Friday January 28, 2022

Modi under pressure to ‘reconsider’ Kashmir and anti-Muslim policies

August 05, 2021

The Narendra Modi government is under immense pressure from the new US administration, EU, and OIC to review its ultra-Hindutva agenda on Kashmir and against the Muslims and other religious minorities. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his recent Indian visit, minced no words in expressing reservations on the dissent and the discrimination against Indian Muslim population. Biden administration last week appointed its first ever Muslim Religious Freedom Ambassador, in a message to the Indian government and its chief Middle East ally Israel, to reconsider their hard-line agendas. The new US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Rashid Hussain is an ex-US envoy to OIC and his appointment is a signal to engage Muslim population after the wars in Middle East and Afghanistan. It’s worth recalling that China had also appointed its first ever representative to the OIC in June 2021.

The US State Department's latest human rights report on India in March 2021 cited a number of abuses against Muslims and other minorities, and involvement of the Indian law enforcement agencies in high handedness and unlawful acts against the members of the minorities. UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet expressed her dismay at the death of an 84-year-old Christian, ‘Father Stan Swamy’, on July 7, in custody of Indian law enforcement apparatus. Father Stan was a human rights defender and Jesuit priest in Mumbai and was under detention after his arrest in October 2020 under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The UN Human Rights Commissioner has also issued two reports on Kashmir in 2018 and 2019, asking PM Modi to stop human rights violations and calling for an international investigation.

Sixteen members of the European Parliament, including Vice-President for Human Rights and Democracy Fabio Massimo Castaldo had written a letter last week to the president of the European Commission and vice-president for Foreign Affairs indicating India’s atrocities in Indian-held Kashmir. The letter states, “The EU should use all its leverage and tools to cooperate with Indian and Pakistani partners to honour the pledge made to the Kashmiris by the international community and create an environment conducive to implementation of the United Nations (UN) resolutions”. The letter further laments that Modi’s regime has blatantly misused new laws against Kashmiri population, which were enacted to prevent terrorism and separatism. These include laws like the Special Powers Act (SPA), the Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The EU members have expressed concerns over deterioration in relations between two nuclear armed neighbours due to continuous protest by the Kashmiris after ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. As many as 626 of 751 members of the European Parliament had introduced a resolution earlier this year against discrimination towards Muslims in the newly enacted Citizenship Act in India.

In a rare move, Secretary General of the OIC Yousef Al-Othaimeen in July during a meeting with Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia conveyed the desire of the OIC General Secretariat to dispatch a fact finding mission to the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir in line with relevant resolutions of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers. The OIC Resolution 10/47-POL on the Jammu and Kashmir issue had rejected the Indian government actions of August 2019 and termed them violative of the UN Resolutions. The SG OIC also took up a number of issues with the Indian Ambassador concerning the condition of Muslims in India, along with the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and relevant to the UN and OIC resolutions opposing any unilateral actions on the Kashmir issue.

PM Modi had placed all his bets on Trump's win with back to back endorsements of his candidature and global vision in public rallies in US and India. The Trump-Netanyahu-Modi trio emboldened Modi to execute a ‘Hindutva’ agenda with an unprecedented decision in Kashmir and other laws and acts against the Muslims and other religious minorities. With Trump and Netanyahu gone and facing a global backlash on his human rights abuses, Modi is under pressure to redesign his policies against Muslims and other minorities.

The Chinese pressure over unilateral change in the status of Ladakh that bordering China, while Jammu and Kashmir issue also added Modi’s woes. India disastrously handled coronavirus pandemic resulting in shrinking of Indian economy by around 7.5 per cent, while India has to revise its Afghan agenda, as the 95 per cent of the US forces had left Afghanistan. With an anti-Muslim bias, the Indian regime is in vulnerable position to conduct dialogue with the Taliban.

The political resistance by all factions of Kashmiri leadership has become aggressive in the background of these developments. Modi invited them for a summit in Delhi recently but statements after the summit unanimously called for restoration of Kashmir status and talks with Pakistan. Ex Chief Minister of Indian-held Kashmir Farooq Abdullah had last week said in an interview that we are not the servants of BJP. He said we have no confidence in Delhi, and the Modi government would have to talk to Pakistan to find a way to resolve the Kashmir crisis. He came down heavily on Modi’s anti-Muslim policies and said they would lead to dismemberment of India and only the Cow Belt would remain.

A Hawkish senior editor remarked last week that BJP would have to reconsider its policies towards Muslims for internal peace and any chance of a breakthrough in talks with Afghan Taliban. Meanwhile, the Pakistani leadership is also urging PM Modi to withdraw August 5, 2019, decisions on Kashmir and resume dialogue.