Kashmir Dispatch December 2021

December proved to be a tumultuous month as the number of global COVID-19 cases spiked due to the emergence of the omicron variant and domestic and foreign governments stumbled to react to the situation that many had hoped was improving. With such chaos, it is easy for other news to slip through the cracks. Take a look at the latest developments in Kashmir.

Human rights groups denounce India’s crackdown on human rights activists.

Human rights activists, led by Parveena Ahanger, held a demonstration on Human Rights Day (December 10) to demand the return of missing loved ones who have disappeared due to the Indian authorities. Unlawful detentions and the disappearance of opponents have been the most effective ways that India has tried to undermine self-determination efforts and bring a peaceful end to the foreign occupation of Kashmir.

India continues to target human rights activists, journalists, academics and others who are determined to expose the atrocities committed by the Indian military and occupation officials.

Last month, prominent human rights activist Khurram Parvez was  arrested under a stringent terror law–the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)–for “criminal conspiracy and waging war against the government.” He has been shifted to the Tihar maximum security prison in New Delhi.

This is likely in retaliation for his role as programme coordinator of the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society which published extensive reports of torture, civilian killings, rapes, and illegal detentions, and detailing the impunity given to by the armed forces in the disputed region.

You can read more about India’s crackdown by clicking  here.

Indian military massacres 13 civilians

On Saturday, December 4th, the Indian military fired upon and killed 13 unarmed civilians believing them to be militants in the state of Nagaland. While the military expressed regret for the intelligence failure, public outrage at the killings was swift.

Protestors burned army vehicles in retaliation for the massacre and tensions in the Mon district remain high.

Indian authorities believed they were targeting militants moving throughout the region. The incident took place in and around Oting village in the Mon district during a counterinsurgency operation conducted by members of the Assam Rifles, a part of Indian security forces deployed in the state, a senior police official based in Nagaland said.

Firing began when a truck carrying 30 or more coal-mine labourers was passing the Assam Rifles camp area, officials told Reuters and The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Officials within the military condemned the attack on civilians. Nagaland’s chief minister Neiphiu Rio told Reuters news agency a probe will be conducted, and punishment meted out to guilty parties in the incident.

But like so many atrocities committed by the Indian military, it remains to be seen if justice will ever be served. You can read more about the attack by clicking here.

India terrorizes Kashmir into silence

The Indian occupation has inflicted humiliation, economic devastation, and brutal reprisals against Kashmiris. As time goes on, the constant barrage of terror and threats people have experienced has left few willing to speak out.

In the early days of the occupation, protests were a weekly occurrence. Now, many are too scared to speak out against injustice. Indian authorities routinely round up and detain protestors for excessive periods, sometimes even years, for participating in such protests.

Rafiq (a pseudonym used for anonymity purposes) spent a year in prison as part of a wave of preventive arrests. He had planned to protest the injustice and the loss of Kashmiri autonomy but spent a year of his life in jail. He left jail a broken man.

Echoing accounts from a dozen other Kashmiris told to AFP, he and 30 others were bundled onto a military aircraft to a jail hundreds of miles from his home where they were “abused and intimidated.”

“A bright light was kept on all night in my cell for six months … It was hard to imagine that I would come out alive,” he said.

Although he was finally released, thousands more continue to languish in prison. Severe reprisals for attempting to hold the authorities accountable is their modus operandi – you can read more about India weaponizing such draconian measures here.

Gerrymandering weakens Kashmiri representation

New legislative seats drawn for Jammu and Kashmir weakened the region by awarding six seats to the Hindu majority area of Jammu and only one to Kashmir. The seats are completely contradictory to information that was taken from the 2011 census (the last census taken in the region).

When the news was reported, it immediately caused a backlash.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also slammed the Delimitation Commission, saying, “This commission has been created simply to serve BJPs political interests by dividing people along religious & regional lines. The real game plan is to install a government in J&K which will legitimize the illegal and unconstitutional decisions of August 2019.”

You can read more about this audacious plan here.

Tribunal panel to examine crimes against humanity in Kashmir

The Russell Tribunal on Kashmir took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. This type of tribunal was named after British philosopher Bertrand Russell who created the first of such panels to examine war crimes committed by the United States during the Vietnam War.

While the panel, unfortunately, does not carry the power of law – it is an important step for bringing the war crimes and other violations of international law out into the public spotlight.

The Russell tribunal works in a way comparable to a truth commission. A panel of judges, chosen for their academic pedigree and personal integrity, listen to witnesses and experts who outline personal experiences and draw on facts and figures. The series of testimonies and expert presentations produced sufficient evidence for the panel to consider. They concluded that the crimes of India against Kashmir meet the criteria of genocide and they urged international institutions to take action.

Such panels have been held in Palestine, Bosnia, Iraq, and Latin America.

Take a moment to read more about this unique form of citizen justice.

Final thoughts

India has very much taken a two-track approach to the subjugation of Kashmir. Terrorize the population into silence and submission and rig the machinery of government to legitimize the occupation and that very terror.

The sad thing is it is working.

Despair is India’s greatest weapon and we must not let them wield it.

People like Parveena Ahanger continue to advocate even in the face of harassment and intimidation. It will not be easy – it is not easy to stand tall in the face of such oppression. Adaptability and transparency are our greatest assets.

The Russell Tribunal is proof that people are listening and we will continue our advocacy as we bring light to the darkness until the authoritarians can no longer hide from their crimes.

In this new year, take care of yourselves, take care of each other. We are all we have.