Kashmir’s Cry for Freedom

Feb 6, 2024 | Communication Blockade

Youlin Magazine | By Dr. Dushka H. Saiyid
There are interesting parallels between the policies of Israel in Gaza, and India in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK): both governments seek an erasure of the Muslims that inhabit Palestine and Kashmir respectively. The BJP government of Modi, suffers from a deep resentment about having been ruled by Muslims from the 8th century until the War of Independence of 1857, and seeks to wipe out all the cultural symbols of Muslims. This acute sense of inadequacy finds expression in renaming of cities, like Allahabad to Prayagraj, the latter originating from Hindu mythical scriptures.

While Israel is busy committing genocide in Gaza, and has the world’s attention, India’s violation of human rights in IOK continues unchecked and away from the media glare. It is not surprising that Modi was quick to ally himself with Israel and encourage Netanyahu in his Hitler like fantasy of the destruction of both Gaza and its’ people, but for the valiant resistance by Hamas. By the last count 26,500 had been killed and 66,000 wounded by Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, while Israel seeks to resettle the rest in other countries in order take over their land. According to a UN report of 2019, there are billions worth of oil and gas in offshore Gaza. Similarly, Kashmir is of strategic importance, located at the juncture of China, Afghanistan and India, while many of the rivers that feed agriculture in Pakistan, in particular, the mighty Indus, originate from IOK.

The clause 7 of the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharajah Hari Singh declared that the State could not be compelled to accept any future Constitution of India. The State was within its rights to draft its own constitution and to decide for itself what additional powers to extend to the Central Government. Article 370 was designed to protect those rights. According to the constitutional scholar A.G. Noorani, Article 370 records a ‘solemn compact’ that neither India nor the State could unilaterally amend or abrogate the Article except in accordance with the terms of the Article. However, these safety clauses notwithstanding, the BJP government unilaterally annexed Kashmir under Article 370, doing away with the special status that had been granted to IOK, and was given legitimacy by the pusillanimous Indian Supreme Court.

The story does not end there, as the conditions for people of IOK have continued to deteriorate, India introduced a new law: Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020. The implications of this law are that anyone can now buy land, property, get education and jobs in IOK. The purpose is to change the demographics of IOK, to reduce the majority of Muslims and marginalize them further. It was condemned as “unacceptable”, by Omar Abdullah, a scion of the Abdullah family and ex-Chief Minister of IOK.

The repression in the valley of Kashmir continues unabated. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have expressed deep concern about the crackdown against journalists in IOK. The list of detained journalists is becoming longer, and they are being held under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows people to be detained without a trial for up to two years. The latest addition to the list is Majid Hyderi. Individuals are arrested and released on bail, but re-arrested under PSA. RSF has declared that the charges against Majid Hyderi as, “clearly trumped-up charges”! I quote RSF’s report of October, 2023, “Jammu and Kashmir has become a cemetery for independent journalism, especially since 2019, when India rescinded the partial autonomy it enjoyed under article 370 of the constitution, and stripped it of its status as a state, turning it into ‘Union Territory’”. The Kashmir Walla news site was blocked by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and its journalists harassed for years, its editor, Fahad Shah, was arrested under PSA, but when the Jammu and Kashmir high court set him free, was detained again under a different law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Irfan Mehraj, the editor of Wande Magazine, an online publication, was also arrested under UAPA, and nine charges have been imposed on him.

The desecration of mosques and madrassahs continues blatantly and openly. Himalmag.com (a publication of Nepali origin but now based in Sri Lanka) of October 5, 2023, carried a report of how Indian soldiers entered a mosque at dawn, interrupted azaan (call to prayer), and forced the worshippers to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, a Hindutva battle cry in unleashing violence against Muslims. India’s armed forces have become known for torture and extra-judicial killings in Kashmir, but the army’s violent entry into a local mosque in June, 2023, was a first, for it violated what is considered a sacred place of worship.

A dark foreboding and fear envelop the beautiful vale of Kashmir! The only solution is the birth of a Hamas like organization for the people of IOK to liberate them from the clutches of Fascism but then the cost would very high, as the people of Gaza have discovered at their great cost.