INDIA is using every undemocratic means to strengthen its military hold over occupied Kashmir after Aug 5 of last year, acts substitute to the real intent of India.
Incorporation of a new domicile law, ferrying of thousands of labourers in buses to the held state, undemocratic approval of construction of thousands of residential houses and separate settlements for Kashmiri Pandits and former Indian soldiers, a special dispensation to regular armed forces to carry out construction activity in strategic areas, and muzzling of the voice of Kashmiris through a lockdown that later turned into a double lockdown due to Covid-19.
It is depressing for a nation to see its identity obliterated while the world watches as a mute spectator.
A couple of days ago, while surfing on social media, I came across many Facebook posts, tweets and news links about the systematic Indian invasion of Kashmir.
Just during the current week, more than 13,000 Indian citizens have been ferried in buses to India-occupied Kashmir. Kashmir is under a total lockdown with all shops and businesses shut, construction work halted, public transport disallowed and every Kashmiri who comes to his hometown from outside the region is sent to a designated quarantine centre till his Covid test proves negative.
Surprisingly, no rule applies to the invading labourers. In Muslim majority Kashmir, mosques are closed. No congregational prayers are held so as to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The grand Jamia Masjid in Srinagar stands locked since Aug 5 of last year. Indian rulers chose to remove article 370 to pave the way for an aggressive implementation of their settler colonial programme.
But ironically, AmarnathYatra, which involves the arrival of thousands of devotees from India, is not only allowed but facilitated as well.
Readers will be surprised to learn that on July 16 the authorities reimposed the lockdown, but on the same day they allowed tourists to come to occupied Kashmir.
The motive behind all this theatre seems clear. Put Kashmiris behind locks, muzzle voices of dissent on one hand, and on the other, continue with the settler colonial regime — bring devotees to glorify the conquest and then bring settlers in the form of labourers.
This will ultimately fulfil the designs of a complete demographic change in India-occupied Kashmir.
It was during the current lockdown that New Delhi, in collaboration with its union territory (UT) pawns, enacted a new domicile law for Jammu and Kashmir and started issuing domicile certificates to non-residents at a rapid speed.
One of the government orders in this regard says that an officer can be fined Rs50,000 if the individual does not fulfil the duty of speedy issuance of these certificates.
Thousands of non-locals, as varied as the refugees from Pakistan living in Jammu to Gurkhas from Nepal and Valmikis (sanitation workers) from Haryana, are being provided domicile certificates of J&K.
Although the brunt of this new law, or colonial invasion, will be borne by Jammu, the populace seems to be relishing this “Hindu-Muslim game”. The future of their coming generations is being bartered away, but the enmity of Kashmiris has blinded them to the dark days awaiting them.
Kashmiris know that they are not going to entertain these unwanted guests in any way.
Like the domicile law, recently some other controversial laws have been passed by the colonial set-up in J&K. On July 17, the Kashmir Administrative Council (KAC), an unelected entity under the chairmanship of a lieutenant governor, undemocratically approved an amendment to the Building Operations Act of 1970, which allows the Indian armed forces to designate some areas as “strategic” and start construction or any development activity.
India-held Kashmir is home to tens of thousands of soldiers drawn from the army and the paramilitary forces due to the ongoing conflict. Scores of defence installations are already located across the length and breadth of the held state.
Besides building more structures for the armed forces, India is considering a proposal to build over 100,000 affordable houses and separate colonies for Pandits and ex-soldiers.
In Kashmir, hardly any citizen is without a house. Therefore, these proposed houses are never meant for the actual residents of J&K.
On Pakistan side
On this side of the Line of Control, Pakistan is preparing to enact the 14th Amendment to the AJK Interim Constitution Act of 1974 as it too wants to change the status quo of Azad Kashmir.
Islamabad wants to annex and take full control of Gilgit-Baltistan to safeguard CPEC. On one hand songs made in collaboration with Turkey are being released, images of Burhan Wani and Syed Ali Shah Geelani are being displayed on important roads, but on the other we see transit trade between India and Afghanistan has been allowed at a time when Indian brutality in J&K is at its peak.
Instead of taking steps to save Kashmir and Kashmiris, instead of taking the demography change issue to the UN, instead of taking the cases of illegally jailed Kashmiris like Yasin Malik, Mian Abdul Qayoom and others to international courts, instead of safeguarding the very existence of J&K, our “Mohsineen” (wellwishers) are engaged in debating and fixing the Geelani-Hurriyat discord.
Our diaspora did fairly a good job after Aug 5, but lacked consistency and a unified strategy. Diaspora again stands divided.
Some of them are out to dislodge the already established leadership in Kashmir and some others are keen to prove that Pakistan is as bad as India. Collectively, we have not been able to safeguard Kashmiris. Pakistan could have taken the issue to international forums in an attempt to stop the Indian onslaught against Kashmiris.
The cases of Yasin Malik, the JKLF chief, and Mian Abdul Qayoom, the president of the Kashmir Bar Association, were quite enough to expose the Indian judiciary at these forums.
The former is being deprived of a fair trial and continues to be worst victim of political vendetta, while the latter was asked by Indian judiciary to change his political belief in writing to seek his release.
An internationally accepted disputed territory is being colonised in the name of democracy and development. We have hundreds of Kashmiri inmates languishing in different jails under PSA who have been declared Covid-positive, but are still not being released from custody.
Now let us ask ourselves, what we are doing for these inmates. Kashmiris living in Europe, the US and the UK in one voice should have better ideas of invoking international forums.
Have we explored these forums? Have we tried to invoke appropriate forums and ruling regimes against the illegal colonisation of J&K and demographic changes being made by Indian Hindu fascist rulers?
Pakistan may not be able to do more, but does that mean we Kashmiris will also stop thinking and acting.
No, we should wake up and explore all means and modes to save our motherland and its identity.
The author hails from India-occupied Kashmir and is based at Rawalpindi
Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2020