NOT content with the suffocating conditions prevailing in Kashmir ever since the BJP-led clique in New Delhi annexed the occupied region last year, India’s rulers have now decided to rub further salt in Kashmiris’ wounds. India, it seems, has decided to organise a business summit later this year where investors will be persuaded to put their money in the troubled region; around 6,000 acres have reportedly been made available for this purpose by the Indian state. Though the proposal has been dressed up as an effort to bring jobs and prosperity to India-held Kashmir, no one should be fooled; this is a shameless land grab, an affront to the Kashmiri people where their land is being snatched away from them without their consent to be given to outsiders. In fact, New Delhi seems to be playing from the old colonial playbook, where external forces move in, expropriate land from the locals and then distribute the spoils. Is this how a self-proclaimed democracy functions? Have the Kashmiris been consulted? Obviously not, as the region has been under lockdown since last August. In effect, what the BJP is doing is changing the demographic makeup of Kashmir by settling people from outside. This insidious plot to erase the Kashmiri identity must not be allowed to succeed. Clearly, New Delhi is jittery, as it is offering investors tax breaks and insurance in return for putting their money in IHK. It is obvious that most entrepreneurs would not wish to invest in what is a giant open-air prison, something that has seemingly not occurred to the Indian establishment.

If India is serious about ending the Kashmiris’ suffering, it must lift the siege of IHK, give back Kashmir its autonomous status and start a meaningful dialogue involving the people of the region as well as Pakistan. Cosmetic measures — such as organising a business conference — that are only intended to enhance New Delhi’s stranglehold over IHK will only increase the alienation of the Kashmiris. Unfortunately, the bigoted dispensation at the centre is unlikely to heed sane advice on Kashmir and will continue on its destructive path. This will only add to the misery of the Kashmiris and further vitiate the atmosphere in South Asia. Yet the international community seems to have become numb where this threat to global peace is concerned, as the voices that can censure India’s brutish behaviour, with a few notable exceptions, are silent.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2020

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