On January 5, 1947, the United Nations (UN) Security Council resolved to hold a plebiscite to ascertain the right of self-determination to the people of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) to decide their future status. Past and contemporary struggle germane to Kashmir dispute revolve around Kashmiris’ will to exercise their right of self-determination. The right to self-determination is a vital component of human dignity and negation of this right is negation of human freedom. Kashmiris, in this context, have been living in turmoil for decades. The surge in Indian atrocities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K) has been compounded by the lock down, communication blockade and coronavirus pandemic. The international community must take notice of the sufferings of the population of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJK).
Indian occupation forces have crossed all red-lines in IIOJ&K, as far as human rights are concerned. Last August, Indian government repealed Articles 370 and 35(a) of the Indian constitution, disavowing Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K)’s semi-self-governing status and officially attaching the contested area (between India and Pakistan). Article 370 permitted the area to have its own constitution and laws. Article 35(a) cherished the privileges of indigenous Kashmiris towards land, education and employments. In actuality, the Indian move was aimed at demographic change in IoJK as, even before abrogation of articles, India has been working on the establishment of the frameworks for changing the ethnoreligious cosmetics of IIOJ&K.
With the annulment of Articles 370 and 35(a), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed to ensure peace and stability in the region. According to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the abrogation of articles is “to normalise the abnormal situation that has persisted [in Jammu and Kashmir] for 40 years” together with bringing the district at standard with other Indian states and reinforcing national solidarity. Similarly, Mr. Modi has been creating convincing stories of progress, advancement and improvement to legitimize its activities in IIOJ&K.
In reality, Indian administration’s forceful strategies towards the locale have harmed its advancement and economy. According to the Washington Post dated August 01, 2020, IoJK’s economy suffered the loss of US$ 5.3 billion in one year. Moreover, around 5 lakh Kashmiris lost their jobs. Rape has been used as a weapon of war by India and 11000 women has been raped. Furthermore, India has placed around 2 million people from outside into IoJK for demographic change, which is a clear violation of 4th Geneva Convention. According to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) report, “the new domicile law could permanently alter the demography of the disputed region.” The report also touched upon the India’s poor handling of Corona Virus Disease (Covid-19) in IOJK, where “many doctors in the region have been harassed and beaten by government forces while performing their duties.”
After August 5, 2019, the longest barricade in history of any democracy was forced in the area. A large number of extra soldiers were moved in, organizations and schools were closed down and a total lockdown was upheld. By mid-March this year, the spread of the novel coronavirus required another lockdown. According to Kashmir Chamber of Commerce (KCCI), “Kashmir’s economy has incurred losses of up to $5.32bn and more than 100,000 people have become unemployed since India stripped Kashmir of its special status.”
Kashmiris unambiguously accept that India is purposely attempting to quench their right to self-determination. With a governmentally designated lieutenant governor making major decisions, even pro-India lawmakers have raised worries that an inundation of outcasts, joined with the suspension of protections for local people, will shred Kashmir’s social, political and monetary texture. In July, the Indian government allowed endorsement to the Indian military to do development exercises past military cantonments to accommodate “security needs with formative goals”. On the ground, this approach could convert into whole territories being dominated and created for the utilization of Indian officers.
In its bi-annual report covering the events from January 1 to June 30, JKCCS said that “the region witnessed the extrajudicial executions of at least 32 civilians and the killing of 54 armed forces personnel… It also saw 55 internet shutdowns and the destruction of 48 structures… three children and two women were also killed, while at least 107 cordon and search operations and cordon and destroy operations were conducted in the region.” The report also adds that “vandalism and destruction of civilian properties were reported.” Kashmiri media has also been muzzled through harassment and intimidation.
As per the report, “besides physical assaults, a few Kashmir-based journalists were also booked under stringent charges and cases were filed against them… the police filed cases against two Kashmiri journalists under the Unlawful Activities Act, which clearly infringes on the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press as such tactics signal a forewarning for media personnel to adhere to the state narrative.” Moreover, after the massive protest because of Indian abrogation of Article 370, the internet services have also been banned since August 05, 2019; internet was totally blocked 55 times. Most worryingly, a new media policy is also introduced that would enable India “decide what is “fake,” “unethical” or “anti-national” news and take legal action against the journalist or media organisation concerned, including sharing information with security agencies.”
Indian discriminatory citizenship laws, demolition of Babri Masjid and increasing hate crimes against Muslims (76 per cent of all hate crimes in India) should be enough to tremble the sane minds of the globe. Moreover, abrogation of Article 370 of Indian Constitution by the Modi governments was a war crime under 4th Geneva Convention, providing a conducive environment for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology to proliferate in pursuit of its political strategies. Unfortunately, India has been enabled by weak international response.
Indian revisionist behaviour and aspirations of becoming regional leaders coupled with grave human rights violations in India and beyond has become a matter of serious concern for international community. India should keep in mind the fact that Kashmir is lying in between two nuclear countries. J&K is still a disputed territory and actions like abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A is an attempt to change international law. India has flouted international norms, and the UN must stop India from further pursuing its ulterior motives in the region. UN should also honor its 72 years old commitments.
Note: This article appeared in Geopolitica, dated 09 January 2021.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.