Colonization of Kashmir: A Holy Grail for the Indian state

Colonization of Kashmir has since long been a holy grail dream for the Indian establishment, mainstream political parties especially the radical right-wing parties’ leaders, who derive legitimacy and strength from the Hiduvata ideology propounded by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar the founding leader of Hindu Mahasabha who in response to Islamic and European nationalism constructed and conceptualized the idea of Akhand Bharat (‘Hindu Nation’). From Nehru to Modi every Indian ruler had played a villainous role to rob Kashmiris of whatever they were promised in the name of ‘so-called internal autonomy’, guaranteed to Kashmir under the article 370 of the Indian constitution. A case study of the Kashmir conflict substantiates this widely held view that ever since India gained its control over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 the successive Indian governments had religiously pursued and practiced neo-colonial politics, which interestingly, goes in synch with the incumbent BJP government’s Zionist type policy to strengthen its grip over the territory, taking advantage of its resources, and deny its people the right to self-determination promised to them by the international community.

The 5th August 2019 move was a classic example of the Machiavellian machination and mischief by the Indian state to disenfranchise, disempower and demoralize the Kashmiris who have an enviable history of fighting against the imperialistic designs of the Indian state that has never hesitated in using the repressive state apparatus to erase the Kashmiris’ political, cultural and national identity. And to wipe out the state’s homogeneous character New Delhi has now started an inclusive settler-colonialism drive under the garb of new domicile law to replace the indigenous population with a new society of settlers. With the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which had restricted land ownership to Kashmiri state subjects, a series of new laws were enforced in the state besides opening floodgates for Indian settlers will enable them to have more capital to take over Kashmiri lands.

Since the occupation of Indigenous people’s lands has been central to settler-colonial state processes, the new administration in the state has now come up with another dangerous plan that gives sweeping powers to the Indian army to acquire more land in Kashmir. According to a report over 4.30 lakh kanals of land in Jammu and Kashmir is already under the illegal occupation of Indian military and paramilitary forces. In 2016 the then Chief Minister Ms. Mehbooba Mufti informed the Legislative Assembly that 51116 kanals of State land in Jammu and 379817 kanals of land in Kashmir and Ladakh were under the unauthorized occupation of the Indian forces. Now the amendment in Control of Building Operations Act, 1988 and the Development Act, 1970 apparently being made to aid construction of armed forces facilities outside cantonments, in other words, means more destruction, the plunder of state-land and disempowerment of the local authorities who according to this act were sole authority to decide on allowing construction by any institution – including the armed forces – in their jurisdiction. As per the notification, the local authorities will no longer have any role in notifying strategic areas, such issues will be directly handled at the highest level between the government and the armed forces.

The motive behind the promulgation of this act is evident that the Indian government wants to establish settlements in the so-called strategic areas to house the Indian citizens thereafter granting them citizenship under the new domicile laws. The amendments in the law will certainly expedite the process of demographic changes in the occupied territory and the BJP’s long-cherished goal of turning the majority of Kashmiri Muslims into the minority in their own homeland. Under the new law, the Indian Army can declare any part of the occupied territory including agricultural lands, residential areas, and neighborhoods to be “strategic areas”.

It is to be noted that along with land grab, capitalist accumulation, and resource extraction there are other dangerous aspects of settler-colonial state formations, which pose a serious existential threat to Kashmiris. Apart from these tactical moves, the wanton killings of youth, systematic genocide & policy of dehumanization of indigenous people on the other hand depict terrifying and dark aspects of the Indian military occupation. This systematic annihilation of the native population, land grab, violence and cultural invasion points to a dangerous pattern of genocide that has been going on in the region.

It is imperative that the world should not lose sight of the bigger picture and i.e. any incident taking place in the disputed territory should not be seen as an isolated incident as it (Kashmir) remains to be the core issue that needs to be resolved for the sake of durable peace and stability in the region. Weaving around cobwebs of confusion and paddling bogus and concocted narratives on Kashmir would yield nothing but deepen the crisis in the territory that over the past several decades has witnessed destruction and suffering on an enormous scale.

The blatant usurpation of Kashmiris’ fundamental rights by India and its attempts to change their demography constitute a serious violation of International law and the UN resolutions that strictly prohibit India from changing the status of Jammu and Kashmir unilaterally. Since Kashmir is an UN-recognized disputed territory it is incumbent upon the highest body to take immediate cognizance of these lopsided illegal actions and take concrete steps to save Kashmiris who are facing the existential threat posed by the Savarkar’s disciples in the Indian government who have unabashedly embraced the Hindu supremacist ideology first espoused by the founders of the ultra-right-wing RSS organization.

The writer is the Chairman Kashmir Institute of International Relations – KIIR and Vice-Chairman Jammu & Kashmir National Front.

Email: chairman@kiir.org.pk