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October 14, 2018

Violence and votes


October 14, 2018

Manan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian security forces on Thursday, was emblematic of the spirit of the Kashmiri liberation movement. Until last year, he was studying for his PhD in geology at Aligarh Muslim University. However, he decided he was left with no choice but to fight against the illegal occupation of his land. It seems he has now paid the ultimate price for that. Like Burhan Wani before him, in death Manan will likely become a symbol of hope for a younger Kashmiri generation that is no longer willing to tolerate the daily abuses and humiliation of the Indian occupation. Despite a complete media blackout imposed by India, thousands turned out for Manan’s funeral and observed a day of mourning on Friday. His killing yet again shows that India is not even trying to feign concern for the legitimate grievances of the Kashmiri people. The Indian state tries to deflect any criticism of its abysmal human rights record by trying to tar the home-grown liberation movement in Kashmir as terrorists working at the behest of Pakistan. But Manan’s own words from last year, when he explained why he was quitting his doctorate to take up arms against the occupying force, show that the desire for freedom rests in all Kashmiri hearts irrespective of any Pakistani involvement.

Manan’s killing also exposes the ongoing local elections in Kashmir as a farce. Two of the four phases of the election have now been completed and turnout in the Kashmir valley has been estimated at three percent as opposed to 76 percent in Jammu. The third phase of the elections began on Saturday amidst a massive crackdown, calling into further question the legitimacy of the polls. The first local government polls in 13 years in occupied Kashmir are hardly worth the name as even the two main pro-India political parties – the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party – are boycotting the elections. Both parties are worried that the exclusive citizenship law, which allows the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of Kashmir in a way that does not change the demographics of the area, will be repealed by the government or the Supreme Court. The BJP has used Kashmir as a way of shoring up its Hindutva support in India ahead of next year’s elections. Its anti-Muslim rhetoric is at its peak in Kashmir and it has ramped up human rights abuses in the hope of winning extremist support. Once again, the international community is averting its gaze from the daily atrocities in this conflict region.

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