As much as India may try to convince the world that its brutal occupation in Kashmir is meant to crack down on terrorism, its actions show the reality of the situation. From the use of rubber bullets that have blinded hundreds of children to the regular cell phone and internet blackouts, India has repeatedly humiliated and immiserated the Kashmiri people. Its ultimate aim is to conquer and subdue the region to the point that none dare resist it. This is the thinking behind its recent decision to ban the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, accusing it of supporting extremism and militancy.
JKLF was one of the groups that originally took part in the armed resistance to Indian occupation in 1988. But the group’s leader Yasin Malik – who himself was detained without bail by India last month – renounced violence in 1994 and committed to waging only a political struggle for independence. By arresting Malik and banning the JKLF, India has confirmed that it sees any opposition to its occupation, no matter how peaceful it may be, to be illegitimate.
In the last month, the Jamaat-e-Islami too has been banned in Indian-occupied Kashmir and more than 300 of its leaders arrested. With similar action now likely to be taken against the JKLF, the resistance in Kashmir will not be destroyed but will possibly turn to more extreme methods. Whenever colonial forces – as India surely is in Kashmir – outlaw moderate opposition, it only guarantees that the occupied population will be even more enraged. If the peaceful methods of the JKLF lead to mass arrests, the reasoning goes, then violent resistance is the only option left to the beleaguered Kashmiri people. As India tries to blame the Kashmiris for any response, it is important to keep in mind who the guilty party is here. It is India which has denied a people free will and continues to occupy a territory. It is India which has banned groups that seek their rights peacefully. And it is India which continues to maintain its illegal occupation with brutal and constant violence. If the peaceful ways of the JKLF are no longer available to the people of Kashmir, it should come as no surprise if they turn to more extreme groups.