Kashmir Dispatch October 2022

WKA Monthly News Round Up – October 2022

Welcome back to the WKA Kashmir Dispatch for October. Today, we’ll review the top news stories impacting Kashmir this month.

Kashmir’s identity is being systematically erased 

We have long documented that one of the main goals of the occupation of Kashmir is to turn the region into a Hindu state answerable only to the Indian government. At the heart of any nationalistic government is a dedication to zero-sum politics. For the ruling party to succeed, other people must lose. In some cases, they must lose everything.

To achieve this end, the law is weaponized, and Muslim cultural identity is systematically erased.

A recent tweet by Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of J&K, ignited a firestorm of denigration and condemnation. The tweet showed a video of Muslim students being forced to sing a Hindu hymn (bhajan). The Muttahida Majlis-i-Ulema, comprising 30 Kashmiri organizations, denounced the action and said it was designed to accelerate “the so-called integration of the younger generation with the Hindutva idea of India.”

To facilitate the de-Islamification of Kashmir, the occupation weaponizes indefinite detention. Muslim leaders, human rights activists, and journalists are often rounded up and held without charge, in some cases, for years.

Last month, two ulemas (Islamic scholars) were arrested, and several other Islamic scholars were charged under the draconian public safety act in a crackdown on Muslim groups in Kashmir.

Kashmiri rights activist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who has been in prison himself for three years, confirmed that these are efforts to “browbeat” Muslim scholars and undermine their role.

However, it is not just religious scholars who are under threat, but places of worship, as well. BJP took control of some of the holiest Muslim shrines in Kashmir including the J&K Waqf Board assuming control of all of its properties across the region including Srinagar’s Eidgah, a vast historic ground for major congregational prayers.

When clerics cannot preach, when people cannot assemble to pray, and Muslims are arrested indiscriminately, freedom of religion is truly dead.

This represents a fraction of the cultural erasure. The BJP is also trying to erase language as well. For over a century, Urdu was the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, but as of this year, that status was ended as well, replacing it with Hindi, Kashmiri, and Dogri as the new official languages of the region. Besides Kashmiri, Urdu is the Official language of over 200 million people of Pakistan and the mother tongue and Lingua Franca of over 200 million indigent Muslims of India. That the Hindu Nationalists cannot stomach

All of this combined with efforts to stack the regional government with BJP loyalists – and it is easy to see New Delhi has every intention to eradicate the native Kashmir identity. You can read more about their efforts here.

Pakistan condemns India’s disinformation drive

At this rate, the 21st century will become the Disinformation Age – an age when governments, policymakers, and everyday people make decisions not on facts and information but on lies and groupthink.

The Indian government has weaponized disinformation tactics to brand those speaking out against the illegal occupation and annexation of Jammu and Kashmir as terrorists.           

Pakistan’s Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram, called out India’s disinformation campaign in the General Assembly’s Third Committee. Ambassador Akram said the international community should establish mechanisms through which India’s disinformation war against Pakistan, the people of India illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and India’s Muslim and other minorities can be exposed, and its sponsors held to account.

The proliferation of social media and the lack of accountability on those platforms has made hate speech, racism, and Islamophobia more prolific. Indeed, content moderation on all social media platforms is often minuscule or non-existent outside of the United States.

You can read more about the Pakistani Minister’s comments here.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist is forbidden from leaving India

Sanna Irshad Mattoo was scheduled to fly to New York on Monday to receive the Pulitzer Prize but was blocked by officials at New Delhi’s airport, she said.

Mattoo said she was stopped without reason and her ticket was canceled.

This is not the first time India has denied journalists or human rights activists from leaving the country. Their typical M.O. is often what Sanna Irshad Matoo experienced. Canceled flights and no reason was given. It is a form of punishment for being critical of the government of India.

Mattoo was notable for documenting the Modi administration’s failure in combating the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.

Sadly, this is not the first time she has experienced this level of discrimination. You can read more about her story here.

Final thoughts 

We’ve written before about India’s extensive use of settler colonialism. The worst aspect is that they seem to be succeeding. The process is long, and it can work.  However, while Modi might have consolidated support, he is still by no means a god. Hubris typically follows the autocrat, and what may be his strength may be his undoing. For now, we will continue to speak truth to the lies and advocate for a freer and better tomorrow.