Sunday April 21, 2024

Kashmir in chains

By Raashid Wali Janjua
August 14, 2021

“At midnight on Aug 4, 2019 India turned all of Kashmir into a giant prison camp. Seven million Kashmiris were barricaded in their homes, internet connections were cut and their phones went dead.” – Arundhati Roy

Kashmir remains in chains after two years of illegal annexation by India. Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) presents a picture of discontent and human suffering after two years of annexation. In the last two years, Indians have sedulously encroached upon the temporal and spatial dimensions of Kashmiri identity – in flagrant violation of the UN resolutions that clearly called for a plebiscite in the disputed state to decide its future.

India has reneged on every pledge to the Kashmiri population as well as the international community, opting instead to replicate the Israeli model of occupation of Palestinian territory, through illegal settlements. The latest straw was the farce of some placebo solutions to win over the pliant segment of the Kashmiri leadership gathered under the Gopkar Declaration umbrella. Even these leaders – which included Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, and Muzaffar Hussain Beg among others – rejected the Indian offer.

The revocation of Articles 370 and 35 A of the Indian constitution was the ultimate climax of the Hindutva creed’s implacable march to impose a faith-based cultural and political apartheid in the disputed state. As long as this misanthropic creed was confined to the Indian mainland, disputed territories like Jammu and Kashmir could hope for justice one day. The annexation put paid to such hopes.

The BJP’s promise to erase the cultural and political identity of Kashmir in its electoral manifesto has been put in practice at the cost of human rights and international law. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 was put into practice through the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Removal of Difficulties) Order 2020 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020 which altered the definition of ‘permanent resident’, which now enables India to settle over 2.5 million non-Kashmiri Indians in the region. The Order has also amended ‘The Jammu And Kashmir Civil Services Act’ to install bureaucrats of Indian origin in the disputed region.

Bilking Kashmiris of their identity by carving the state into two parts to be directly ruled by India’s federal government is accompanied by a well-planned assault on demographics, culture, economy and ecology. The demographics are being altered through attempts to settle 2.5 million non-subject Kashmiri Indians in the state. The gerrymandering of electoral constituencies is being done through collusion of newly posted civil servants of Indian origin in the state to steal the next elections.

As if the two years of internet suspension and virtual incarceration of the hapless denizens of the state was not enough, Kashmiris were also subjected to derision and misogynistic remarks of the likes of Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of Haryana, who said that India would now easily bring girls from Kashmir to improve the gender ratio in his state. Kashmir’s citizens have now been declared Indian citizens besides forcing them to fly the Indian flag.

The violation of human rights and international law by Indians needs to be highlighted at all international fora. India has imposed draconian laws such as the Public Safety Act that is violative of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the TADA Act 1987 that violates the UN Convention on Torture. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act violates Article 6 of the ICCPR while the infamous Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2002 and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2019 blatantly violates Articles 6 &7 of the ICCPR. The physical manifestation of the above is harrowing. Since August 2019, 15000 people have been arrested along with 390 extrajudicial killings. Around 3.8 million ‘non-domicile’ people have been settled in Occupied Kashmir and out of those 1.2 million have been added to the voter list as well. A world record of digital apartheid was created by denying Kashmiris internet for 213 straight weeks.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in his annual report on ‘Children and Armed Conflict’ denounced the barbaric use of pellet guns against children in Occupied Kashmir, which led to the death of 39 children while 30 were maimed. Voices of criticism are also emerging from the US about Indian human rights abuses in Occupied Kashmir. Senator Bob Menendez specifically asked US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to raise issues of human rights abuses during his visit to India.

The Indian lockdown imposed through 900,000 troops has rendered half a million Kashmiris unemployed since 2019, along with a cumulative loss of $5.3 billion to the state’s economy. Now the question arises: what to do? The answer lies in a two-pronged offensive comprising diplomacy and lawfare. Epistemic warfare should shape the environment for the diplomatic and legal offensive. If a small country like Gambia can press charges against Myanmar regarding Rohingya genocide at the ICJ, then Pakistan can do much better.

The lawfare challenges can only be mounted if the plentiful evidence of human rights abuses is gathered methodically by helping individual evidence collection efforts in Occupied Kashmir. The criminal liability of those who authorized an illegal act needs to be established through meticulously prepared dossiers. Affidavits need to be obtained by affected people who should come up with depositions against the perpetrators of crimes in courts of law.

The evidence needs to be packaged properly so as to attract the liability provisions of genocide as per the UN Genocide Convention. There is another opportunity for declaring the Indian Army as an occupation force in light of the disputed nature of the State of J&K by linking their brutal acts to war crimes. Universal jurisdiction of national courts could also be invoked wherein the domestic laws allow the individuals to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity in national courts. Countries like Argentina, Canada, Germany, France and New Zealand are a few examples where such charges can be pressed.

The time has come for Kashmiris to break their chains through proactive efforts centred on lawfare and diplomacy.

The writer is a PhD scholar at Nust.