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August 28, 2019



August 28, 2019

The last three weeks have been agonizing for the Pakistani diaspora in the US as the matter of Kashmir has descended from a conflict to an outright catastrophe, particularly so for Muslims of Indian-held Kashmir.

The status of the people of Kashmir has been precarious for the last several decades, as the government of India has tried to subjugate a restive population. It has been widely reported that more than half a million Indian soldiers are deployed in Kashmir to keep the population under control, making it one of the most militarized zones in the world outside of active war zones.

In early August, in the lead up to stripping away the autonomy of Indian-held Kashmir, the Indian government placed a total communication blackout on Kashmir. This autonomy was an integral part of the “articles of ascension” through which India claims control over all of Kashmir. Reports, however, have continued to trickle out of the region about resistance by Kashmiri civilians and brutal strong-arm tactics by Indian forces.

In the US media most reports and commentators have criticized the Indian government’s measures. A few writers, however, have supported actions by the Modi government as a "necessary step" which would be for the betterment of the residents of the region. The question then is that, if this is so, why does the government of India have to effectively lock up millions in their homes to implement these steps?

In an opinion piece in the 'Washington Post' sympathetic to the Modi government’s actions, I noticed a video clip labeled "fact checker." It was a six-minute video news clip contradicting the Indian government's statements of peace and calm in Kashmir. The video footage showed Kashmiris protesting in the streets and being fired upon by Indian forces.

The question for those of us of Pakistani origin living in the US is: what can and should we do to help under these circumstances? Many experts have written in great detail in the US press describing the history of the conflict and the steep price paid by Kashmiris. Coverage in the US press has been generally fair and detailed. While much of the focus of discussion about Kashmir in Pakistan and among Pakistanis has been about whether all of Kashmir rightfully should be a part of Pakistan, I think the time has now come to start to focus on the welfare of Kashmiris themselves. With the nativist policies of the Modi government, people of Indian-held Kashmir face a real threat to their safety and security, even to their very existence. This comes at a time when attacks on minorities by nationalist Hindu mobs have become increasingly commonplace across India.

Following the Indian government's actions revoking the autonomous status of Kashmir, sloganeering among Hindu nationalist segments in India has become downright ugly. There is talk of “avenging” centuries of Muslim rule over India and how full assimilation of Kashmir into India is the final step in reversing that.

It is hard to imagine any military or even diplomatic steps that could reverse the outcomes of the past several decades for the people of the region. Intervention in Indian-held Kashmir over the past three decades has not been productive, and has only triggered harsh actions by the Indian government against Kashmiri civilians. The best thing we can do is to continue to draw the world’s attention to the suffering and subjugation of the Kashmiri people by the Indian state. It is important also to continue to shine a light on how minority rights are being trampled every day in India, the so-called world’s largest secular democracy.

The writer is a freelancecontributor based in Washington DC.

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