VIOLENCE revisited held Kashmir on Tuesday as Indian forces gunned down a Hizbul Mujahideen fighter in Srinagar. This follows the killing of another Kashmiri fighter, Riaz Naikoo, earlier this month in Pulwama. Sadly for the Kashmiri people, this cycle of bloodshed and humiliation is nothing new; in fact, the people of the occupied region have been putting up with it for the past several decades. The gun battle in which Indian forces killed Junaid Ashraf Sehrai, a business graduate-turned-fighter, lasted nearly 12 hours as security forces surrounded a neighbourhood in Srinagar’s old town. Residents say the Indian soldiers set houses on fire and looted jewellery from several residences under the cover of the operation.
The fact is Kashmiris are sick and tired of Indian oppression and are increasingly fighting back in order to stop India’s brutality. India has disfigured the region’s autonomous status, hatched a plan to engineer demographic changes, and has used even more brutal tactics when Kashmiris have objected to its high-handedness. Instead of quelling the insurgency, New Delhi’s callousness has further angered educated young Kashmiris, like Sehrai, Naikoo as well as Burhan Wani whose killing by the Indians in 2016 had sparked a wave of protests. Yet the Indian establishment seems to cling to the erroneous belief that its use of violence will dampen the Kashmiri desire for rights and dignity. Moreover, Indian adventurism along the LoC has raised temperatures with Pakistan, as a number of innocent people on this side of the line have lost their lives in cross-LoC barrages. New Delhi is playing a dangerous game, crushing Kashmiris in the occupied territory, and stoking tensions with Pakistan at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is rattling the world.
Some voices have been raised against India’s brutality in held Kashmir. For example, the OIC has expressed concern over India’s tinkering with Kashmir’s domicile law, which would pave the way for non-locals to apply for domicile in the disputed region. This is, of course, part of New Delhi’s overall strategy to alter the demographics of IHK, continuing the condemnable project it initiated last year by scrapping Kashmir’s special status in India’s constitution. Furthermore, the lockdown of the region since August 2019 has added to the miseries of the local people. For example, the communications blockade has hampered the fight against the coronavirus in IHK, as India has blocked high-speed internet. Doctors say this has had a major impact on keeping in touch with patients, while patients in quarantine have also been unable to communicate with family members. As the world combines forces to combat Covid-19, the international community must put pressure on India to lift this inhuman blockade so that patients can get the care they need without hindrance. Otherwise, it will appear that the human rights of Kashmiris matter little to the self-declared global champions of freedom.
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2020