Modi’s charade of peace in Kashmir has failed

Modi’s charade of peace in Kashmir has failed

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Ever since Delhi’s abrogation of Article 370 that stripped the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir of its special autonomous status, Pakistan has raised the issue on numerous international forums but to no tangible avail, except for reports published by human rights groups across the globe highlighting the plight of Kashmiris who have been living in a state of near-perpetual curfew since Aug. 5.
But after a complete clampdown on independent media reporting, despite which a steady trickle of credible news sources continued to inform the world of life under curfew in the region, last week Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited in a group of 27 mostly far-right members of the EU Parliament to show the world all was well and at peace in Kashmir.
This was the first international delegation to visit Kashmir since August, a group of people who hold the same ultra right-wing views as Modi, all of them sipping tea on a boat on spectacular Dal lake, Kashmir’s famous ‘Lake of Flowers.’
The delegation met with specially handpicked groups of people including traders and students and were assured the Indian government was party to no human rights violations and was ‘winning hearts’ in the valley.

Modi’s attempts at presenting an alternate reality about what is really happening in the valley has failed and he has been heavily criticized in his own country and around the world for cherry-picking like-minded leaders from a singular ideological background as neutral observers.

Naila Mahsud

Despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s efforts to prove nothing was amiss through a blatant charade, the BBC reported that as soon as the announcement of the delegation’s visit was made, loud speakers of a mosque echoed with voices of protest.
It is important to analyse who the members of this ‘impartial’ delegation from Europe truly were. From the total number, the MEP’s included 22 belonging to either right-wing or far-right parties, three to the center-right and only two to center-left parties.
Six of the UK’s MEP’s who visited Kashmir belonged to the Brexit party. Six French members of the delegation belonged to Marine Le Pen’s far-right national rally party. A high-ranking member of this party, also part of the Kashmir delegation, is Thierry Mariani, who openly supported the Russian annexation of Crimea and is accused of hailing Bashar al-Assad of Syria a hero. Another Polish MP of the delegation, Bogdan Rzonca, is notorious for his anti-semitic remarks and tweeted in 2017: “I wonder why among abortionists there’s so many jews, despite the holocaust.”
These were the people representing Europe in Kashmir as part of Modi’s efforts to present a rosy picture of a dire situation that has been repeatedly reported as violent and unjust in major news and media around the world.
Naturally, the neutrality of parliamentarians from nationalist and anti-immigration parties comes into question. To assess the situation in a Muslim majority region under a clampdown, more than a third of the members of the European delegation were generally considered anti-Muslim. The move also caused massive criticism from opposition parties in India, including Muslim leader Asadudin Owaisi.
An MEP of the United Kingdom’s liberal democratic party, Chris Davies, said last week that his invitation to Kashmir was revoked when he demanded free movement and a chance to talk to the locals of Jammu and Kashmir without being accompanied by security forces. Voicing his concerns for the people of Kashmir, he said he wouldn’t “join a PR stunt” and staunchly opposed the BJP’s narrative of ‘winning hearts.’
The fact is, as history has repeatedly shown us, governments do not win the hearts and minds of people by taking away their freedoms and imposing military rule. Even before the abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir was one of the world’s most highly militiarized regions. Now it is flooded with even greater numbers of troops.
So what is it that the Indian government is hiding? And why will it not give journalists and visiting politicians free access to speak with locals?
Modi’s attempts at presenting an alternate reality about what is really happening in the valley has failed and he has been heavily criticized in his own country and around the world for cherry-picking like-minded leaders from a singular ideological background as neutral observers.
Kashmir indeed is no longer a tug-of-war between India and Pakistan. The world must demand the truth from the Indian government, because it is a world at risk on the sidelines of two nuclear-armed rivals and their age-old conflict. This is now a global problem, and people everywhere have a right to know what is really happening in Kashmir.

– Naila Mahsud is a Pakistani political and International relations researcher, with a focus on regional politics and security issues. Twitter: @MahsudNaila

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