that they are biding their time and will strike again in one form or the other. Highest vigilance and preparedness are the utmost priority. 
How is the international community reacting to the horrendous developments in IIOJ&K? Last year, immediately after India’s abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A and military takeover of IIOJ&K, the international community – the media, think tanks, parliamentarians, civil society – all came out strongly to castigate and condemn India and express solidarity with the people of IIOJ&K. The UN Security Council held in-camera sessions, the U.S. Congressional committees held hearings, British lawmakers wrote to the UN Secretary-General to take action, the European Parliament held a plenary session on Kashmir, European parliamentarians tabled half a dozen resolutions calling out India’s excesses, and the diaspora community really turned the Kashmir issue into an international movement. Though the intensity of attention to Kashmir lasted for three months last year – August through October – it opened new doors and broke many taboos such as India could not be held accountable loudly. Post-August 5, whispers turned into a crescendo. India’s reputation took a hit. It was no more a holy cow. Yet, the attention of those very forces that shone a light on the harrowing situation in Kashmir was distracted by other developments unrelated to Kashmir. The China-India standoff rekindled interest in Kashmir. 
Kashmir proved to be a great unifier for Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. The entire nation rose with the passion and conviction to salvage their Kashmiri brothers and sisters from forced annexation to India and from the murderous campaign of Indian soldiers against them. In the international realm, Pakistan did well to raise consciousness about the disenfranchisement and enslavement of Kashmiris and the pressure that this had generated in the region. The security situation in South Asia, the world was told, had become extremely perilous because of the Indian threats to attack Azad Kashmir and disintegrate Pakistan with the strong indications of using nuclear weapons. 
Pakistan also made the world aware of the re-incarnation of fascism in the form of Hindutva and its dire repercussions for regional and global peace, stability and security. 


We should remain persistent in knocking on their doors until they open them and hear us out. The UN Security Council must be coaxed, goaded and pushed to create conditions for the implementation of its own resolutions on Kashmir or to start a fresh round of consultations under Chapters VI and VII of the Charter. The myth that Kashmir is a bilateral issue must be shattered. It is not a territorial dispute nor a barter of chattel. The fate of 14 million Kashmiris is at stake who have to choose their destiny. 


As we complete one year of India’s audacious militaristic lebensraum and irredentism, the world multilateral fora’s, notably the United Nations’ response to ongoing settler-colonisation of IIOJ&K remains guarded and cautious. Yes, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, have made some helpful statements but that is not enough. The Security Council is inert and is showing no signs of moving towards any decision-making process. Within the Council, three permanent members provide a protective shield to India. In its resolutions and communiqués, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has made strong denunciations of India’s illegal actions; and yet some of its members have robust economic ties with India. Incidentally, they are also close allies of Pakistan. 


Kashmir proved to be a great unifier for Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. The entire nation rose with the passion and conviction to salvage their Kashmiri brothers and sisters from forced annexation to India and from the murderous campaign of Indian soldiers against them. In the international realm, Pakistan did well to raise consciousness about the disenfranchisement and enslavement of Kashmiris and the pressure that this had generated in the region. 


Against the backdrop of the ghastly crimes being committed and the ongoing genocide entering the penultimate phase of extermination, an indigenous explosion within IIOJ&K, not “abetted” by Pakistan, cannot be ruled out. The asphyxiating chokehold in the territory is unbearable. The dead are dead; but the living are also dead. They see no choice but to reclaim their homeland. 
What is it we can do to turn the tide in the coming months? 
One, close your ranks and convert the liberty of Kashmir into an intentional movement. 
Two, don’t take multilateral forums’ no for an answer; nor should we be discouraged by their apathy and expediency. We should remain persistent in knocking on their doors until they open them and hear us out. The UN Security Council must be coaxed, goaded and pushed to create conditions for the implementation of its own resolutions on Kashmir or to start a fresh round of consultations under Chapters VI and VII of the Charter. The myth that Kashmir is a bilateral issue must be shattered. It is not a territorial dispute nor a barter of chattel. The fate of 14 million Kashmiris is at stake who have to choose their destiny. In this context, we will continue to work on influential parliaments whose weight will be felt by the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council. Equally important, in this context, is the international civil society, which now determines, for instance, the fate of fossil fuel and how societies should redesign a safe and secure global ecosystem. It can be a powerful voice on Kashmir. Enlist their support. 
Three, the 10-million strong Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora community, along with its growing networks, has adequate political influence and economic clout to shape public opinion and tilt the balance towards the truth and the restitution of the rights of the Kashmiris. We will continue to leverage their strengths. 
Four, in order to explode the false narratives about Kashmir woven and peddled by India to the world, we would continue to take our true, genuine narrative to the world forums and international community. Our efforts should not be confined to the traditional and new media but to the outlets where critical thinking is nurtured and to the portals of new technologies. 
Five, pass the baton of leadership to the younger generation – both men and women. They are already giving their blood in Kashmir. They must be made part of political and diplomatic campaigns and outreach. 
Six, when we talk about Indian atrocities, we do not hold all 1.3 billion people of India responsible. Among them are some of the most exploited and degraded segments who are at the mercy of an elitist oligarchy and plutocracy in India. Some 250 million Dalits are being treated in India as sub-human species. And 200 million Muslims are on the verge of exile and expulsion en masse. There are others: Sikhs, Christians, tribals, economic migrants who all face the risks of statelessness in varying degrees. Bulk of these marginalised citizens do not endorse India’s brutal policies in IIOJ&K. It is therefore essential to build bridges with them and muster their support for Kashmiris. 
Seven, conscious efforts should be made to turn Pakistan into a politically cohesive and economically strong nation. This is both a short-term and a long-term goal. The time is of the essence.
The BJP-RSS regime has waged multiple wars simultaneously: against all its neighbours, especially Pakistan, against the people of Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and, above all, against its own people. It has taken off the veil and veneer of secularism. What is left now is a skewed doctrine of jingoism, violence, hatred, exceptionalism and exclusivism. The worst victims of this toxic brew would be Indian people but before that the juggernaut of Hindutva would have destroyed the shackled nation of Kashmir. Every effort has to be made to avert such a catastrophe. For their part, the valiant people of Kashmir have vowed that they would get their freedom from India despite India’s latest invasion. This is the verdict of history.


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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