by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 6, Muharram, 1444)
August 5 has become another grim anniversary in the long list of anniversaries that the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir observe every year. It was on this date in 2019 that the Indian fascist regime headed by Narendra Modi unilaterally abrogated articles 370 and 35A, abolishing the autonomous status of the state as well as opening the floodgates to non-Kashmiris, mostly Hindus, to settle there.
There was immediate reaction against Modi’s illegal move. It was denounced not only by the Kashmiris but by their friends and allies worldwide as well as by all people that cherish freedom and uphold justice as a fundamental principle of life. In subsequent years, August 5 has been observed to draw attention to Modi’s illegal action as well as express rejection of this diabolical move meant to subjugate the already oppressed people of India’s Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
This year will be no exception. Kashmiri leaders of all political persuasions have already issued statements condemning India’s fascist tactics in IIOJK as the August 5 anniversary approaches. For instance, Vice Chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Ghulam Ahmad Gulzar, issued a statement from prison saying that August 5 is one of the most tragic, painful and darkest days of modern Kashmir history. He further said that the Kashmiris will always observe it as exploitation day, a day of mourning and a black day. Ghulam Ahmad Gulzar is held in Srinagar Central Jail.
Without mincing words despite clear danger to his life, the APHC leader said in a statement from jail that on August 5, 2019, the RSS-backed fascist regime led by the killer of humanity Modi usurped political, social, religious and all other basic rights of the Kashmiris. He said Modi had turned IIOJK into a huge open-air prison and imposed suffocating restrictions in the territory.
Describing it as an attack on Kashmir’s unique identity, culture, employment, demography and basic fundamental rights by Hindutva forces, he called for unity among the Kashmiris to confront Hindutva imperialism and expansionism. He said the life, property, honour, culture, identity, land and everything of the Kashmiris was at stake today.
Long before Modi’s illegal move three years ago, the 10 million Kashmiris were already languishing under a brutal military regime. India has maintained more than 900,000 troops in Kashmir in an attempt to crush the spirit of resistance and freedom. Nearly two-thirds of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was illegally occupied by invading Indian army forces in October 1947.
The Kashmiris’ struggle for their fundamental rights predates India’s illegal occupation in October 1947, indeed even the creation of Pakistan and India in August 1947. The people of Kashmir had staged their first uprising against the Hindu Dogra ruler, Hari Singh in 1931.
Comprising three parts—the Kashmir Valley (more than 97 percent Muslim), Jammu (62 percent Muslim) and Ladakh (predominantly Buddhist with 20 percent Muslim population)—the state’s overall population was predominantly Muslim. The Kashmir Valley comprises the bulk of the state population with Srinagar serving as state capital.
The Kashmiris were fed up of the Hindu ruler’s oppression and wanted to overthrow the yoke of Hindu imperialism. Their struggle intensified in October 1947 and has continued ever since. While the Dogra ruler fled, an even more ruthless occupier, much larger and better armed, occupied the state. The people’s struggle against the new Hindu occupiers has continued unabated despite India deploying more than 900,000 troops.
Indian occupation troops have indulged in wanton killings, rapes and fake encounters to kill the Kashmiri youth. India has embarked on a policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Since 1989, more than 95,000 Kashmiris have been killed. Recorded cases of rape against Kashmiri women and girls stand at more than 11,000. The actual number is much higher because many families, not wishing to incur the stigma of rape, do not report such cases to the police. Even if reported, not one Indian soldier or other offender has been apprehended much less charged with this heinous crime.
There have also been large scale arrests of Kashmiri leaders. Some have been moved out of Kashmir into jails in India in contravention of international law. The Hindu fascists, however, are not constrained by legality or morality. They use brute force to achieve their nefarious agenda.
Yasin Malik, a long-time freedom struggler and peace activist, has languished in India’s notorious Tihar Jail for years. He was convicted on fake charges and brought to court. He refused to be represented by a lawyer and spoke directly to the judge pointing out that the charges against him were fake.
He was sentenced to life in prison. Indian courts are notorious for handing down political judgements. Yasin Malik went on hunger strike on July 22 and his health condition, already precarious because of a serious heart ailment, deteriorated so much that he ended up in hospital. There are grave concerns for his well-being. Kashmiri leaders inside Kashmir and abroad have demanded that he must be provided proper medical care. Given the Hindu fascists’ genocidal policies, this may not be forthcoming. They would rather see Yasin Malik than alive.
Since August 2019, the Kashmiris’ already grim plight has worsened. For them it is no longer an issue of the restoration of abrogated articles. Now they are struggling for their very survival. With prolonged curfews and clampdowns over the last three years, most people are literally on the verge of starvation. Their very survival is at stake. Their financial losses exceed $10 billion.
It is a deliberate policy of the Modi regime: forcible evictions and usurpation of the Kashmiris’ lands. It is the same policy the zionist occupiers are pursuing in Palestine. Like the zionists, the Hindu fascists take over any area or locality by simply declaring it a ‘sensitive security zone’. They have already taken over strategic mountain tops and golf courses declaring them militarily sensitive areas.
The prolonged lockdown has meant that people have run out of provisions and their life’s savings. Fruit growers that depended on this seasonal produce have been unable to tend to their trees and hence harvest them properly. Further, restrictions on movement have resulted in fruits that have been produced and harvested, rot before reaching the market.
People live in constant fear of being evicted by forcible seizure of their property. While the Kashmiris—indigenous people of the land—are subjected to this terrifying policy of land grab in contravention of all international laws, Hindu settlers brought in from India are being accommodated.
Hindu temples are springing up in localities where no Hindus have ever lived before. This clearly points to the policy of forced settlements to make the occupation permanent. In fact, ethnic-cleansing of indigenous Kashmiris and ethnic-flooding of Hindu fascists are being pursued simultaneously in utter disregard of the international and UN-acknowledged status of Jammu and Kashmir as being “disputed area,” where any such change is manifestly illegal.
The Hindu settler colonialists are pursuing a multi-pronged policy. The “security” pretext is used not only to bring in more troops but also to settle military personnel in strategic areas. Many are retired army personnel or bureaucrats that have in the past served in Kashmir and are, therefore, familiar with the local environment, geography and topography. They are also sufficiently desensitized to suffer any pangs of conscience in brutalizing the Kashmiris.
The other group comprises Hindu fascists of the Hindutva brigade. These Hindu fascists are determined to not only turn India into a completely Hindu state with no place for any other religious minority, but also occupied regions like Jammu and Kashmir. Between April and December of 2020, more than 3.2 million non-Kashmiris, mostly Hindus were settled in Kashmir, according to then President Masood Khan of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, more non-Kashmiri Hindus have been settled.
The aim is clear: change the demography of the state and turn the Kashmiris into a minority. This is classic settler colonial policy. Can genocide be far behind, as feared by Genocide Watch three years ago? The nomadic Muslim tribal people, the Bakarwals and Gujjars, of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir are particularly vulnerable. They have already faced thousands of such motivated evictions.