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Amanat Ali Chaudhry

The writer, a Chevening scholar, studied International Journalism at the University of Sussex. Twitter: @Amanat222 Email: [email protected]

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Hilal English

India's Hybrid Warfare in Kashmir

May 2024

Despite India's attempts to cloak its actions in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the truth remains unwavering: oppression wrapped in misinformation is still oppression.



In 2023, the world commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA). It was a stark reminder that the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) still lack fundamental human rights and the crucial right to self-determination. The UDHR serves as the cornerstone of the global human rights movement and state obligations.


The extensive Indian occupying force has implemented a systematic campaign of repression, including extrajudicial killings, the use of pellet guns resulting in fatalities and injuries, forced disappearances, and imprisonment of Kashmiri leaders.


Since the partition in 1947, the people of Kashmir have been unjustly denied the full spectrum of human rights and freedoms outlined in both the UDHR and the VDPA. The VDPA explicitly states that all peoples have the right to self-determination, enabling them to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social, and cultural development. It also emphasizes the need for effective international measures to ensure the implementation of human rights standards for people living under foreign occupation.
Over the past 76 years, India has employed various strategies, from promising a UN-supervised plebiscite to bilateral negotiations with Pakistan, to using force to suppress the indigenous freedom struggle. Despite changing tactics of intimidation, coercion, torture, and suppression of basic rights, Kashmiris remain steadfast in their commitment to their cause. They are willing to make sacrifices for their right to self-determination.
The Indian government, under Prime Minister Modi, took illegal and unilateral actions on August 5, 2019, aiming to change the internationally recognized disputed status of IIOJK and alter its demographic structure. This included a substantial increase in military presence, resulting in one of the most densely militarized regions in recent history.
The extensive Indian occupying force has implemented a systematic campaign of repression, including extrajudicial killings, the use of pellet guns resulting in fatalities and injuries, forced disappearances, and imprisonment of Kashmiri leaders. These actions constitute a grave violation of human rights and indicate a disturbing trend toward potential genocide. Additionally, India has imposed arbitrary legal and administrative measures to promote demographic changes in the region, further violating international law.
Moreover, a series of arbitrary legal and administrative measures have been enacted to facilitate land confiscation, the influx of non-Kashmiri residents, and the establishment of foreign settlements in the region of IIOJK. Millions of new domicile certificates have been issued, indicating a clear intent to alter the demographic makeup and majority status of Kashmir Muslims in their homeland. This deliberate manipulation of demographics constitutes a grave violation of international law, including a blatant breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The most alarming aspect of this situation is the ruthless use of unrestrained force, coupled with absolute impunity. For generations, resilient Kashmiris have endured fear, intimidation, torture, and severe human rights abuses. However, the depth of Indian oppression in Kashmir transcends these atrocities. Indian authorities have not only expanded their methods of committing further crimes in the occupied region but have also imposed a suffocating veil of silence over IIOJK through an extensive physical lockdown and a total blackout of information.
For many years, Indian occupation authorities have employed censorship and surveillance measures. Since August 2019, this control over information has become even more entrenched. Journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders face frequent imprisonment, physical violence, humiliation, harassment, and prosecution under oppressive laws when they attempt to report accurately on the human rights situation in IIOJK.


The Indian occupation forces shocked the global community when they forcibly took custody of the mortal remains of Syed Ali Geelani, a revered Kashmiri leader and steadfast freedom advocate. This act violated his wish to be laid to rest in the "Cemetery of Martyrs" in Srinagar. 


Additionally, in an effort to silence authentic representatives of the Kashmiri population, who have led a nonviolent and lawful struggle, Indian authorities have subjected nearly the entire Kashmiri leadership to unlawful detention.
The Indian occupation forces shocked the global community when they forcibly took custody of the mortal remains of Syed Ali Geelani, a revered Kashmiri leader and steadfast freedom advocate. This act violated his wish to be laid to rest in the "Cemetery of Martyrs" in Srinagar. It serves as a stark reminder that India's state-sponsored terrorism in IIOJK knows no bounds.
It is evident that India is not only an aggressor and repeat offender in terms of violating human rights but also the primary promoter of Islamophobia in the region. Official support for anti-Muslim hatred and violence in India, including in IIOJK, has increased since 2014. This is largely attributed to the influence of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)-inspired 'Hindutva' ideology, exacerbating tensions that are difficult to mitigate.


Indian authorities have not only expanded their methods of committing further crimes in the occupied region but have also imposed a suffocating veil of silence over IIOJK through an extensive physical lockdown and a total blackout of information.


As innocent Kashmiris endure unimaginable atrocities at the hands of Indian occupation forces, the international community must heed the call of its collective conscience. Peace and human rights are indivisible concepts; any threat to human rights in one place jeopardizes them everywhere.
Prominent leaders in the Islamic world, along with parliamentarians from various regions, courageous civil society activists, and responsible voices within the international media, have consistently expressed support for the Kashmiri people. Hopefully, their numbers will continue to grow, and their voices will gain even more prominence.
The UN Secretary-General demonstrated both moral and legal clarity when he articulated the UN's stance following India's actions on August 5, 2019. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) convened several times to discuss the matter, decisively rejecting India's false claims that Kashmir was solely an internal matter. Equally commendable was the contribution of the EU DisinfoLab, which exposed the hollowness of India's attempts to portray a false sense of 'normalcy' in IIOJK.
Basking under the borrowed glory and ‘euphoric’ in its perceived international status and lack of accountability, India under Modi continues to implement a hybrid war on Kashmiris aimed at their disenfranchisement and inflicting heavy political and diplomatic costs.    
Hybridity manifests in various realms, including cultural, political, biological, and military contexts. When applied to warfare, "hybrid warfare" denotes the fusion of conventional military methods with non-military resources aimed at achieving broader military and strategic objectives. This approach suggests that if traditional hard power methods fail, alternative means should be pursued.
The adoption of hybrid warfare often follows the inadequacy of conventional military tactics, particularly in situations of foreign occupation or colonization where occupying forces struggle to suppress the collective aspirations of indigenous populations.
Two key factors drive the use of hybrid warfare. Firstly, it highlights the limitations of relying solely on military force in prolonged conflicts, especially when confronting the deeply rooted idea of self-determination tied to socio-cultural, historical, political, and religious identity. Secondly, it aims to subvert consensus on collective identity and self-determination by sowing confusion, exacerbating divisions, and manipulating information to weaken the resolve of the affected nation.
The protracted Jammu and Kashmir dispute exemplifies the steadfast resistance of a people against Indian policies characterized by intimidation, brute force, enforced disappearances, and occupation.
IIOJK, labeled one of the most heavily militarized regions globally, serves as a prime example of the Modi government's utilization of hybrid warfare, with information manipulation as a central tactic.
The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP’s) agenda to transform India into a Hindu-centric nation aligns with its actions in IIOJK, where the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's limited autonomy in August 2019 needs scrutiny through the lens of ongoing information warfare in the region.
In the contemporary era dominated by information, narrative power holds immense importance. Hybrid warfare strategically exploits the influence of the information age, employing tactics like disinformation, cyber-attacks, and media manipulation to shape perceptions and influence opinions. For instance, India's efforts to project normalcy during the G-20 tourism working group meeting in IIOJK in 2023 exemplify this strategy.
India's covert dissemination of disinformation, as exposed by the EU DisinfoLab in 2021, and orchestrated tours for members of the European Parliament to showcase a false sense of normalcy in IIOJK underscore its attempt to portray the Kashmir issue as resolved following the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's statehood by the Modi government.
The Indian Supreme Court’s decision validating all actions of the Modi government taken on August 5, 2019, is part of this narrative, aiming to depict the Kashmir question as an internal matter of India to evade international scrutiny and criticism.
The implementation of a controversial media policy by the Modi government in June 2020 expanded authorities' control over the narrative, leading to further restrictions on press freedom. Kashmiri journalists, who have endured imprisonment, torture, and job dismissals, exemplify the harsh enforcement of this information warfare strategy. Despite temporary releases, they faced immediate rearrests, often under oppressive laws like the Public Safety Act, illustrating the precarious state of press freedom in IIOJK under Indian authorities.
Additionally, shutdowns and restrictions on local media outlets serve as deliberate efforts to regulate information dissemination, aiming to shape a narrative by limiting access to credible reporting by journalists. Despite India's prowess in information technology, repeated internet shutdowns and strict regulation of social media platforms highlight the country's systematic suppression of press freedoms. The arbitrary arrest of journalists on terrorism charges and the closure of critical news outlets are part of a broader strategy to construct an alternate reality and evade global criticism. The intentional removal of critical articles from websites, alongside the circulation of ghost articles through leading Indian news agencies, further demonstrates the manipulation of information to fit a curated narrative. Travel bans on critical journalists and the closure of press clubs contribute to isolating the region from international scrutiny. Even respected international media outlets like the BBC face interference, as evidenced by Indian tax authorities' raids on BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai in response to critical documentaries.


The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) convened several times to discuss the matter, decisively rejecting India's false claims that Kashmir was solely an internal matter. Equally commendable was the contribution of the EU DisinfoLab, which exposed the hollowness of India's attempts to portray a false sense of 'normalcy' in IIOJK.


This erosion of media freedom is part of a larger hybrid information warfare strategy to reshape the perception of Modi's India and portray a false sense of normalcy in IIOJK. The increasing cyber threats, including surveillance, smear campaigns, and harassment of journalists, highlight the government's draconian approach to dissent. A significant data breach exposing sensitive personal information raises concerns about data security, particularly in IIOJK, where the distribution of ‘Aadhaar cards’ poses risks to the local population's safety.
Furthermore, Indian cinema, exemplified by films like The Kashmir Files, perpetuates anti-Muslim prejudice and legitimizes violence, contributing to the poisoning of societal attitudes toward Muslims, particularly Kashmiri Muslims. These misrepresentations exacerbate existing societal divisions, fostering an environment of hate, discrimination, and isolation.
While the world grapples with persistent instability in various regions, durable peace and stability in South Asia are difficult to envision until a just and final resolution of the Kashmir dispute is achieved. The issue of human rights abuses cannot be ignored indefinitely, simply because India is a favored choice of the West in their efforts to counter China and due to its significant global market.
To address and potentially rectify the deteriorating relations between Pakistan and India, which began on August 5, 2019, the international community must exert pressure on India to reverse its unlawful and independent actions on that day and all subsequent measures aimed at altering the demographic structure of IIOJK. The world cannot shirk its responsibility in this matter. It owes this much to the people of Kashmir. If allowed unchecked, Hindutva-inspired nationalism will not only be a permanent factor of instability in South Asia but also carry implications for global peace and stability. The world must recognize the gravity of the situation in Kashmir, take decisive action to address human rights abuses, and support the Kashmiri people in their pursuit of self-determination. Ignoring these issues undermines the principles of peace and human rights globally.


The writer, a Chevening scholar, studied International Journalism at the University of Sussex. 
Twitter: @Amanat222
Email: [email protected]
 

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Amanat Ali Chaudhry

The writer, a Chevening scholar, studied International Journalism at the University of Sussex. Twitter: @Amanat222 Email: [email protected]

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