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Kashmir: From occupation to settler-colonialism and apartheid

Dr Ghulam N Mir

Chicago, September 07 (KMS): 75 years have passed since the British imperialists decolonized the subcontinent leaving the region divided and Kashmir invaded and occupied by its neighbor, India. As a result, Kashmiris were gripped with a never-ending cycle of state sponsored violence and terror.

On October 27, 1947, in the final days of the British rule India invaded and occupied the territory of Jammu and Kashmir with the blessings of British viceroy Mountbatten. There was a deep web of conspiracies orchestrated behind the scenes by an aggressive team under Pandit Nehru. Indian forces had already clandestinely intruded deep into Kashmir even while Jammu and Kashmir was still under Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule which was facing a popular uprising of his own, including an armed rebellion in Jammu province. The Maharaja was weighing his options. He had jailed Kashmiri leader, Shaikh Abdullah and committed a civilian massacre of Muslims in Poonch. That bloody massacre fueled an outrage against Dogra rule. Jammu Muslims shared kinship with neighboring Muslim tribes of Northwestern Frontier who naturally could not stand by idly and watch their fellow kin men being butchered ruthlessly next door in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan had a moral duty to intervene, it was too little too late. In the Poonch and Jammu genocide a quarter million Muslims were executed and over half a million forced to flee across the border into Pakistan. To this day they have not been allowed to return to their homeland.

As the resistance mounted, India took the matter to the UN Security Council for its intervention. UN Security Council did intervene and brokered a cease fire between the warring parties and passed more than a dozen resolutions, including the following resolutions to secure a permanent solution to the conflict in the subsequent years:

UN Resolution 39 of January 20, 1948, to achieve a Ceasefire.

Resolution # 47 of April 21, 1948, to implement a fair and impartial plebiscite between India and Pakistan.

Resolution # 91 of 1950 which spelled out very clearly that any action the so-called Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir that might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation of Kashmir would not constitute a disposition of the state in accordance with the principles of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted by the United Nations.

Unfortunately, the UNSC’s monumental failure to force India to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir has led to three wars between India and Pakistan and enormous human suffering over the last 75 years. The region’s future remains in peril with three nuclear powers – India, Pakistan and China standing face to face with each other. The matter remains unresolved and this is a monumental failure of the UNSC’s to force India to let the Kashmiris to exercise their right to self-determination.

Faked and rigged elections in Kashmir have failed. Ruling through local puppets and corrupt quislings has been tried by many Indian regimes without success. The UN and influential Western and Muslim nations have betrayed Kashmiris.

Disillusioned and exasperated Kashmiris, particularly successive generations of Kashmiri youth, will try whatever strategies and tactics they can to push back against Indian strategies and tactics of oppression colonization and Indian state terror. Modi regime’s terror tactics, mass imprisonments will fail as did those of its predecessors. The trigger to violence has always been the sight and sound of Indian soldiers terrorizing and humiliating Kashmiri civilians.

The rebellion of 1990 was crushed with overwhelming and ruthless power of over 800,000 military and paramilitary forces. The most militarized region under one of the most brutal regimes of the world has not seen a day of peace since 1990. The Modi regime is the worst by far. Not since the days under infamous Jagmohan, the butcher of Kashmir in 1990 has Kashmir seen the level of oppression and state terror.

In the intervening night of August 4 and 5, 2019 a deathly calm and an eerie silence fell on Kashmir! Whispers of silence spread across Kashmir. They sounded like the trumpet of the doom’s day resonating with the diaspora ten thousand miles away in the US when a gleeful Indian government announced a total lockdown and black out throughout the valley of Kashmir. No soul could come out of their homes, no businesses could open. Overnight thousands of additional troops were ferried in. Thousands of them were suspected to be paramilitaries and RSS private militia of the well-trained Saffron forces. All electronic civilian communication lines were cut in the neighborhoods and beyond. The only beings that moved were the inhuman military and police beasts. Hordes and gangs of different military and paramilitary forces entered homes hunting for young people – dragging them out, loading them into military vehicles and carried them hundreds of miles away into detention centers in different parts of India for interrogation under innovative ways of torture. At its peak as many as 13,000 children were reported to be held in detention centers. Most families did not know where their children were held. The horror and terror in neighborhoods were such that no one knew who would be next. Many that were taken away were never to come back just like in 1990s.

