WITH the passage of four months since New Delhi put India-held Kashmir under lockdown, another grim milestone has been passed. While the people of the forsaken Valley suffocate under India’s stifling restrictions, there is no sign that those who call the shots are willing to relent. As pointed out by the Foreign Office on Friday, the situation in IHK is getting worse, as millions of Kashmiris continue to live in an open-air prison. In fact, it would not be wrong to compare the situation in occupied Kashmir to the miserable plight of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, where similar restrictions on fundamental rights are enforced by the Israeli military machine. Perhaps this is not coincidental, as an Indian diplomat in the US was recently quoted as saying that his country should follow the ‘Israeli model’ in Kashmir; it is evident that quite a few of Tel Aviv’s brutal tactics are being replicated by the Hindutva-infused government in New Delhi.
As the FO has indicated, Kashmiris are facing a multitude of problems, stemming from the communications blockade put in place by India. Thousands remain incarcerated under flimsy pretences. Speaking about the communications blackout, the Indian foreign minister has given the lame excuse that social media and the internet are being used to ‘radicalise’ people in IHK; this will convince few as the real reason New Delhi has blocked out the internet is to prevent Kashmiris from telling the world of their plight. In fact, as reports point out, India has even cracked down on some of its most loyal supporters in IHK, locking them up and treating them with contempt. For example, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — all former chief ministers of the held region — remain in detention along with other lawmakers, demonstrating that the BJP clique in New Delhi doesn’t even trust those that never tired of siding with India. Pro-India Kashmiris have said they are being treated like ‘enemies’ by their erstwhile masters, while others say that they have been held in humiliating conditions. It is clear that the BJP considers all Kashmiris — pro-freedom as well as loyalists — with suspicion and disdain, perhaps due to the rampant Islamophobia that thrives within its ranks.
The FO has appealed to the UN and other global bodies to speak up for the rights of the Kashmiris. India is mistaken if it thinks it can use brutal tactics to silence the people. Kashmiris have had enough of its suppressive tactics, and despite the restrictions, the desire for freedom will only grow. As India seeks to ape Israel’s repression in Palestine, those who rule from New Delhi should realise that Tel Aviv’s violence has resulted in even greater Palestinian resistance. If India wants to avoid a similar scenario, let it approach the Kashmiris with respect and let them exercise their democratic right to self-determination.
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2019