The Largest Prison in the World


By Khalid Chandio
Author is PhD Scholar in IR and Research Fellow at Islamabad Policy Research
Institute (IPRI)

Jammu and Kashmirhappens to be the largest prison in the world after Indian actions on August 5, 2019.India revoked special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 along with 35-A. People have been locked inside their homes. With internet shut down coupled with other bans on media coverage, the fate of Kashmiris hangs in the balance. This is flagrant violation of human rights (HR) by any definition andmeans. When the civilized world was busy in enjoying the normal life in pre-Covid 19 environment, Kashmiris were already locked in isolation. After Covid-19, world went into lockdown and only then the privileged ones might have known what it takes to be in isolation and lockdown. But, it is pertinent to note here that these privileged people had other amenities during lockdown, i.e. internet, TV, media, etc. unlike the Kashmiris. What actually is happening with Kashmiris is unknown as there is complete blackout in the state. The civilized and the privileged in India and world are still unable to feel the type of suffocation the Kashmiris must have been going through in isolation since a year.

India is known to be the largest democracy in the world but it has yet another credit to her success, i.e. largest prison with around 14 million Kashmiri souls. The so-called largest democracy has a “Hindu nationalist government” at the moment under Modi.If one looks at the current trends in India, the minorities are in a fix. The Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Scheduled Casts in India have still been children of lesser God as they continue to face issues of identity and recognition. They are often seen less patriotic than the Hindus in the country. The Muslims and Sikhs are stereotyped at best as untrustworthy, at worst as traitors. Political marginalization of the Muslims and Sikhs in India is gradual but certain, especially when the country is occupied by a typical mindset of making India a Hindu country under the leadership of Modi with the support of the RSS. In the wake of Modi mantra of “reverse conversion” (Ghar Wapsi), not only the Muslims and the Scheduled castes but Sikhs could also be either brought back into Hinduism or considered a sect of Hinduism one day, if things kept on moving with the current wave in India.

One needs to comprehend that since the Jammu and Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state, revocation of its special status is meant for changing its demography. The UNSC resolutions on Kashmir are still in place, which call for referendum in the state. Here becomes the debate on demography being pertinent in the Indian context and this is exactly the Indian government under Modi is doing. The “demographic flooding” is already under way by issuing domiciles to non-Kashmiris under domicile law. In future, when India is confident of numbers in the Jammu and Kashmir in its favour, it might opt for referendum. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been struggling for their right of self-determination. But, Indian actions since 1947 have kept them in continuous denial. Use of force and coercion is rampant in the state.

There are many instances in modern history of the world where people, nations, and states stood for their rights and principles and after countless sacrifices they were able to attain the taste of liberty and independence. American War of Independence is one such example of struggle and pride when the Kingdom of Great Britain had opted to apply direct tax on Americans, the thirteen coloniesdid not consider another option but they also opted to fight for independence. It is pertinent to note here that merely direct taxation and lack of colonial representation became the main immediate reasons of American Revolution. Now look at the plight of Kashmiris who have been suffering at the hands of India since 1947. They are marginalized in their economic, political and socio-religious rights.When Kashmiris opted to resist the Indian highhandedness, they are labeled with terrorism. India’s preference of opting violence will only breed violence in return as indigenous freedom struggle is already getting momentum in the Jammu and Kashmir.

There is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of world community, especially the US to play its part in resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The misery index of Kashmiris is enough to shake the conscience of civilized world.Previously, the international community was more concerned on India-Pakistan war leading to nuclear option than the Jammu and Kashmir dispute itself. The less the international community talks about Kashmir, the more the miseries would fall on Kashmiris. Also, the international community must take into consideration the fact that Indian revocation of Article 370 along with 35-A has closed the doors of peace talks between the two nuclear armed states, i.e. India and Pakistan. Peace deficit in South Asia will have serious consequences for not only the South Asian region but beyond.