How India plans to colonize and conquer Kashmir
Colonization may seem a relic of the past. Many of the world’s great powers have seemingly dismantled their overseas holdings, in favor of new nations run by their citizens, and while most of those new nations will balance their interests between the world powers, to the average person, colonization isn’t happening.
This is a mistaken belief.
Colonization is happening in the 21st century – and it is as insidious as its historical counterpart. Because while there are no new lands to discover and settle, there are still people within the boundaries of a nation that the state would like to remove.
Aside from Kashmir, the other two most notable exceptions are the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Chinese detainment of Uygur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.
Settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing
Military invasions and occupations are expensive, open-ended, and prone to public backlash – both at home and abroad. Success is never guaranteed, especially if the occupation is in a foreign land. So how does a nation subdue a population? The answer is colonization.
Machiavelli himself outlined such a remedy in his treatise The Prince:
The other and better remedy is to plant colonies in one or two of those places which form as it were the keys of the land….The colonies will cost the prince little; with little or no expense on his part, he can send and maintain them; he only injures those whose homes are taken and given to the new inhabitants…and those who are injured, remaining poor and scattered can never do any harm to him.
There is no better outline for what India is doing to Kashmir and where they plan on going.
Abrogating Article 370 and 35A – the end of Kashmir
When the final history of Kashmir is written, August 5, 2019, will be documented as the end of the historical state. Kashmir’s autonomy before the abrogation was scarcely ever respected – being subjected to President’s rule eight times since 1977. The cultural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir was to be respected, being written into Article 35A. This amendment set citizenship rights for both employment and purchasing land. It was designed as a safeguard to protect those who have called Jammu and Kashmir home for centuries, to protect them from outsiders who would displace them.
The Modi administration needed to remove these legal guard rails so the native population could be legally replaced.
A new order arises
The first step was to turn the legal machinery against the population of Kashmir. Laws such as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Act, Public Safety Act, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act were put into place. Give the army and the local authorities broad powers to arrest people deemed a threat. The second step was to break the will of the population.
The military shut off communications, isolated people in their homes, and closed down businesses. It reappropriated the land and civil infrastructure away from the Kashmir authorities. Resistance to these laws was met with a heavy hand. The JK region has been placed under military occupation. Journalists, politicians, human rights activists, and anyone deemed a threat has been arrested or legally harassed into silence.
The occupation has effectively broken any resistance. Acts of state violence are heavy-handed, and Muslims have suffered not only from acts of retribution, but the mental strain of continued violence, discrimination, and harassment.
Move new settlers in
Once the population has been pacified, it is necessary to move new people in as quickly as possible and, once again, Indian law obliges. In 2020, a new domicile law made it easier for non-natives to claim permanent resident status.
The law enabled soldiers who have been part of the military occupation to claim residency.
New industrial projects were developed over local leaders’ objections, destroying valuable agricultural land and the Kashmiris who owned and worked the land.
Making Kashmir central to Hindu identity
It is not an accident that there has been an uptick in religious revivalism in the regions of Kashmir. In particular, the promotion of the Amarnath Yatra — a Hindu pilgrimage to an ice formation believed to represent Lord Shiva has grown increasingly over the years through increased institutional support.
Hindu nationalism promotes Kashmir as not only central but integral to its identity. In doing so, it portrays its native population as invaders. It enables the Modi government to “Other-ize” the non-Hindus of the region so that they can be easily targeted for discrimination and subjected to replacement.
Even Bollywood cinema has been incorporating nationalist messages that Kashmir belongs only to the Hindus with movies such as Ananya Jahanara Kabir, Territory of Desire, and other blatant propaganda films such as the Kashmir Files.
Displacement – the final solution
A modern state doesn’t need to resort to large-scale industrial slaughter as occurred in the 20th century, but the end goal is just the same. Displace the native population and leave those who remain as a permanent underclass.
The Israeli model in the West Bank has been a modern neo-colonial success story. The modern area of the West Bank closely resembles “Swiss Cheese,” with as close to half of the territory being directly administered by Israel. They effectively took control by allowing unrestricted Jewish settlements to be built, maintained, and protected by the state.
Or perhaps India’s designs for the territory are a hybrid of the Israeli and Chinese models. Detaining significant parts of the Kashmiri population while new settlers claim and occupy the land.
Final thoughts: Neo-colonialism hides in plain sight
It is possible to erase a cultural identity through displacement. Even if the displacement is gradual, the product of decades can succeed. The Israeli model is still the most successful – absorbing up to forty-two percent of the land in 52 years from 1967 to 2022. Those percentages will undoubtedly grow as the years go on.
The neo-colonialism hides in plain sight, masquerading as seemingly benign things such as property and industrial developments. With each new development, the older population is pushed out, and jobs are reserved for new settlers as soon they are completed.
Such methods are deployed to avoid public outrage and hide the displacement agenda.
It remains to be seen how far countries can push this neo-colonialism. Certainly, awareness is growing of these tactics, yet its action by the world remains elusive. One thing is certain, is that Kashmiris will suffer under this new colonial regime.