Sidra Insar Chaudhary
Mehrajuddin Peer Shah, a 25-year-old young boy, was driving his car on Wednesday on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian Occupied Kashmir’s (IOK) largest city, when Indian army officials stopped him at the check post. He stopped and got out of the car, went to the officer, and explained that he had an emergency. The army officer acted like he was satisfied by Mehrajuddin’s reason and let him go, but as he was going toward his vehicle, he was shot in the back and killed cold-blooded. In IOK young boys are often shot and then declared terrorists. This pattern of undermining human rights and fear of terrorism has been the same for many years now, however, after the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir in August last year, Indian brutality has expanded manyfold.
In Indian occupied Kashmir, there is one soldier for every nine citizens. On the other hand, there is only one doctor for every 4000 people and one ventilator for every 71000 people. The region has been under curfew for more than nine months now. The valley has been described as the world’s biggest militarized jail. All of this is just to fight 200 active militants (Indian government estimate) is astounding. In reality, the phony excuse of curbing terrorism is a cover for immense human rights violations that include, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detentions, sexual assaults and violence, torture, and collective punishment. Several human rights watchdogs have documented these violations despite India’s efforts to curb the reports.
India has been using terrorism as an excuse to oppress the Kashmiri people for many years instead of addressing the root cause of the problem. Where does the resistance for the Indian authority stem from? The answer is simple, Kashmiris have been demanding their right to self-determination for seven decades now. All these years India has refused to go with the UN’s proposed solution of holding a plebiscite in the occupied valley. Experts agree and acknowledge that when people are denied their right of self-determination, turning toward resistance and striving for freedom by force is the logical and widely accepted practice. Even the UN considers Kashmiri freedom struggle as legitimate and refuses to label it as terrorism. Cabeiri DeBergh Robinson, University of Washington’s professor of South Asian studies, in her book, Body of Victim, Body of Warrior, has explained this phenomenon of Kashmiri struggle of self-determination in detail.
India has never accepted any human rights abuse in occupied Kashmir but instead has always defended its actions by blaming Pakistan for ‘terrorism’ in Kashmir. On the same day when Mehrajuddin was killed by the Indian army, its chief General MM Narvane said that Pakistan has created a new ‘terror group’ in Kashmir called ‘The Resistance Front’. Firstly, this is an absurd claim without any poof to stand on. Secondly, let’s assume even if it was true, for the argument’s sake, then one has to wonder if Pakistan was able to create a new so-called ‘terror group’ notwithstanding the massive Indian presence, doesn’t it demonstrate incompetence on Indian law enforcement agencies part and shouldn’t they be doing some soul searching instead of blaming Pakistan?
In times of corona pandemic, the United Nations has asked to lockdown armed conflicts and observe a global ceasefire. But instead of minimizing state terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir to fight the disease, the Indian army and its government have been exploiting the situation to alter the socio-economic landscape of the occupied territory to achieve its settler-colonial goals. The Indian government has been using coronavirus as a new tool to oppress Kashmiris. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a massive crackdown on Kashmiri journalists to stop even the paltry reports of Indian atrocities from being getting out. The police powers have risen sharply and with them the increased curfew measures. The cordon and search operations, already a norm in occupied valley, are more frequent than ever before now.
Last year when India unilaterally annexed the special constitutional provisions for Jammu and Kashmir, the move that was termed as “final solution” by the BJP nationalist and Indian media, scholars and experts warned that the move will exacerbate the intensity of the conflict towards more violent phase as Kashmiri youths feeling of alienation will intensify. Human rights groups warned about the risk of genocide in Kashmir and said that the Hindu nationalist trajectory of India will severely damage the communal setting of secular India. After nine months and arrests of fifteen thousand Kashmiris, it is evident that India’s attempts of normalizing demographic flooding and settler colonialism have failed. Kashmiris have vehemently rejected the Indian forceful measures and reports of increasing protests in the occupied valley points to escalating conflict – in line with experts’ warnings.
Thus far, the world has bought the Indian version of Kashmir oppression as a tool to fight so-called terrorism. Even the Muslim countries in the middle-east have preferred to stay silent due to their economic compulsions. This has helped India to act with impunity and keep killing Kashmiris and declaring them terrorists. For nine months now, the region has been without the internet, schools and the markets have been closed and the economy of the valley has been destroyed. Indian heavy-handed actions have hit the Kashmiri young generation the hardest. As time passes the number of Kashmiri struggling for their right to self-determination is expected to grow which will further escalate the Kashmir conflict. Therefore, global powers cannot keep ignoring the conflict for long.