Newspaper Article 17/05/2022
The ethereal beauty of the Kashmir valley is being assaulted by the ugliness of Indian depredations on human rights and international law fronts in the disputed territory.
The disputed status of IIOJK is a fact established by 18 United Nations resolutions. The statement of the Russell Tribunal mentions the Kashmir issue as the worst exemplar of settler colonialism, genocide and crimes against humanity. The tribunal has based its opinion after hearing evidence from two genocide alerts given by Genocide Watch. The only big difference this time is the obliteration of Kashmiris’ identity through an insidiously choreographed annexation campaign.
The denial of human and political rights has been combined in a perfect storm of identity denial through killings, torture, rape and gerrymandering of political constituencies to impose a puppet chief minister who can sanctify the gross violation of human rights and international law by doing the bidding of the Indian government.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) has in its recently unveiled report in April 2022 recommended that India be listed as “Country of Particular Concern.” USCIRF is an independent bipartisan US Congress mandated entity created under International Religious Freedom Act 1998 (IRFA). The report has put India on the list of concern for the third year running, highlighting egregious violation of religious rights and freedoms through discriminatory laws such as Citizen Amendment Act.
The denial of religious freedoms and visceral hatred for minorities is in line with the extremist puritanical ideology of Hindutva that aims at sanitizing India of all non-Hindu faiths to pave the way for a Hindu Rashtra. Eliminating all vestiges of pluralism and religious diversity is aimed at religio-cultural homogenization of India that has given rise to a spate of human rights violations spanning a wide gamut of crimes including crime against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing especially in Occupied Kashmir, northeastern states, Rajasthan, Gujrat, UP and Maharashtra.
The apotheosis of this ethno-religious xenophobia has been witnessed in Kashmir whose illegal annexation in August 2019 has set in motion a cascading sequence of encroachments aimed at erasure of Kashmiris’ identity. This is being achieved through a systematic campaign of alteration of demography and centuries-old land ownership pattern.
Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) has been without a representative government since 2018 and is being ruled directly by New Delhi through Lieutenant Governor Manoj SInha. The latest attempt at artificially limiting the Kashmiri presence in the legislature is the announcement of new delimitation of electoral constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government’s delimitation commission has increased the number of assembly seats in Hindu dominated Jammu from 37 to 43 while adding only one seat to Muslim majority Kashmir Valley’s existing tally of 46. The addition of six seats in Jammu compared to only one in Kashmir gives a clear advantage of five seats to Hindu community. The biased commission has also awarded two reserve seats to Kashmiri migrants who are predominantly Hindus and in the grip of government-inspired vitriolic propaganda against Kashmiri Muslims through hate spewing films such as Kashmir Files.
According to Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP, a relatively moderate political leader, the gerrymandering of the electoral constituencies is a blatant attempt at disempowering the Muslim community before even one vote is polled in the elections. In 2002, Occupied Kashmir’s government and India had amended their constitution deferring the delimitation of constituencies till 2026. A new census superseding the census of 2011was planned to be held in 2021 whose results were to be the basis of new electoral delimitation in 2026.
Instead of abiding by that commitment, the BJP government encouraged by the revocation of Article 370 and 35 A in August 2019 has taken the ultimate step towards formalization of annexation through illegal delimitation of constituencies based on existing population. According to independent analysts, one person in Jammu is now equivalent to 1.3 persons in Kashmir due to iniquitous electoral delimitation that badly discriminates between 56 per cent of valley-dwelling Kashmiris and 44 per cent Jammu dwellers. The clever majority altering artifice is clearly aimed at bringing the BJP to power in IIOJK through rigged elections to legalize the illegal annexation of the disputed region to the Indian Union.
A dispassionate analysis of the new delimitation of constituencies shows that by carving out one constituency for 1,25,082 people in Jammu as opposed to 1,46,563 in Kashmir Valley 1,009,621 people have been disenfranchised in Occupied Kashmir. Manipulation of constituencies has been a long-standing ambition of the BJP government as it has often raised the bogey of under-representation of the Jammu region. The party had won 25 seats in the 2014 assembly polls and was made part of the government for the first time in Occupied Kashmir’s history. Having tasted blood in 2014, it now aims to capture the chief minister’s slot through an artificially altered political geography of the region. The delimitation has come in for scathing criticism in IIOJK with Farooq Abdullah, the president of National Conference, terming the exercise illegal while the Gupkar Alliance challenges the constitutionality of the Delimitation Commission in the Supreme Court of India.
The delimitation exercise itself is a product of a bigger depredation – the infamous Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019, that illegally sought to assimilate IIOJK in Indian Union. Under the act, the IIOJK assembly would have 90 seats excluding the 24 seats reserved for areas across the Line of Control. The original sin of resiling from UN-mandated plebiscite commitments has been revisiting the hapless denizens of the disputed region with metronomic regularity. First it was a wriggling out of plebiscite commitment on spurious grounds of troops’ presence, then it was a mirage of autonomy enshrined in Article 370 of the Indian constitution, and later stripping of that autonomy through revocation of the same article in 2019.
The Indian depredations in IIOJK have even compelled pro-India leaders like Farooq Abdullah to comment that present India is more Godse’s India than Gandhi’s India, driving Kashmiris towards an armed uprising. Indian human rights violations are rapidly attaining the hues of crimes against humanity and genocide which now needs an international intervention sooner than later to avert another WWII type holocaust.
Note: This article appeared in The News, dated 17 May 2022.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.