THE right-wing Indian government, through its recently carried out delimitation exercise, has dealt another crushing blow to the people of India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Unfor-tunately, Pakistan, inhibited by its own political and the economic instability, has not been able to deliver a trenchant response to the Indian government other than a customary demarche that hardly serves any purpose.

The nefarious attempt to change the demographic structure of the valley and violate the rights of the Kashmiri people, the Indian government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has come under severe criticism from the Kashmiri people and opposition parties in the country.

Under the new laws, hundreds of thousands of domicile certificates have been issued to non-residents of occupied land, mostly hailing from various Hindu-majority states in India. Even before Modi’s recent Machiavellian manoeuvrings in Kashmir, the people of the valley, especially Muslims, have invariably suffered under a number of autocratic rulers.

Alastair Lamb, in his book, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy 1846–1990, has presented a distressing picture of what the Kashmiri people had to bear and witness on a daily basis. Today, things have gone only worse.

The Kashmir famine of 1877-78 wreaked havoc on the people of the valley. People were left to starve and were forbidden from leaving the region to make a living elsewhere and to have a fighting chance to fend for themselves. Grain that had been bought from the British was sold by corrupt officials to the highest bidder, instead of letting it reach the masses.

In 1884, Lord Kimberley, the then secretary of state for India, took issue with the ruling system of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, who had abetted the British in the 1857 war of independence, and urged the British government of William E. Gladstone to intervene on behalf of the Muslim population that had been reeling under the savageries of the Maharaja.

A few decades later, Albion Banerjee, the prime minister of Kashmir from 1927 to 1929, resigned owing to the alleged misgovernance of Maharaja Hari Singh. He reportedly found that the administrative machinery required a complete overhaul from the very top to the very bottom to make it sympathetic to the sizable population of Muslims in Kashmir whose grievances, according to him, were not paid heed to.

It appears that for the people in occupied Kashmir, especially the Muslims there, the situation has remained the same for far too long, and even if it changed, it was for the worse. Their rights continue to be violated and they continue to be discriminated against in their own homeland.

The anguish felt by the Kashmiri people reflects in a recent study conducted by doctors at the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Hospital, according to which 94.2 per cent of the population of India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir suffer from moderate to severe anxiety. It is also a tragedy that several United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the self-determination of Kashmiris have also failed to yield results. Moreover, as if to add insult to injury, the international Muslim community appears to be either apathetic or ignorant to the plight of the Kashmiri Muslims.

In the wake of the revocation of Kashmir’s special status by the Modi-led government on Aug 5, 2019, completely stifling the limited autonomy of the region, there was no notable condemnation by any major Muslim power. On the contrary, the UAE termed the move an “internal matter” of India. In fact, it also conferred its highest civil award — the Order of Zayed — on Prime Minister Modi.

Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two holy sites of Muslims, also continued with its diverse trade relations with India as if nothing had happened.

In December 2021, judges in the International War Crimes Tribunal on Kashmir wept listening to the accounts of brutalities suffered by the Kashmiri people, especially women. One wonders when, and if, the global leaders who champion human rights causes will ever shed a tear for Kashmir, as they now seem to be doing for Ukraine just because the war over there strikes closer to home.

Taha Muneer
Nawabshah

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022

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