Kashmir Dispatch 2

Monthly news roundup from Jammu and Kashmir

News travels fast, but in this age of information, important news stories often slip through the cracks. While the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir continues, WKA has selected five of the most important stories that we feel best highlight the current situation on the ground. Take a few minutes to read about the latest political and humanitarian developments.

UN seeks clarification of human rights abuses of three Kashmiri men

The government of India has been engaging in longstanding and horrific human rights abuses of the people of Kashmir for decades, however, the fate of three in particular has caught the attention of the United Nations.

The UN panel, that received its mandate from the UN Human Rights Council, said they received information related to “allegations of arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture and ill-treatment committed against” Waheed Para, Irfan Ahmad Dar, and Naseer Ahmad Wani.

Mr. Waheed Para, a politician who was the People’s Democratic Party youth wing president, was arrested on November 25, 2020, only three days after he filed his nomination to run for district development council elections.

It is believed that he caught the ire of the government after he participated in a virtual meeting with current and future members of the UN Security Council in July 2020. The UN experts noted that there were complaints that the PDP leader was kept “in a dark underground cell at subzero temperature, was deprived of sleep, kicked, slapped, beaten with rods, stripped naked and hung upside down.”

The evidence presented to the UN is compelling of atrocities committed in Kashmir and is simply too detailed to condense here. Click here to read more about the stories of Irfan Ahmad Dar and Naseer Ahmad Wani.

Making an Israel out of Kashmir

Kashmiri Pandit Leaders argued for increased military aggression and rejected any offerings of peace in the Jammu and Kashmir region. The speakers echoed the need to imitate the Israeli occupation of Palestine as a way forward in creating Panun Kashmir.

The analogy is, to say the least, a disturbing one. The state of Israel has perpetually occupied Palestinian lands since its founding. Not only does it subject the Palestinian people to dehumanizing and invasive violations of their human rights, but also has dismantled the prospect of a Palestinian state by way of illegal settlements and population displacement. Last month’s military escalation between Hamas and Israel shows the lengths the Israeli government will go to crush any challenge to its rule.

The agenda of the Pandit leaders could not be clearer. Create a Hindu state enclave out of Jammu and Kashmir and militarily repress the Muslim population indefinitely.

You can read more about the Pandit Leader’s comments and machinations here.

Activist arrested after comments to local officials

Sajad Ahmad Sofi, leader of a fifty-six-member civil society group was arrested on June 10, after his comments to local official Baseer Ahmad Khan.

Sofi commented:
“I can have expectations from you because you are a Kashmiri, and you can understand us. I can grab you by the collar and seek answers. But what expectations can I have from officers who are outsiders?”

Sofi’s comments, had they been uttered in any council chambers elsewhere would have likely been met with a shrug from leaders, but in Kashmir the right to freedom of speech, and the ability to redress the government of grievances remains out of reach.

After the meeting, Sofi was arrested for violating section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between the groups). You can read more about this developing story by clicking the link here.

Modi tries to salvage his democratic image

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted a surprise conference at his residence for talks regarding the restoration of democracy in the occupied territories of Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting was cast in a positive light, with aspirational talks of restoring democracy in the region.

But Modi only offered vague assurances and a timeline of when this would happen. He did not commit to a release of political prisoners or the return of sovereignty under Article 370.

Only the former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti spoke out during the press conference about these important issues. While the promise of democracy was put on the table Modi stated his intentions about “removing distance from Delhi and distance from the heart.”

You can read more about this meeting here.

India maintains grip on government administrators

Muhammad Yusuf Ganaie, a Muslim schoolteacher, found out that he was fired from his job via Facebook message last month. This came after the shocking indignity of having been unlawfully detained for protesting the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016 and the 2019 lockdown of Kashmir.
Ganaie had hoped that after spending two years in prison he would be able to return to the job he cherished. However, India has continued to maintain an iron grip over the civil service jobs in Jammu and Kashmir by removing civil servants for “anti-national” behavior, a clear violation of freedom of expression.

Discover how India is using such methods to instill fear in the Muslim population.

Final thoughts

The political future of Jammu and Kashmir is being written right now, and if the Kashmiri people are to have a role in shaping the future of their country, we cannot ignore the actions that are occurring in plain sight.

As long as Modi is Prime Minister of India, it is unlikely that Kashmir will enjoy the freedoms it had prior to the occupation. If democracy is restored in Kashmir it is likely to occur on terms favorable to India only. The injustice, atrocities, and human rights abuses are still occurring on a daily basis. It is unlikely Modi is moved by this suffering. More likely, Modi is aware of the optics of his occupation and seeks to distract from it. But make no mistake – the restoration of democracy is not an issue that can be fixed in a photo op. And the release of all political prisoners and the restoration of Article 370 are non-negotiable for any final settlement.