Kashmir Dispatch August 2022

WKA News Round Up – August 2022

August commemorates the 75th year of Indian Independence from the United Kingdom. The subcontinent was divided in bloodshed. The partition killed between 200,000 and 2 million people and displaced many more. In the decades that followed, the country has endured years of unrest, multiple wars and stand-offs with Pakistan and China, and corruption by the central government.

On the other hand, since the 1990s, in Indian Occupied Kashmir, civilians have been caught in the crossfire. There is not a family that has not suffered and lost, whether it be the lives of friends, family members, homes, or suffering human rights abuses at the hands of the Indian army.

India is heralded as the world’s largest democracy. In colloquial parlance, one might call that phrase their brand. However, like most advertisements, that brand is inherently flawed and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

As India turns 75 it is a failing democracy

A large, multi-ethnic democracy cannot survive when islamophobia and xenophobia become official policies of the state. The very concept of citizenship has been strained to its breaking point with the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act – a discriminatory policy aimed at preventing its own indiginous and Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan from ever becoming citizens by adding religious restrictions. In response to the protests against this policy, the government led a brutal crackdown and arrested activists using India’s draconian anti-terror law.

Debate, free speech, and petitioning the government for grievances are the essential pillars of any democracy – but Modi’s India believes that Muslims must be silent. It has used Israeli Spyware Pegasus to spy on activists, journalists, and politicians throughout the country. It has arrested and detained many of those same people, holding them without charges, without trial, because they wish to silence any criticism of the state.

Autocrats need an enemy. It is essential to have an enemy to hide their failures and, in India, there are many.

In addition, the Indian economy is on the decline. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, the GDP was the lowest it had been since 1975-76. COVID-19 further exacerbated the downward spiral. GDP growth declined by 23.9 percent and, in 2020-21, it shrank by 7.3 percent, and the BJP-dominated government used the pretext of the largest pandemic in the 21st century to reward its cronies and campaign contributors.

You can read about the nation’s failures here.

Honoring Khurram Parvez

Khurram Parvez is one of the most influential human rights defenders who supports a free Kashmir that can determine its own future. He was named in Time Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People”. It is no wonder that he has a target on his back. He is still languishing in prison since November 2021, having been arrested under the wantonly abused Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Parvez has served as the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, whose website was recently hacked and much of the information corrupted.

Among the documents that the hackers attempted to destroy was a 799-pages report entitled, “The Structure of Violence (TSOV)” jointly prepared by ‘The International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir’ [IPTK] and ‘The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons.

Khurram Parvez is a symbol and a staunch advocate for human rights. The ‘TSOV’ is encompassing – it documents the flagrant human rights abuses committed by India and the occupation stretching back to the 1990s.
It documents abuses committed by the state, including extra-judicial killings, torture, and sexual violence, and a range of perpetrators [army, paramilitary, police, government gunmen].

The report further documents how one hand routinely washes the other in the Indian chain of command. Court Martial structures are not there to punish the guilty, but to protect them. ‘TSOV’ also documents the political failures of both the Judicial and Executive branches, and despite overwhelming evidence of crimes, the government continues to abet the violence by looking the other way.

These are crimes the International Community cannot continue to ignore. The report calls for the U.N. to appoint a Special Rapporteur with a specific mandate to investigate India’s violations under international law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law in Jammu and Kashmir. You can read our two-part analysis here: Part 1 and Part 2.

The final nail in democracy’s coffin

We have long known that any forthcoming election in Jammu and Kashmir will not be free and fair. India has gerrymandered the districts to give disproportionate weight to non-Muslim voters, and it seems that outsiders will be allowed to vote.

The most recent election rolls contain 25 lakh-BJP voters. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar confirmed that a person would not need to hold a J&K domicile to be a voter in the UT and 20-25 lakh new voters are expected to be added to the electoral roll.

Before the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A, outsiders were unable to apply for citizenship or buy land. Further compounding the matter – the half million Indian troops will also be allowed to vote in the elections.

You can read more about this developing story here.

Aid to India must be conditional on upholding human rights

Perhaps the best option for holding the Modi- administration to account would be for the United States to withhold foreign aid for India’s human rights abuses. After all, strongly worded letters from foreign dignitaries routinely fail to get the attention of the world’s autocrats and despots. However, a loss of foreign aid and loss of access to Western capital just might do the trick.

So far, the U.S. has made aid conditional to countries such as Egypt, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines. The U.S. also strengthened its commitment to human rights as part of the recent National Defense Authorization Act (N.D.A.A).
Unfortunately, India was not included in this list. Worse, aid to India has increased under the pretense that India is an ally against China.

While the reasoning is shortsighted, the battle is not over and we must continue to raise awareness of India’s atrocities among U.S. lawmakers. You can read more about foreign aid to India here.

Final thoughts – The plain sight tragedy

One of the worst aspects of the human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir is how brazenly they are committed and how the world chooses to look the other way.

Human rights tragedies do not stay silent forever, and there will come a time and a reckoning for what India has done.

As India turns 75, it is not a time for celebration, but a moment for silence.

A 75-second silence to remember the lives lost, those who have been uprooted from their home, those who are still languishing in prison, the loss of autonomy, and the loss of dignity.

Please join us in remembering those who have lost so much.