Schools and colleges were closed for nearly eight months – way before Indians themselves were forced to close their own by the pandemic. All in all, Kashmiris suffered isolation, lockdown and black out nearly a year before Covid-19 pandemic. This all was done under the RSS/BJP regime of Narendra Modi to implement a new plan in Kashmir. He had already dissolved Kashmir Assembly and Kashmir government on Nov 18, 2018 as a prelude to what was to come, which people knew would happen.

India abrogated Articles 370 and 35-A. These Articles were jointly negotiated between Indian and Kashmiri governments on October 17, 1949. Article 370 of Indian constitution granted Kashmir internal autonomy and authorization to draft its own constitution. Under article-35A Kashmiri citizens alone had the domicile right: to vote and be elected in elections, right to own immovable property and hold public sector jobs. No foreigners, including Indian citizens would have those rights in Jammu and Kashmir.

Under previous regimes, Indian parliament did incrementally undermine and erode theses constitutional guarantees. But it was the fascist government of PM Modi that dealt the final mortal blow to Kashmir with its proud historic Kashmiri identity on August 5, 2019 by abrogating Articles 370 and 35-A. Most Kashmiris never believed a word of any Indian leader not even Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, let alone Narendra Modi, but it took a fascist Hindu regime to prove the skeptical Kashmiris right. It is the brazen disregard of the Hindutva regime which claims to be the champion of Hindu religion and its values that is galling. If true Hindus do exist and they keep silent at this brazen breach of an international treaty and allow true Hinduism to be hijacked, well then shame on them too. Their silence is costing India and Indian Hinduism dearly. Kashmir and Kashmir Muslims are not the only victims.

What followed Abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A is an apartheid in the making with the following steps being taken:

The state was bifurcated into two union territories separating Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir. The age-old State Subject law was nullified and replaced with a new domicile ordinance granting millions of Indians domicile rights in J&K. 4.3 million Indian Hindus were granted domicile in Jammu & Kashmir. 2.5 million Indian citizens were issued ballots to vote in future elections of Jammu & Kashmir.

Gerrymandering by a delimitation commission – redrawing boundaries and increasing the number of constituencies to 90 – Hindu dominated regions get 43 seats (up from 37) in Jammu while Muslim majority Kashmir valley gets 47 seats (up from 46 seats). Forced demographic change as a part and parcel of apartheid system.

Importing bus loads planeloads of Indian Hindus to acclimatize and entice them to overwhelm Muslim population. Expropriation of private and public lands for military families and Hindu-Indian importees.

Muslim home demolition on flimsy excuses of fighting terrorism. Forcible squatting and occupation of Muslim homes by military. Pillaging: Borax, sapphire, graphite, marble, gypsum, limestone. Robbing Hydroelectric power.

Mass imprisonment of political leaders, human rights activists, journalists, social media activists. Promotion of drug addiction among youth.

Possible solution to the Kashmir crisis:

United Nations Security Council resolutions provide the only firm basis to resolve the Kashmir conflict. It recognizes the fundamental right of all nations to determine their right to self-determination under international law. Modalities and specifics of implementation can be determined by representatives of the three parties to the dispute – India, Pakistan and legitimate political representatives of Jammu and Kashmir. The dialogue can be mediated by a credible mutually acceptable third-party mediator, such as the UN or a neutral third party.

Pending such an approach the conflict can go on indefinitely leaving the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe, including an unintended one. To deescalate the conflict India must pull out its occupation forces from neighborhoods, release from its vast network of prisons all political prisoners, human rights defenders, journalists, and social media activists. India must repeal the illegal orders that abrogated Article 370 and 35-A passed on August 5, 2019. It must abolish all laws passed or implemented in pursuit of a settler-colonialist project and an apartheid state in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

(The above is the text of the speech given by Dr Ghulam N Mir, President of Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum, at a panel discussion at the 59th Annual Convention of Islamic Society of North America, held at Chicago. The other panelist was Mr Miko Peled who spoke on, “Palestine: Injustice and Oppression in the Holy Land). ISNA Convention was attended by more than 10,000 people who came from all across the United States and Canada).

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