Sold to the lowest bidder – India’s colonial goals in Kashmir
In last month’s blog, we discussed how India’s settler colonialism is fundamentally transforming Jammu and Kashmir into an unrecognizable state, stripping away the rights and livelihoods of the region’s native Muslim populations and replacing them with Hindu colonists.
The goal is full integration into India with a long-term goal of displacing Kashmiri Muslims.
The best example of such a policy in action remains the Israeli model of displacing Palestinians in the West Bank with Israeli settlers and gradually annexing the territory into Israel proper.
It is a long-term project, but it can work. All it takes is time, and a willingness to use the full arsenal of the state to disenfranchise, displace, and destitute the native population.
This has been the Modi administration’s goal from day one, and they are succeeding. In today’s blog, we will examine how Kashmir is transformed and sold out from under a population who has lived in the region.
How land reforms brought prosperity to the valley
Hindu nationalists love to portray Kashmir as a destitute and renegade province that only survives upon the investments and goodwill from the New Delhi government. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Before the partition of India – Kashmir was ruled by the Dogra dynasty, whose reign exploited the region as a bulwark against the “Muslim corridor.” They ruled the region for a century until 1947, paying tribute to the British, and contributing to the Empire’s war efforts. They also greatly mismanaged the land and promoted ethnic strife between Muslims and the Hindus in Kashmir.
The Dogra dynasty was ousted, in part, because of a National Coalition of Muslims and Pandits, led by Shaikh Abdullah. This coalition succeeded in enacting land reforms that stopped hunger, gave the poor access to land, and formed the powerful backbone of the Kashmiri agricultural engine.
Articles 370 and 35A served to protect those reforms.
Now we see why those parts of the constitution were among the first victims of colonization.
Strangling agriculture to starve Kashmir
Kashmir is a breadbasket not only for the region but India as a whole. The region is known as the Apple capital of the subcontinent. Apples provide up to eight percent of the GDP for the entire Kashmir region. Approximately two-thirds of the apple crop grown here is consumed in India, with a total production of approximately two million tons.
Cherries also supplement the apple crop, and the agriculture industry supports 700,000 Kashmiri families.
All of these crops require irrigation systems to water the trees that are fed by the various rivers in the region, and the rivers are being intentionally destroyed.
In a report by Al Jazeera, mining rights have been sold off to outside companies to dredge the rivers for precious metals. The Indian occupation handed out mining permits to outside companies, to mine the rivers, but there has also been an explosion of illegal mining activity. This illegal exploitation of Kashmiri resources was implemented in the early period of Indian occupation during Indian rule and well through the recent period in which Kashmir was indiscriminately deforested for timber by Indian companies leading to the current and ongoing ecological disaster.
As a result, many of the water canals are now running dry because of unchecked and illegal mining activities and deforestation. Locals describe the devastation to the riverbeds, “The river resembles a war zone at night,” said Ghulam Qadir Bhat, resident of Odura village and head of a local village council in Shopian. “Throughout the night, the sound of heavy earthmovers robs us of our sleep.”
The cries of this destructive way of life often go unheeded and are outright ignored by the government. In the Al Jazeera report, resident Mohammad Yusuf Wagay, a farmer from Odura village took his complaint to the local government. The response was chilling. “When we raised the issue with the administration, we were asked to shut our mouths and threatened with police cases,” he said.
This type of colonialism will have a cascading effect, when the crops fail, people are forced to compete for the lowest wage jobs with outsiders, the same types of jobs that destroy the rivers’ vital watersheds, further destroying the livelihoods of Kashmiris.
Foreign Investment, but only for the settlers
India was a victim of the British colonial empire, and they suffered because of that economic system, which is why it is disheartening to see New Delhi adopt the same colonial strategies their former overlords used.
World Expos are clever bits of national propaganda. They serve to highlight the various innovations and industries of a nation, while also downplaying the systemic issues of oppression of those nations. At the height of the British Empire – in 1851, the expo was held in London. The centerpiece of the Crystal Palace was an enormous steel and glass greenhouse that promoted the ingenuity of the empire. What was not displayed, was the undeniable human rights abuses, and wholesale pillaging of resources by the Empire.
With that in mind, it seems only appropriate that the 21st century Expo was held in Dubai. The Emirates and India engage in significant levels of trade, with the Emirates being India’s third-highest trading partner. Conversely, India is the UAE’s second-highest trading partner.
During the expo, Kashmiri land was auctioned off for development, three hotels, valued at over $100 million and a 500,000 sq foot mall are to be developed. Saffron, another key Kashmiri crop, was also being commodified and sold off to the UAE and other international markets.
Final thoughts – stopping colonialism before it’s too late
Colonialism leaves deep and lasting scars. The land is ruined, and lives are uprooted and destroyed. Real human rights abuses and crimes linger long in the mind of history.
Unfortunately, colonialism often succeeds because it is profitable. Lands can be conquered, and the resources are taken by the colonizer. Africa, the Americas, Australia, and Asia, still grapple with colonialism’s long reach.
The only way to stop it is to make it unprofitable. It is why there must be an economic cost levied upon India in the form of economic sanctions and tariffs until Kashmiri autonomy is restored.
Without any action of this kind, India is free to continue its heavy-handed exploitation of Kashmir – until its native populations are displaced or weakened and doomed to lives filled with poverty and tragedy.