Friday July 01, 2022

Altering Kashmir

December 31, 2016

Unnerved by the latest round of Kashmiri intifada, New Delhi has stepped up military and non-military aggressive measures against the Kashmiri population in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). The recent decision of the IOK state government to grant domicile certificates to 20,000 non-Kashmiri Hindu families is one such step.

The settlement of outsiders in the IOK is part of a long-term plan of the Indian establishment that is altering the region’s demography to dilute the Muslim population. Further, this huge mass of outsiders in IOK serves as an intelligence-gathering network against the freedom movement. In fact, India is emulating in Kashmir whatever Israel is doing in Palestine – fencing the LoC, using settlements to alter demography, using pellet guns, discarding the United Nations’ resolution and attempting cross-border raids.

On December 23, the domicile issue sparked a fresh bout of street protests and clashes between protesters and the occupying forces in many parts of the Kashmir Valley, including Sopore, Srinagar and Bandipora districts. The police lobbed tear gas shells and used lathis (batons) to disperse the crowds. IOK’s political parties from across the spectrum have condemned the state government’s move and have vowed to resist it.

Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik was arrested when he tried to lead a protest rally in Srinagar over this issue. Before his detention, Malik said Kashmiris will not hesitate from spilling their blood to protect the Muslim majority character of the state. The settlers, who had allegedly migrated from Pakistan, include only 20 Muslim families.

Malik also condemned the Indian Supreme Court orders – in which it permitted outside banks to seize and hold properties in IOK – and termed it part of the conspiracy to change the state’s demography. Communist Kashmiri leader Yousuf Tarigami warned New Delhi against “violating and eroding the special status of J&K”.

The National Conference has described the issue of domicile certificates ‘a first step towards getting them permanent resident status and property rights in the IOK’. The party spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu said, “Granting refugees state subject rights is tantamount to leaving the law meaningless. That is something we will not allow at any cost”.

In this sinister game, New Delhi enjoys the support of IOK’s Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. She loses no opportunity to please her masters and appeals to anti-Kashmiri sentiments of Hindu extremists. In one of her vile attempts to appease her bosses in New Delhi, she described Kashmiri Muslims as cats and pandits as pigeons.

The Indian establishment has raised the controversy of domiciles to non-Kashmiris at this time when the valley has been on boil for the last six months following the cold-blooded murder of Burhan Wani in the Anantnag district. Indian leaders and intellectuals, including some from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) visiting IOK, have testified to the gravity of unrest in the region and its indigenous nature, falsifying the media propaganda against Pakistan.

The former union minister, Yashwant Sinha, who along with four other eminent citizens visited IOK twice in the last few months, reportedly said in a recent interview to The Hindu that “the narrative in Kashmir Valley was a very strong feeling of betrayal and of discrimination against the Kashmiri people by the rest of India and that the most important example of this sense of betrayal was over the use of pellet guns which were not used in any other place apart from Kashmir Valley”.

Indian newspaper The Telegraph has reported that since July 2016, over 12,000 Kashmiris had been sprayed by pellet barrages that left many blinded for life. According to figures reported in the Indian media, Indian forces martyred more than 140 Kashmiri freedom fighters in IOK in 2016.

Since July 2016 radicalisation among the youth has been on the rise and more and more Kashmiri young men have been joining the freedom struggle. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah remarked, “Burhan’s ability to recruit into militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media”. A new breed of freedom fighters have emerged – tackling them will be a challenge for the occupying forces once snow starts melting in the coming months.

On November 25, an Indian writer Jean Dreze wrote in his article in The Hindu, “The Indian Army is perceived, almost unanimously, as an occupying force, and people are fed up with the controls, crackdowns, searches, arrests, beatings, torture and pellet guns. The most common graffiti found around towns and villages of Kashmir is: Go India, go back”.

The claims of Indian Army’s surgical strikes on September 29 in Azad Kashmir have not weakened the resolve of Kashmiri freedom fighters. In December, an Indian army convoy in Kashmir’s Pampore came under attack. Military casualties for the Indian forces have also risen. In 2016, by their own official account, the Indian armed forces deployed in IOK have lost more than 63 men compared to 33 in 2015 and 32 in 2014.

In these conditions, granting IOK domiciles to non-Kashmiris is a clear message from New Delhi – it will employ all possible means to keep the occupation of Kashmir and that it has no regard for the wishes of the Kashmiri people. What matters most for the government of Narendra Modi is pleasing its Hindu extremist constituency at home. The domicile decision may win some extra votes for the ruling party in the forthcoming state elections at home but it has further inflamed the Kashmiri population.

There are signs that Kashmiris will forcefully resist this sinister move. As winter recedes, agitation in the Kashmir Valley is set to intensify. The state government will either have to suspend the implementation of this order or take it back. Israel is not a good model for India. The sooner the Indian establishment realises this reality, the better it will be for the security of the region.