by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 10, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1438)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing the region towards nuclear conflict that will cost the Hindu state dearly.
Far from adhering to even the minimal standards required of a state in its conduct, the Indian government led by Narendra Modi is involved in a dangerous game against the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistan that could easily spin out of control. The Valley of Kashmir as it is called, has been in the throes of renewed uprising since the July 8 execution-style killing of the young Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Wani. It led to a spontaneous uprising. Given the resentment that has built up over decades because of the Indian army’s brutal occupation and the people’s demand for freedom through referendum, the protests of the people with slogans and stones have been ongoing. The movement is entirely youth driven, including women and children.
In less than five months, more than 125 people have been killed. This figure, however, does not accurately capture the plight of the Kashmiris. More than 15,000 have been injured and hundreds of youth, among them bystanders as well as school children merely peeping out of windows, have been blinded because the Indian occupation forces have resorted to using pellet guns. These are supposed to be “non-lethal” weapons. Several people have died when hit by pellet guns; hundreds of youth have been blinded and permanently disabled. And then there are cases of rape against the Kashmiri women, the most degrading and humiliating form of suppression the brutal occupiers have inflicted on the people.
India’s atrocious conduct against the Kashmiris has aroused some concern on the global stage, though not commensurate with the severity of the crime. Far from improving its horrible conduct, India has embarked on a policy of dangerous escalation and provocation. In recent weeks, India has intensified artillery fire across the Line of Control (LoC). This is the line that divides the two parts of Kashmir — Indian occupied Kashmir and Azad (Free) Kashmir — and where the armies of the two countries face each other. While theoretically the fire is traded between the two armies, in reality, India is targeting the civilian population in Azad Kashmir as well. This was evident from last month’s attack on a passenger bus in which 11 civilians were killed. The Indian army also attacked an ambulance rushing the injured to hospital resulting in the killing of three others. Such barbaric practices have been witnessed only in Iraq and Syria where the terrorist groups are operating.
Those groups are rightly condemned as terrorists. India is involved in similar conduct not only against the people of Jammu and Kashmir but it has also now launched similar attacks against civilians in Azad Kashmir. These constitute war crimes. Regrettably, India has not been subjected to the kind of opprobrium that its atrocious conduct deserves. Indian-doting Western regimes and their media outlets are largely silent when even Indian civil society groups have spoken out against such crimes. Take the case of the 25-member delegation of Indian civil society groups from various parts of the country that visited Jammu and Kashmir from November 11 to 20. The group released its findings on November 25. The delegation included human rights activists, women as well as journalists, and talked to people from all walks of life. Their report said, “These unarmed protests have been met with sustained attack by the Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir police and paramilitary, including with the use of pellet guns, PAVA shells and firearms. We learnt of several deaths caused by targeted killings of unarmed civilians by armed forces in the absence of protests or demonstrations.”
The killing of unarmed civilians constitutes war crimes. These are deliberately targeted killings, as the Indian delegation’s report confirmed. “Most deaths we came across have been caused by injuries waist-above, without any warning fire. Deaths and injuries caused by pellet guns too are all above the waist and preponderantly at eye level causing blinding or long-term ophthalmic damage.” Similarly, the delegation found that the police leveled unsubstantiated allegations against those killed accusing them of being “anti-national.” “These government actions amount to a violation of the right to life.”
This is the internal situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. India is an illegal occupier and the people of Kashmir have demanded, since 1947, the right of self-determination as enshrined in more than a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions. India has not only refused to abide by its own pledges but is now involved in a dangerous escalation at the Line of Control.
The Modi regime (Modi is a fascist and follows an ideology akin to Nazism) wants to divert attention from its crimes against the people of Kashmir by turning it into a war between India and Pakistan. While Pakistan is certainly an interested party in the Kashmir dispute, Modi’s policy of escalation by using heavy artillery is meant to draw the Pakistan army into responding in kind. Even while showing great restraint, the Pakistan army cannot remain inactive while its soldiers and civilians are getting killed. Modi also has internal compulsions. Crucial state elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP province) are due in February. He wants to project himself as a tough leader to the Hindu fascists through whose support he became the prime minister in 2014.
The Indian prime minister is playing with fire. This could easily escalate and spin out of control engulfing the entire region in a nuclear conflagration. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed states. Beyond their borders lie China and Russia, also nuclear armed. Modi is pushing the region toward the Doomsday scenario. If he believes that Pakistan would lose in such a scenario, he seems to be living in a dream world. Unfortunately, his Western allies — the US, Britain, France and others as well as most Muslim countries — by their silence have given the impression that India can do what it likes against the hapless Kashmiris as well as threaten Pakistan. The Western regimes are interested in selling goods to India and seek investment opportunities. How a destabilized region would be good for foreign investment is a question the Western do-gooders need to answer. Further, there must be a realistic assessment of India’s true situation. There are more than 400 million Indians living in abject poverty. Twice the total population of Pakistan itself, such people cannot afford a daily square meal in India. This is not the hallmark of a country claiming to be a rising economic power!
Thoughtful Indians have realized the dangers in Modi’s policy. As mentioned above, the Indian delegation comprising civil society groups has made its findings known. In October, Indian journalist Santosh Bhartiya took a four-day trip to Indian-occupied Kashmir. He penned his finding in an open letter to Modi. Bhartiya’s letter was published in Rising Kashmir. In it he admitted that while “the land of Kashmir is with us, the people of Kashmir are not with us.” He recounted how the Kashmiris — whether 80 years old or six — express great resentment toward India. They do not even wish to talk to people whom they view as representing India.
Modi needs to be snapped out of his delusions. As a Hindu, he may not care about being incinerated (even alive) with nuclear weapons since he believes he will be reincarnated in a “better form” — why that would be the case is not clear — but the rest of the world does not wish to go down that route. He must be stopped. The world stood against Adolf Hitler in 1939–1945. Perhaps it is time to confront the present-day Hitler. The Indian civil society group’s proposals published on November 25 called upon India to “recognize the Kashmir dispute and accept that its resolution can only come through a political solution, not through military intervention and a suppression of all human and democratic rights.” It also called for the withdrawal of all armed forces from Kashmir, the repealing of all oppressive laws forthwith, and allowing for “access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for a UN fact-finding mission in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Is Modi capable of listening? We do not hold much hope but it is for thoughtful Indians and others to prevent the situation from escalating further.