Indian occupied Kashmir has become a toxic cauldron of brutal repression and popular resistance that can spill over into conflict between nuclear-armed states, threatening not only regional but global security. As Pakistan observes Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5, this should serve as an alarm bell for the international community to help resolve the volatile Kashmir dispute before it engulfs the region and indeed the world at large. At peril are international principles governing human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as the very security and survival of the people in this region. As such, Kashmir is a dangerous cauldron that can potentially unleash nuclear holocaust.
Kashmir has been the oldest unresolved international dispute between Pakistan and India ever since India illegally occupied a greater portion of the territory in 1948, in response to which the UN Security Council called for an impartial plebiscite empowering the Kashmiri people to choose their allegiance between the two countries. India, however, reneged on its commitment to implement the UN-mandated referendum once it realised that majority of the Kashmiris would not vote to join India. In cahoots with a few Kashmiri quislings, the Indians created the fig-leaf of Kashmiri autonomy under articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution but in reality retained all substantive powers in New Delhi. Repeated rigged elections and frequent imposition of central rule denying true self determination to the Kashmiris led to a popular uprising in 1990 which continues undeterred to this day, despite massive repression by Indian authorities.
Even such a sham was unacceptable to the Hindu fascist BJP government of Prime Minister Modi which revoked articles 370 and 35A on 5th August 2019, and imposed a complete lockdown, enforced by over 900,000 troops, turning occupied Kashmir into the most militarised zone in the world. All political leaders and activists, including Indian collaborators, were arrested and imprisoned along with lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders. Even women and children were not spared.
Given impunity under draconian laws such as the Public Safety Act, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Indian troops have unleashed a reign of terror to bludgeon the Kashmiris into submission. This state of siege has led to widespread denial of fundamental freedoms and systematic massive human rights violations including rape, torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, fake encounters, custodial deaths and involuntary disappearances. Weapons especially meant to cause grievous injury such as pellet guns have been used, even against children, inflicting loss of eyesight and limbs. False-flag operations are employed to kill and intimidate ordinary citizens. Sham trials have been used to arrest and torture innocent civilians. Even as thousands of Kashmiris have fallen victim to such repression, Indian military officials have been awarded for their “gallantry”.
By revoking article 35A, the Modi government seeks to change the demographic composition of Muslim-majority occupied Kashmir and convert it into a Hindu-dominated area. Under the new domicile law, 4.2 million non-Kashmiri Hindus have been given domicile certificates, while under the new land ownership laws, non-Kashmiris have been allowed to purchase property and dispossess the local population. The objective is to change the demographic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of occupied Kashmir.
These policies not only violate the Indian constitution but more importantly UN resolutions, international law and the bilateral Simla and Lahore agreements with Pakistan.
Pakistan’s recent comprehensive dossier on Indian human rights violations in occupied Kashmir supplements statements and reports by the UN Secretary General, the President of the UN General Assembly, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Security Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Countries. These violations include war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Evidence in this regard has also been provided by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, by the Russell Tribunal on War Crimes and by Genocide Watch. Similarly, British Lawyers have called for the arrest of the Indian Army Chief and others for war crimes and genocide.
Even as the Modi government pursues its barbaric policies, the negative fallout for India is already obvious. Not only has India invoked international opprobrium but also lost Kashmiri hearts and minds including the support of its own Kashmiri puppets. In this situation, India cannot sustain its hold over Kashmir by brute force forever, especially since the Kashmiri resistance has grown rather than weakened.
Modi’s policies have also intensified tensions with Pakistan which has clearly rejected any engagement as long as Indian repression in occupied Kashmir continues. The Indians are also in no position to compel or intimidate Pakistan as was demonstrated by the brief clash between the two sides in February 2019. Nevertheless, the danger of another flare-up remains either due to false-flag Indian operations or an Indian outrage against the Kashmiris. Kashmir is, therefore, a powder keg between two nuclear powers.
Perhaps even more ominous for India is the renewed border confrontation with China which Modi triggered by his August 2019 action, changing the status of disputed Laddakh. Since then there have been repeated clashes between Chinese and Indian troops, with India losing considerable territory to China.
Resultantly, Modi has provoked a two-front confrontation with Pakistan and China in Kashmir which places India in a strategically vulnerable position which even the Indo-US strategic alliance cannot prevent. This raises the spectre of confrontation between not two but three nuclear powers.
Eventually, sooner rather than later, responsible Indian leaders will have to recognise the strategic compulsions of resolving tensions with Pakistan and China which will have to begin by ending the repression in Kashmir and finding a solution acceptable to all sides, especially the Kashmiris. In the meantime, Pakistan must continue to highlight the Indian violations of human rights in occupied Kashmir in order to enforce an end to Indian repression. Until then the Kashmir cauldron will continue to spew its toxic radiation.
Courtesy The Express Tribune