Kashmir, India and the World

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On the first day of year 2020, India completed 150 days of siege of Kashmir – longest ever in any place with the world’s longest-ever internet blockade.  The military cordon remains entrenched and unwavering to activate with the usual brutality but this time around with a wild vengeance whenever Kashmiris display any potential for resistance. So far, the only reason Kashmir has been spared a bloodbath is the strategic restraint of the population from taking out any large demonstrations that would have allowed the authorities to commit mass murder on a much larger scale than what Mehbooba Mufti did in July 2016 in the aftermath of Burhan Wani’s killing when nearly 150 youths were brutally killed and tens of thousands injured or blinded. Earlier, in 2008 and 2010-11, similar massacres were carried out to quell mass uprising. There are reliable reports that the Indian government of Modi had prepared a ruthlessly cold blooded contingency plan of mass public massacre to control any consequential Kashmiri reaction in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370. That it did not happen is attributable to a sudden maturity from Kashmiris or a divine providence or both. From New Delhi’s point of view, absence of large-scale public battering does not bode well for her future predatory engagement with the people and the region. Had a few massacres happened, the total ban on communication would have masked it well and in a world of fast-changing priorities, it would have even been forgotten by the world by  leaving Kashmiris exhausted to mourn and lick their wounds all alone, as they’ve done in the past. However, most observers are of the view that a public rebellion is inevitable and is lurking around in the very presence of a prying security apparatus. Thankfully, the bloodbath has been avoided, at least so far but for how long?

Kashmir is under a tight grip, its people occupied and their movements monitored. In the sky, drones conduct sweeping Israeli-inspired surveillance over protest sites, helping armed forces identify ‘miscreants ‘The internet is still disconnected. Foreign journalists remain banned from visiting the region, while opposition leaders have been prevented from visiting. The only foreign delegation allowed to travel to Kashmir was a select group of mostly right-wing parliamentarians from the Europe Union. Not only are Kashmir’s pro-freedom leaders in detention, but even those pro-India political leaders on the margins of Kashmiri society, who for decades were integral to India’s grip on Kashmir, remain locked up too. Arundhati Roy writes, “Right now, 7 million people in the valley of Kashmir, overwhelming numbers of whom do not wish to be citizens of India and have fought for decades for their right to self-determination, are locked down under a digital siege and the densest military occupation in the world. Simultaneously, in the eastern state of Assam, almost two million people who long to belong to India have found their names missing from the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and risk being declared stateless. The Indian government has announced its intention of extending the NRC to the rest of India. This could lead to the manufacture of statelessness on a scale previously unknown” At the hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States Congress on the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir that was held less than a month after the hearing of the Subcommittee on Asia of the US House of Representatives; the Lantos Commission hearing reflected continued international concern over the situation in Kashmir, observing it as an internationally recognised dispute and highlighted gross human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis. It called for an independent fact-finding mission to Indian Held Kashmir and underscored the right of self-determination. At its hearing, "The witnesses also called for immediate lifting of the communications blockade and restoration of human rights in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Overall, it was emphasised that India should not be allowed to continue its oppressive policies as well as religious and ethnic persecution." "The hearing also expressed their concern that persecution of religious minorities in India, especially manifested in the form of anti-conversion legislation, Babri Masjid verdict, National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam as well as mob violence and lynching were fostering a growing sense of fear among the minorities in India."

Pakistan: Handling of Kashmir Crisis

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s desire to be a peace-maker is admirable but his instinctive optimism can at times lead to a hazardous blind. Pakistan options are limited for a meaningful and credible reaction to the Indian moves in the region. It has effectively managed to engage the world at diplomatic level. It has been fairly successful in its endeavours but as they say diplomacy also has a shelf life. He succinctly declared “Pakistan will go to any lengths to support the cause of the oppressed Kashmiri people”.  It is a historical fact that no freedom movement has succeed without help from outside. While the world at large has been driven by their economic and geopolitical interests in India they have conveniently abandoned Kashmir. The large number of Kashmiris in Pakistan and the Kashmiris Diaspora overseas feel that Pakistan has also abandoned them as mere rhetoric and diplomatic engagement is not enough. They expected Pakistan to come up with a” clearly articulated narrative” to support Kashmiri freedom movement. They could have in fact come up with a narrative to support this movement within the legal framework of United Nations of supporting legitimate freedom movement and Kashmir Movement is legal, legitimate and historical. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi a highly respected former Ambassador of Pakistan summed it up by stating, “An alternative scenario is for Pakistan to abandon the Kashmiris in IHK to their fate while maintaining a furious and largely unproductive diplomatic campaign against Indian atrocities. There are many in Pakistan who quietly or openly advocate such an approach to ensure the survival of the country. Many suspect the government is itself wedded to this approach despite its public denials.”

The Indian Supreme Court (SC): Kashmir and Ayodha

The Indian Supreme Court (SC) had assiduously projected   itself as a custodian of India’s secular democracy. While the judiciary in India has struggled to remain impartial in countering majoritarianism, however its sovereignty and integrity is fast dwindling. The Indian Supreme Court (SC) vagueness and dithering over the current Kashmir crisis, and its controversial verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, are an indicator of how dangerous is the reach of RSS and Hindutva. Indians feel very disappointed and losing faith in the Supreme Court. It is now feared that the Ayodhya verdict will become a precedent which can be applied to other disputed religious sites, which will likely worsen the already fraught relationship between India’s Hindus and Muslims. The Indian apex court is now being criticised widely for having undermined its earlier record of progressive and tempered jurisprudence. With the superior judiciary having been tamed thus, there are unfortunately no other state institutions which now stand in the way of tempering excesses of an ultranationalist fascist government, as it continues undermining India’s claim of being the largest secular democracy in the world.

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