The People of Occupied Kashmir: Robbed of Dignity, Robbed of Rights

By Maheen Ahmad


By Maheen Ahmad
Author is an Erasmus scholar and is associated with the Islamabad Policy Research
Institute (IPRI)

For generations, the hapless civilians of Kashmir have been robbed of the inalienable right of self- determination that was committed to them through United Nations Security Council resolutions. Year after year, the region of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K) has witnessed a new set of troubling conditions, and this past year, is no exception. It will be remembered for the military and communication clampdown that enveloped IOJ&K following the constitutional changes made by the Indian state on 5
August, 2019.

From a political standpoint, the motives of Modi’s BJP government are becoming increasingly more apparent. In abrogating article 370, and consequently revoking the special autonomous status of IOJ&K, Prime Minister Modi is pursuing an exclusionary Hindu nationalist agenda, one based partly on its antipathy to Islam. With the BJP tied to the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS), Prime Minister Modi strongly believes in the name of the Hindutva ideology, with hopes that this will bring back the lost glory of India. Any policy decision and draconian law implemented by the Indian state post August 5, henceforth, invariably takes these nationalist undertones. Backed by a jingoistic and ruthless media campaign, the BJP government is presenting a very nationalistically charged narrative for the persecution of Muslims.

The decision taken by the BJP to forcefully annex IOJ&K into the Union of India has been propagated by BJP leaders and right-wing nationalists as vital for bringing economic prosperity and development to the people of IOJ&K. Regrettably, however, facts on the ground suggest otherwise and the situation in IOJ&K has become more grim. With the objective of reengineering the demographics of IOJ&K, the BJP has attempted to settle scores of non-Kashmiri Hindus in the Muslims dominated disputed territory. The purpose of reshaping the demographics of the region is only to undermine the right to self-determination of Kashmiris. Through the actions of 5 August 2019, the state of India has not only unlawfully annexed the territory, it has done so without any recourse to the will of the Kashmiri people. Resorting to brute force, the Indian state has subjugated innocent civilians to unlawful detentions, arbitrary arrests, and extra-judicial killings. The continued use of pellet guns to blind innocent and unarmed civilians is of serious concern. Such systematic and systemic human rights violations have led some to believe that it tantamount to ethnic cleansing and the genocide of Kashmiris.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the humanitarian crisis in the occupied state are that women and children are involved. Since the actions of August 5, 2019, an estimated thirteen thousand children have been illegally detained. They have been ripped apart from their parents. Keep in mind that these children are no different than the children of the rest of the world, fore they too, have humanitarian freedoms and aspirations to live, grow and thrive. The Convention of the Rights of the Child guarantees them such rights. These children have not been going to school ever since the lockdown either. They are subjugated to fear – fear that they are not safe, fear that they will be separated from their parents, and fear they are not promised a better tomorrow.

Women too have been facing massive brutalities in the occupied state, and not just since the lockdown. Since 1989, it has been estimated that more than twenty-two thousand women have been widowed, while thousands have been half-widowed meaning they do not know if their husband is alive or missing. Another ten thousand have been exploited, molested and raped. The numbers here speak volumes of the human rights atrocities happening in the valley.

The greatest tragedy is that decades long of torture and abuse is now amounting to psychological trauma. The generation of Kashmiris in the occupied state are unfortunately now facing a mental crisis, after facing years of physical and emotional abuse. According to a report by the New York Times, there are lines outside the psychiatrist’s office of people who are feeling besieged and traumatized.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded problems for the people of IOJ&K. Time and time again, medical and policy experts have emphasized that during a pandemic, information is key. What, then, are the people of the occupied state to do when there is an information blackout? They have no access to any internet facilities, and if they do, they have access to 2G services, which is surely not enough to even download basic instructions from the World Health Organization. While in the rest of the world, there is talk of shifting work and education online, how can the people of IOJK&K do so when they do not even have access to the very basic amenities? With a communications clampdown, one can imagine they cannot even call their loved and dear ones to check on their health, nor would they can reach out to any COVID-19 helplines and call services.

The deepening humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in IOJ&K ought to be of growing concern to the world community, as the abuses occurring in the valley are in direct violation of the fundamental humanitarian freedoms safeguarded by the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. The very first article of the Charter promises that all ‘human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ Why, then, are the people of the occupied valley made to feel otherwise?