Breaching international laws, violating bilateral agreements, defying international obligations, and utter disregard of the United Nations resolutions are but a custom for the BJP-led India; however, this time, the BJP government has gone against India’s very constitution to further its Hindu extremist agenda.
The fate of the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) has now been taken away from the pepole of IIOJK. Instead it has been authorized to any Indian citizen who is living in IIOJK by including him in the voters list. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer, Hirdesh Kumar, invited the Indian population to vote in IIOJK claiming that a domicile certificate of Jammu and Kashmir is not a condition to become a voter anymore. A worker, a student, a laborer, or anyone from outside who is living in IIOJK can enlist his/her name in the voting list in accordance with the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.1 This, however, is not applied to the Rohingya Muslims, who have taken shelter in Jammu and other parts, as they have no voting rights whatsoever. The government officials are expecting 1.128 million2 new voters which adds to the voter count by more than a third.
Kashmiris had already been robbed of their right to self-determination by India. Lord Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru gave their word to conduct a plebiscite in the region, and more than seven decades later, India went back on its words and claimed the whole region a part of India without the consent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. India abrogated Article 370 of its constitution/special status of IIOJK and bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. Moreover, the arbitrary action was followed by a complete lockdown of the region, complete blackout, and detention of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, including the political leadership.
Modi administration has outrightly forsaken the very notion of maintaining the image of decent, law-abiding, and moral governance and legislation. Being well aware that Article 370 cannot be abridged/abrogated, the Baharatiya Janata Party (BJP) went ahead with their illegal plan of action. Article 370 could only be amended in consultation with the then Constituent Assembly of IIOJK which is now impossible since the Constituent Assembly of IIOJK was dissolved in 1957. The High Court of IIOJK had passed its verdict declaring Article 370’s permanence which was endorsed by the Supreme Court of India. The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A is not only illegal as per the Indian Constitution, but the unilateral act of scrapping Article 370 and 35 A has no legal effect under international law either, as IIOJK is a disputed territory under international law and any legal or constitutional change in the IIOJK in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the occupying state of India has no validity and recognition under this law3.
Despite knowing that India’s fallacious claims that the actions in IIOJK are its internal matter hold no water, the BJP prepared a backup plan in case India would be cornered to fulfill its promise of conducting a plebiscite. India has been seeking to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory in flagrant violation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, international law, and the 4th Geneva Convention. Since August 5, 2019, Indian occupation authorities have issued fake domiciles to more than 4.2 million Hindus to change the demographics of IIOJK. The BJP resorted to such measures even after observing how 33 years of brutality by the Indian authorities to force the Kashmiris to abandon their homes in IIOJK didn’t affect the resolve of the brave Kashmiris. According to the Kashmir Media Service report published in June 2022, “The IIOJK’s Muslim majority has been facing threat to its existence due to the forced expulsion, which is aimed at changing the territory’s demography and turning it into a Hindu state.”
Former Prime Minister and Peoples Democratic Party President, Mehbooba Mufti, has said that the administration in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district has given verbal orders to its officials to register non-local, CISF (Central Industrial Security Force), CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), BSF (Border Security Force), and Indian forces’ personnel as voters in IIOJK.4 Indian Armed Forces in IIOJK are given immunity from any prosecution in the court of law under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Under this black law, Indian Armed Forces can detain/kill anyone with impunity. Indian Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) use the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) to detain anyone whom they claim to be a threat to public peace and order. PSA and AFSPA have been repeatedly criticized by global human rights bodies and the international community, particularly the UN. Indian troops in IIOJK have been engaged in arbitrary killings, sexual crimes/rapes, and enforced disappearances. They are also accused of burying the victims of their brutality in mass graves. In the occupied valley, pellet guns have been used on innocent and unarmed protestors, blinding them for life. Several international organizations and human rights watchdogs have censured India for such brutal tactics. India has barricaded IIOJK and the media is not allowed to see or report the ugly truth about the plight of the oppressed Kashmiris. The treatment meted out to Kashmiris by India is below human dignity by any standard. They are forced to live as sub-humans in a fascist and racist state deprived of basic human rights.
There is a high incidence of rhabdomyolysis in IIOJK, a potentially life-threatening syndrome resulting from the breakdown of skeletal muscle fibers with leakage of muscle contents into blood circulation that causes kidney failure and torture being one of the reasons for the disease. The occurrence of this disease even surpasses the numbers that were infested by it during the Second World War.
An analytical report released by the research section of Kashmir Media Service on July 19, 2021 revealed that over 500,000 Kashmiris have laid down their lives for Jammu and Kashmir’s freedom from Indian occupation during the last seven decades. For the first 10 months, until October 2021, the National Human Rights Commission reported 77 deaths in police custody, 1,338 deaths in judicial custody, and 62 alleged extrajudicial killings. In its World Report 2022, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, “Allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings persisted with the National Human Rights Commission registering 143 deaths in police custody and 104 alleged extrajudicial killings in [IIOJK] in the first nine months in 2021. Kashmiris have been subjected to discrimination, humiliation, and dehumanization by the so-called democratic and secular India. There is a high incidence of rhabdomyolysis in IIOJK, a potentially life-threatening syndrome resulting from the breakdown of skeletal muscle fibers with leakage of muscle contents into blood circulation that causes kidney failure and torture being one of the reasons for the disease. The occurrence of this disease even surpasses the numbers that were infested by it during the Second World War.”
The citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens (NRC) are draconian laws that are against the fundamental human rights. Through the enactment of CAA and NRC, India is attempting to turn Muslims into second-class citizens. Furthermore, Indian Armed Forces are also engaged in human right violations against Christians and other minorities of Northeast India. UN Commissioner for Human Rights has also filed an application in the Indian Supreme Court challenging CAA, indicating that it is a violation of human rights. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutérres, has urged full respect for human and fundamental rights in IIOJK and implementation of the relevant UN resolutions on the Kashmir issue.
