Wednesday July 24, 2024

Demographic engineering

By Malik Muhammad Ashraf
August 21, 2022

Indian authorities have recently permitted temporary residents in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) to register as voters. This is yet another attempt by the Indian government to change the demographic features of Kashmir.

This move follows the promulgation of a new domicile law after the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, revoking the special status of the state and its bifurcation into two territories. The announced measure is likely to add 2.5 million more voters, which the local population fears would allow the BJP government to alter the demographics of the region.

It is a sinister move to convert the Muslim majority into a minority in due course of time and has rightly been rejected and condemned by Pakistan. The action constitutes the blatant violation of the Geneva Convention and the UN resolutions on the Kashmir dispute. After the end of World War II, as a consequence of the initiative taken by the International Committee of Red Cross, the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Convention for Protection of Victims of War was held in Geneva, which adopted the fourth Geneva Convention on 12 August 1949. It is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions.

While the first three conventions dealt with combatants, the fourth Geneva Convention was the first to deal with humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone. Currently, 196 countries are party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

In 1993, the UN Security Council adopted a report from the secretary general and a commission of experts which concluded that the Geneva Conventions had passed into the body of customary international law, thus making them binding even on non-signatories to the conventions whenever they engage in armed conflicts.

Article 27 of the Geneva IV states: “Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.”

Article 49 of the Geneva IV says: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Article 32 of the convention adds: “The High Contracting Parties specifically agree that each of them is prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishments … but also to any other measures of brutality by civilian or military agents.”

Giving voting rights to non-residents and allowing people from the Indian mainland to buy property in IIOJK is in breach of Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention.

Indian security forces in IIOJK are the occupying power by all definitions since Kashmir’s fate, as per UN resolutions, is to be decided through a plebiscite held under the auspices of the world body, a position which the UNSC has reiterated in its three informal meetings after the Modi regime revoked the state’s special status.

After the scrapping of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, the entire population of Kashmir is under siege, and they have been denied contact with the outside world; there is a complete lockdown in the valley, and people are not even given access to mosques. International media, human rights organizations like Amnesty International and even UN Human Rights commission in its reports has corroborated blatant violations of human rights in IIOJK. The discovery of mass graves at 38 sites also lends currency to the inhumane treatment of the local population by Indian security forces.

Through the foregoing actions India has not only torn asunder the fourth Geneva Convention but also pummelled the UN resolutions with regard to the plebiscite and breached international law with impunity.

It is indeed regrettable that neither the UN nor the big powers have shown real interest in stopping India in its tracks and resolving the Kashmir conflict as per the UN resolutions. Their indifference to the developments taking place in the valley and the fallout of those provocative measures is encouraging Indian hegemonic designs in the region.

India is being ruled by a diehard follower of the supremacist RSS ideology of Hindutva, which takes inspiration from Nazism. It has already started showing its ugly face in the form of enhanced Indian hostility towards Pakistan. Indian leaders have repeatedly threatened Pakistan of dire consequence, and on February 2019, India made its intentions clear when it sent planes to bomb imagined terrorist camps in Balakot, ostensibly in retaliation for the Pulwama incident. It is interesting to note that an Indian journalist close to the BJP regime later revealed that the Pulwama incident was stage-managed by the Modi government to win elections and find an excuse to take action against Pakistan.

India has also been supporting insurgency in Balochistan and acts of terrorism throughout the country as corroborated by the revelations made by the captured Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav.

Is it not a pity that a state which has shown no respect for UN resolutions, international law and the fourth Geneva Convention is being supported for a permanent seat in the Security Council, besides propping it up as a regional superpower through transfer of nuclear technology and NSG waiver in complete violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

They fail to realize that any such eventuality would lead to perennial instability in the region and foreclose any chance of resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

The Modi government is rightly perceived as a threat to peace and security in the region. Pakistan has been persistently warning the world and the UN about Indian designs and urging them to intervene before it is too late.

Pakistan and India are nuclear powers, and any military confrontation between them can have disastrous consequences not only for them but also for the entire region and beyond. Those who cry hoarse from every convenient rooftop to pronounce their humanitarian credentials and adherence to international law, the UN Charter and Conventions, need to rattle their conscience.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He can be reached at: