A year after Kashmir lost its special status
It has been a year since India stripped the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir of its limited autonomy by unilaterally revoking Articles 370 and 35A of its constitution. During this period, the silence of the world community over the human rights violations committed by the Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan territory remained deafening. India also subjected the region to a major security lockdown, cutting it off from the rest of the world by blocking 4G communication channels and turning Kashmir into the only human settlement in the world with little or no internet connectivity for such an extended duration.
The Hindutva regime in New Delhi believed it could squash the dreams and aspirations of 12.5 million people of Jammu and Kashmir with such highhanded measures. Despite strict curfews, however, a number of protests were witnessed in the streets of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) where people were seeking independence from India. According to some report, 69 killings in Jammu and Kashmir were recorded between August 5 and December 2019, challenging India’s official narrative that there was no violence and loss of life in the wake of its decision to integrate the occupied region with the rest of the country.
Apart from political suffering, the Valley is also in dire straits in economic terms. From August 5, 2019, until the end of the year, Kashmir’s economy suffered a loss of more than $2.4 billion, according to the region’s main trade organization. The economic situation has only worsened in 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown restrictions.
In the last week of March, the United Nations called for “an immediate global ceasefire to put armed conflict in lockdown,” and focused on measures to prevent the vulnerable population from the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Indian occupation forces had other ideas and they decided to use the pandemic to crack down on Kashmiri journalists, step up police abuse under newly expanded anti-terror laws, and increase rights violations toward the local population.
Even as Pakistan has been continuously raising its voice for the people of 'Indian Occupied Kashmir', the country cannot do much in the international arena alone. The world community, especially the UN, needs to fulfill its duty and collectively question New Delhi’s increasing transgressions against the people of Kashmir before it’s too late
It is unfortunate that in IOK, where there is one soldier for every nine people, there is only one doctor for 3,900 residents and one ventilator for 71,000 individuals. Owing to the curfew-like restrictions imposed by the Modi regime in the valley and lack of access to independent media, it is almost impossible to gauge the real impact of COVID-19 in the valley.
To make matters worse, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindu nationalist government has been systemically exploiting the pandemic to fast track New Delhi’s colonial ambitions by changing the demographics of Jammu and Kashmir. In October 2019, India formally ended Kashmir’s statehood. As a result, IOK’s flag and constitution were eliminated owing to the region’s new status. The Indian quest to remove the Kashmiri identity is so prevalent that even the name of the state-run radio station has been changed from “Radio Kashmir Srinagar” to “All India Radio Srinagar.”
On March 31, 2020, India introduced a new domicile law which now makes it possible for non-Kashmiris to get a domicile certificate, buy property, and apply for competitive examination using the region’s domicile. Between the months of May and June, 25,000 people were provided domicile certificates as India followed the “demographic flooding” strategy adopted by Israel in the West Bank. It is assumed that the step was taken to undermine any future plebiscite to determine the political fate of the territory by changing its demographics by converting a Muslim majority area into a Muslim minority territory.
India is the third most COVID-19 affected country in the world. Yet, its belligerence along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan has remained unabated. To divert attention from its domestic failures, Indian forces have significantly increased border tensions with its neighbors, especially Pakistan. According to Pakistan’s military, in 2019, 3,500 incidents of Indian ceasefire violations were recorded, whereas, in the first seven months of 2020, more than 1,800 violations have been noted. Earlier this year, an Indian drone was shot down in Kashmir region amid the worst border clashes in two years.
What’s worrisome is that India has been ignoring UN reports questioning its human right violations as a state. In July 2020, the Modi regime ignored a report made by “four UN special rapporteurs asking New Delhi to investigate allegations of torture and custodial killings of Muslims in Occupied Kashmir that have occurred since January 2019.” The report stated that the representatives also remained “deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations” and called on India “to conduct an impartial investigation into all the allegations of arbitrary killings, torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute suspected perpetrators.” However, like the previous UN communications sent last August and in February this year, this report was also overlooked by New Delhi.
Even as Pakistan has been continuously raising its voice for the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir, the country cannot do much in the international arena alone. The world community, especially the UN, needs to fulfill its duty and collectively question New Delhi’s increasing transgressions against the people of Kashmir before it’s too late.
Kashmiri lives also matter.
*Sehar Kamran is the President of the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), she is a prominent politician, acadmeician and practitioner in the areas of regional, international defense and strategic studies. Twitter @SeharKamran