Not too long after the illegal annulment of the special status of Kashmir, the BJP government introduced a new domicile law in the region that can be considered a precursor to demographic flooding of the region by outsiders. The law comes straight from the Israeli playbook–a policy that has been in effect since 1948 in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. The move signifies growing similarities between Modi’s ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and Nethanyahu’s ‘Zionist Israel’. The law is a clear violation of the 1949 4th Geneva Convention which explicitly prohibits any demographic change of occupied areas/regions. Moreover, the law also constitutes a violation of UNSC Resolutions and bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan; the case in point is the Shimla Agreement. Enforcement of the new domicile law is a consequential move by the Hindu supremacist BJP government to change the demographic structure of the Muslim-majority region depriving Muslims of their land, jobs, and identities. India is pushing for a colonial settlement project in IIOJK aimed at virtual Palestinization of Kashmir. The law is a first step toward the systematic ethnic cleansing of Muslims in IIOJK. Kashmiris have outrightly rejected it and will never accept such a blatant attempt to change their identity.
What’s Wrong with the Domicile Rule?
Under the guise of giving rights to marginalized Hindu communities, the BJP seeks to get away with its absurd legislation; however, the timing at which the law was passed and the punitive measures in place to ensure the fast-tracking of domicile certificates for non-residents were unmistakably labeling these acts as communal and anti-secular. At a time when India was already grappling with a pandemic and performing poorly to alleviate the losses of COVID-19, the rush for such secondary matters raised fears about the uncharacteristic sense of urgency displayed by the Centre to implement these new guidelines. To ensure fast-tracking, the tehsildar in charge shall face up to a Rs. 50,000 fine if he fails to issue a domicile within 15 days of receiving the duly completed application.
According to the new guidelines, children of those who worked or studied in the Valley for the stipulated period are also eligible for domicile even if they have never been to or lived in the state of IIOJK. The heavy-handed use of security measures to impose an unprecedented, vicious, and polarised political rhetoric and measures such as large-scale internet shutdowns, can be deemed as a collective punishment. Those with these certificates can own property in Kashmir and get access to government jobs that were earlier reserved for the locals. For a state with an unemployment rate of 15.89 percent in comparison to the national average of 6.87 percent—of which 25.2 percent are graduates and 59.5 percent are jobless women—the new domicile laws will only aggravate the problem to an unimaginable level. This has made the ambition of integrating the locals impossible to realize even as the legal and political integration was bulldozed through.
What is happening in India is terrifying but it's inevitable when the ruling elite is inspired by the destructive Hindutva ideology. Such policies have the potential to harm the Indian polity with far-reaching consequences. Therefore, it’s imperative that the international community must take some credible and punitive actions against Indian fascism before it’s too late. The only viable solution to the lingering issue of Kashmir is giving the people their right to self-determination according to the UN Resolutions. Now that all legal and constitutional barriers have been removed following the adoption of harsh Indian measures on August 5, 2019, India would not only establish non-Kashmiris in Kashmir but will also engage in genocide against Kashmiris to calm the rebellion in Kashmir and diminish the number of individuals with pro-Pakistan sympathies. Even though India has no plans of holding a plebiscite as a method of resolving the Kashmir problem, it has made efforts to modify the demographics of IIOJK as a fallback plan to influence the outcome if India is forced to hold the plebiscite in Kashmir by the international community. Indian administrative and legal initiatives are not in accordance with the Indian constitution or commitments of Indian democracy. They neither withstand the bare minimum of morality standards, nor are they in accordance with international law and fundamental human rights.
Pakistan may consider assembling a team of veteran diplomats, ambassadors, and high commissioners, who are familiar with the history of the conflict and can deliver Pakistan's and Kashmir's cases to the international audience. Because the foreign press has sufficiently addressed and highlighted the events in Kashmir, international opinion is forming against India. As European nations are especially concerned with promoting and defending human rights, Pakistan should publicize Indian human rights violations and seek cooperation from European Union members.
Modi is following in the footsteps of Hitler who introduced Nuremberg Laws to segregate, incarcerate and marginalize German Jews resulting in the Holocaust. Growing ‘Nazism’ in India will lead to the Holocaust of Muslims. The only difference between Modi’s India and Hitler’s Germany is that RSS-inspired Modi’s India is a nuclear-armed state. By imposing inhuman restrictions on IIOJK, India has turned the paradise-like valley into the world’s largest open-air prison. Peace in South Asia is hostage to the unresolved Kashmir issue. International community must intervene to stop Indian transgressions and human right violations in IIOJK.
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1. ET Online, “Around 25 Lakh New Voters Likely to Be Enrolled in J&K: Chief Electoral Officer,” The Economic Times (Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., August 18, 2022), https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/around-25-lakh-new-voters-likely-to-be-enrolled-in-jk-chief-electoral-officer/articleshow/93630262.cms.
2. Pakistan Today, “Experts, political parties question record addition of voters to IIOJK final list”, Pakistan Today. https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2022/11/27/experts-political-parties-question-record-addition-of-voters-to-iiojk-final-list/
3. Adnan Rahman and Sania Muneer, Pakistan Vision Vol. 21 No. 2, 2020, Punjab University. http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/studies/PDF-FILES/5_v21_2_20.pdf.
4. Staff Report, “Kashmir's Former PM Accuses Modi for Registering Non-Locals, Indian Forces' Personnel as Voters in IIOJK,” Pakistan Today (Nawa Media Corporation, September 7, 2022), https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2022/09/07/kashmirs-former-pm-accuses-modi-for-registering-non-locals-indian-forces-personnel-as-voters-in-iiojk/.
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