by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 7, Muharram, 1441)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s illegal and highly provocative move to abrogate articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution has brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Modi unilaterally abolished Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status whose ultimate fate is to be determined through a referendum as called for in a number of Security Council resolutions. When asked by the New York Times (NYT) whether he would hold a dialogue with Modi, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan rejected this saying his repeated peace overtures have been misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. He called Modi a “fascist” and a threat to world peace (August 21).
Aware that the move would evoke strong reaction from the Kashmiris, the Modi regime arrested or put under house arrest all political leaders including those who had for decades collaborated with India. All eight million Kashmiris were also imprisoned in their homes. At the time of compiling this article, the lockdown has continued.
There are wider implications of Modi’s dangerously provocative act but first let us consider what the Kashmiris are going through. The entire state of Kashmir has become a vast concentration camp. Hundreds of thousands of heavily armed Indian occupation troops are enforcing a 24/7 curfew. Barbed wires and metal gates barricade deserted streets manned by heavily armed soldiers. This is the new reality in Kashmir, especially Srinagar, the capital city. Troops have orders to shoot on sight. The trigger-happy Hindu troops filled with anti-Muslim hate, eagerly kill unarmed Kashmiri civilians. There are several laws that provide them legal cover from prosecution.
Internet and other forms of communications with Kashmir have been shut. Newspapers, television and radio channels are all blocked. The Kashmir Valley has been cut off from the rest of the world prompting Genocide Watch to issue on August 22 a “Genocide Alert” for Indian occupied Kashmir.
Stating that “Genocide Watch’s Ten Stages of the genocidal process are also far advanced,” the group called “upon the United Nations and its members to warn India not to commit genocide in Kashmir.”
Genocide Watch’s warning came on the heels of fears expressed by President Sardar Masood Khan of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on August 20 that genocide may be under way in Indian occupied Kashmir. On August 22, nine Indian opposition leaders also expressed similar fears. Further, they criticized the Indian media for parroting Modi regime’s propaganda without accurately reflecting the reality in Kashmir.
President Masood Khan of Azad Kashmir also pointed out that more than 6,000 Kashmiris had been picked up from their homes since August 5. And in clear violation of International Law and the Geneva Conventions most of the kidnapped detainees have been transferred to prisons in India.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the 89-year-old veteran Kashmiri leader had sent out an “SoS” message on his twitter account urging people worldwide to prevent the planned genocide of Kashmiris immediately after India imposed a clampdown. He called upon Muslims everywhere to come to the aid of their Kashmiri brethren.
Since 1989, Indian occupation troops have murdered more than 95,000 Kashmiris. Rape of women is also used as an instrument of war. Thousands of Kashmiri youth have simply disappeared. Use of pellet guns has resulted in thousands of children being blinded.
Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International as well as the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) have documented Indian state crimes against innocent Kashmiris. The UNHCHR’s latest report was released on July 8, 2019.
On August 22, five UN rights experts released a joint statement in Geneva. “The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the Government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality,” they said. Describing the blackout as “a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence” the UN experts said. “We remind the Indian authorities that the restrictions imposed by the Indian Government are intrinsically disproportionate, because they preclude considerations of the specific circumstances of each proposed assembly.”
The UN experts said they were deeply concerned by reports that security forces were conducting night raids on private homes leading to the arrests of young people. “Such detentions could constitute serious human rights violations,” they said. “The allegations must be thoroughly investigated by the authorities, and, if confirmed, those responsible must be held accountable.
“We are gravely concerned about allegations that the whereabouts of some of those detained is not known as well as the general heightened risk of enforced disappearances, which may proliferate against the backdrop of mass arrests and restricted access to the internet and other communications networks,” added the experts.
The fears by UN experts as well as political figures were expressed against the backdrop of the deployment of tens of thousands of additional Indian troops to what was already the most militarized region in the world. Despite such deployment, the people of Kashmir have not been cowed down. They resisted the illegal occupiers at the first opportunity. When the occupation forces relaxed curfew in a few areas to allow people to offer Friday prayers, almost instantaneously, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets denouncing the occupiers. This is not likely to end and may result in a bloodbath of the Kashmiris.
Modi’s colonization of Kashmir has raised tensions with Pakistan that has demanded not only the reversal of the illegal move but that Jammu and Kashmir’s fate must be determined through a referendum. At least 18 Security Council resolutions affirm this. It was India that took the matter to the UN Security Council in 1948 as Indian forces were on the verge of being driven out of the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
India’s UN move stalled the Kashmiris’ advances backed by Pashtun tribesmen in aid of their Kashmiri brethren and the Pakistan army. India pledged that a referendum will be held and it would respect the wishes of the people. Initially, Indian rulers publicly made such pledges but as India tightened its grip on Kashmir, it started to backtrack culminating ultimately in Modi’s illegal act of August 5.
Shelling and exchange of gunfire on the Line of Control in Kashmir has intensified resulting in several civilians being killed on the Pakistani side. Pakistan is constrained in its response because people on both sides of the ceasefire line are Kashmiri Muslims. It cannot fire indiscriminately, unlike Indian troops who feel no compunction in killing civilians. India has also used banned cluster bombs.
Both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed. While the two countries have pledged to not resort to “first-use policy,” the August 8 statement by India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that India may not abide by this policy is a dangerous escalation of an already tense situation. Singh, like his boss Modi, is a Hindu fascist. They have unleashed millions of their fascist followers on innocent Muslims throughout India, killing and torturing men and raping women (see article about Hindu fascism in India in this issue).
Should a war break out between the two countries, it would be catastrophic not only for the region but the entire world. There is serious risk of the use of nuclear weapons, even if tactical, that could quickly escalate into something much bigger. The very thought of using nuclear weapons is horrifying.
Despite little concern shown by Western regimes, there has been much media coverage about recent developments in Kashmir. On August 23, the New York Times rubbished Indian claims that there was calm in Kashmir. “Our cameras tell a different story,” wrote the Times. This is quite interesting. Developments adversely affecting Muslims are seldom highlighted in the media unless it serves the West’s political interests (plight of Uighurs in China, for instance) or there is little cost involved (Ro-hingya refugees). This is not to suggest that such media coverage in not welcome. It has helped bring the Kashmir issue back to limelight after remaining dormant for decades. For the first time in 50 years the Security Council also held a session about Kashmir on August 16. While nothing earth shattering emerged from the closed-door meeting, there was at least discussion of Kashmir and reiteration of the fact that the dispute is still alive and has to be resolved through relevant Security Council resolutions.
Unfortunately, much of the Muslim world has also ignored the plight of the Kashmiris with some Arabian rulers — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — openly siding with India. As India brutalized the Kashmiris, Saudi Arabia announced a $75 billion investment in India. Tiny UAE welcomed Modi to Abu Dhabi on August 23 to confer on him the Emirates’ highest civilian award. One wonders what these Bedouins think: have they no shame? Certainly, they have no self-respect or dignity.
But Kashmir’s future was never dependent on these shameless puppets of imperialism and Zionism. The Arabian despots have abandoned the Palestinians, so it would be unrealistic to expect them to support the Kashmiris. It is the committed Muslims who will support the struggle to liberate Kashmir.
Modi and his fascist henchmen will likely regret usurping Kashmir. Like a fish-bone it will get stuck in his throat that he can neither swallow nor throw out.