Kashmir Dispatch December 2022

WKA Monthly News Roundup – December 2022

As the sun sets on 2022, it casts long shadows over Kashmir. This year India strengthened its grip on the region, strangling life and shattering Muslim communities in the valley. Through relentless use of settler-colonialism, it is attempting to turn J&K into a Hindu nationalist puppet state.

Only time will tell if the Modi administration is successful in its aims. However, December showed there was no slowing down in its goals. Here are the most important stories from last month.

“We know where you live” – Mass surveillance proliferates across Kashmir

1984 is becoming a living reality for the people of occupied Kashmir as India continues to expand its surveillance across the valley. India has long used CCTV to survey the daily lives of those living in occupied zones. However, it has significantly expanded its ‘aerial dominance’ by deploying drones with high-definition cameras that unlawfully record the lives and homes of Kashmiri Muslims.

This level of spying has been deployed in Palestine where the technology has matured into a dystopian surveillance state. By using a combination of drones and cell phone cameras, the Israeli security forces can keep records of every individual in the territory and rate them according to the perceived risk they may or may not pose for the occupation.

While this level of technology matures it has not eliminated the human element. Jammu and Kashmir’s police have called for cyber volunteers to patrol social media and flag posts on “radicalization” and “anti-national activities” among other issues to the government.

Women are also targeted by the ruling authorities and have been stalked on social media for being too vocal about human rights abuses. This intrusion causes many to live with a cloud of fear of gender-based violence as their movements are tracked. Their voices are silenced and many women will self-censor rather than endure this level of harassment.

Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom from unwanted government surveillance are dead in Kashmir. These transgressions will likely continue well into the future.

You can read more about India’s surveillance capacity here.

Turkey’s foreign policy highlights Kashmiri struggles

A seminar held at Uskudar University, Istanbul, titled “Why Kashmiris must get their right to self-determination?” was organized by “Post-Colonial Studies Application and Research Canter” (PAMER).

Among those invited to speak at the seminar were Dr. Ghulam N. Mir, Chairman of the Kashmir Diaspora Coalition and President of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Chairman, of World Forum for Peace & Justice, with Dr. Fehmi AGCA, Department of Political Science and International Relations at Uskudar University acting as the Emcee.

Dr. Femi stated that “the Kashmir issue is one of the oldest issues pending on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. The people of Kashmir are suffering, and it is our responsibility to explain the plight of the people before the world community. We know that the United Nations resolutions were implemented in other conflict areas, why not in Kashmir?”

A U.N. resolution has long called for a plebiscite to determine the sovereignty of Kashmir but has long been rebuffed by India. India has also received total immunity for the human rights abuses it has inflicted in the region.

Dr. Fai called on the U.N. Secretary-General to intervene using Article 99 of the U.N. Charter to resolve the conflict and to stop the bloodshed.

You can read more about the conference and the discussions held at the seminar here.

Israeli filmmaker denounces ‘the Kashmir Files’

Israeli filmmaker, Nadav Lapid, triggered controversy by denouncing the Kashmir files in the strongest possible terms. “[The Kashmir Files] seemed to us like a propaganda, [a] vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival,” he said in his concluding address at a ceremony held in Goa.

The film triggered the predictable cascade of Hindu nationalists bleating on social media despite the comment being 100 percent accurate.

Actor Anupam Kher, who starred in the film, accused the IFFI jury, headed by Lapid, of being insensitive towards the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits. “The truth of Kashmir Files is stuck like a thorn in the throat of some people. They are neither able to swallow it nor spit it out,” Kher tweeted.

The Kashmir Files was a film that was released in March that flamed anti-Kashmiri and Anti-Muslim sentiments across India. It received tax-exempt status from India and was boosted by prominent BJP politicians including Modi himself.

The propagandistic nature of the film was not lost on some Hindu politicians.

Mohit Bhan, a Hindu politician based in Indian-administered Kashmir, told Al Jazeera that “nobody is talking about justice” to Kashmiri Pandits whose plight, he said, remains the same as it was in the 1990s.

“The way the movie was hijacked by the right-wing in India and the hate speeches that were made against the entire Muslim community has put the pain of Kashmiri Pandits backstage and the hate mongering at the front. The narrative has become one of Hindus against Muslims,” Bhan said.

In an attempt to calm tension, the Israeli ambassador even released a statement to walk back Lapid’s remarks. You can read more about this story here.

Final thoughts – a dark year with a narrow silver lining

2022 was not a year that will be recalled fondly by any Kashmiri Muslim or from their families living abroad. However, 2022 was also a year that showed that the march of autocracy is not inevitable and that the desire for human rights and freedom cannot be tamed so easily.

Russia looked to expand its empire and position itself as a reemerging global power only to find itself isolated and humiliated on the world stage. China was forced to heed the demands of its population and end its Zero Covid policy. Iran’s regime looks shakier as chants of ‘Death to the Dictator’ and ‘Women, life, freedom.’ echoed from the street.

Autocratic leaders from France, Brazil, and the United States failed to advance in democratic elections. Modi’s BJP regime earned the title of electoral autocracy in 2012 and it has sunk even lower in the Indian public’s view, demonstrated by drop in elections in several states.

The forces of inhumanity and tyranny can be humbled. Why cannot the same also happen in Kashmir? Awareness is rising across the world of India’s settler colonialism and its human rights abuses. While there is much work left to do, here is hoping 2023 sees the forces of despotism in India begin to crack and fall.