ONE year after India’s revocation of Articles 370 and 35A, the situation in India-held Kashmir remains a powder keg of anger and repression. Ravaged by a brutal curfew that included complete shutting down of internet services, Kashmir today continues to suffocate under unprecedented military presence. The Hindu supremacist government of BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had boasted on Aug 5 last year that the annexation of Kashmir would bring peace and prosperity to the people of the region. A year later all such predictions have proved wrong. Thousands of Kashmiris have been imprisoned, tortured and made to disappear, and yet the population remains defiant.
There is hardly any doubt that Mr Modi’s real objective in revoking IHK’s special status as a semi-autonomous region under Article 370 was to bring about a demographic change there. Since last year, the government has aggressively promoted migration of Hindus to IHK through various incentives. In the long run, the BJP wants to convert the Muslim Kashmiri population into a minority on its own land. This policy has continued to unfold in the occupied territory since August last year under the shadow of Indian guns. Both the government and the pliant Indian media continue to claim that normalcy has returned to Kashmir but nothing could be farther from the truth. A large number of Kashmiri leaders —including the pro-Indian ones — remain incarcerated, freedom of movement is severely curtailed and independent media cannot get access to the region. Draconian measures like a communication blackout are routinely used to clamp down on resistance. Horrendous incidents of beatings and custodial killings of Kashmiris, including young boys, by the occupying force are commonplace. The heart-wrenching image of the infant sitting on the dead body of his grandfather slain by Indian soldiers is only one illustration of the gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the Indian occupying force.
The annexation of occupied Kashmir has also had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of people. The influx of outsiders into the region has put a strain on employment opportunities for locals who have already suffered the loss of earnings under the blanket curfew that was imposed prior to the annexation last year. The much-touted investment conference that was to be held in Kashmir is yet to see the light of day. Covid-19 has added another adverse factor in the lives of people while providing security forces an excuse for further clamping down on movement. Occupied Kashmir is on the brink of a political, demographic and financial disaster. Pakistan should undertake every effort feasible to highlight the situation and mount pressure on India to reverse the disastrous decision of revoking the special status of Kashmir. India must not be allowed to get away with this travesty. This message should resonate loud and clear on Aug 5.
Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2020