Following the BJP government’s reelection as the ruling party in India in 2019, it was a foregone conclusion that the Modi government would enact its electoral promises, mainly those that injure the interests of the Muslim minority, to puff up its credentials as the party that supports the Hindu majoritarian militant outlook.
As a result, Modi’s first axe fell on Kashmir and its Muslim character. On 5th of August 2019, the Hindutva government abrogated Articles 370 and 35 A of the Indian Constitution stripping away the special status to the province and paving the way for a constitutionally sanctioned ethnic cleansing and socio-political disempowerment of the Muslims of Kashmir.
This brazen constitutional assault not only violated the political and constitutional guarantees but was also in contravention to United Nations resolutions that recognized the people’s right of self-determination. This unwarranted act also violated the bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan and will have far-reaching effects on the people of the territory.
On August 4, 2019, a day before, the President of India voided the clauses of Article 370, and suspended the Jammu and Kashmir constitution, as the state was put under a total military-enforced curfew. Thousands of additional troops were flown in to enforce the lockdown, closing down markets, educational institutions and all public spaces for several months. Internet and telephone services were snapped, public assembly was prohibited and thousands, including minors and almost all the elected legislators and pro-freedom leaders, were arrested incommunicado. Days later, the Indian Parliament legislated to arbitrarily divide the territory into two different entities – Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
The economic, social and political impact of this brutal assault has been disastrous. All industries suffered severe blows, pushing the majority into loan defaults or even closure; hundreds of thousands lost their jobs or underwent salary deferment or cuts; closures of schools and universities gravely impaired education and added to the trauma of children and parents; healthcare was severely restricted by curfew and roadblocks; and the local media lost whatever little freedoms they were able to avail earlier.
Worst of all, there was no elected representative to advocate the interests of the people, since the majority of political leaders were put in oppressive detention. Many were later released but forced to furnish colonial-era written undertakings pledging not to issue any criticism of the government’s actions. Statutory bodies to which citizens could go to seek redress virtually ceased to exist, since all the state commissions for human rights, women and child rights, anti-corruption and the right to information – were abolished.
This sustained and targeted assault on Kashmir has resulted in the near-total alienation and estrangement of the people of the Kashmir valley from the Indian state and people. Even the people of Jammu, the majority of whom are Hindus, feel disempowered because of their serious concerns over economic and educational losses as well as the new domicile rules, they seek to change the demographic character to dilute the nature of the dispute.
India has tried to subdue the population through a continued litany of threats, curfews and a variety of different mechanisms of violence. However, it has only achieved very limited success. This is because the majority of the people fervently believe that the future of the disputed territory is undecided, as they continue to cherish its peaceful yet meaningful resolution. As such, India has expressly failed to extract the consent of the people. Despite serious and continued human rights violations the people continue to pursue the cause of their freedom and the right of self-determination.
The BJP government has been incessantly misleading its voters and the international community by playing the hoax of peace and stability in the region. To hide its crimes against humanity and obfuscate the actual ground situation, Jammu and Kashmir has been transformed into a no-go area for international NGOs and observers. Despite the repeated calls from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to allow a fact-finding mission, the Indian government has been evading such access with shameless determination. On the other hand, it arranges fancy visits of its self-sponsored delegations’ sans any access to common Kashmiris.
To organize a G-20 summit in the disputed territory the month of May is yet another mischief to cultivate a fabricated view of normalcy in the region, legitimize the unlawful integration of the disputed territory and drown the public aspirations. The fact, however, cannot be ignored that the people of Kashmir are under the intense pressure of the Indian jackboot. Their freedom of expression and movement has been snatched under the draconian laws and any form of dissent is criminalized.
The G-20 countries must consider that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory under the UN resolutions, and that most of them in the past have endorsed or supported these resolutions. Their visit to the disputed territory will add to the miseries of Kashmiris and reward malignant Indian behavior.
The G-20 countries who strongly believe in civil liberties and fundamental freedoms should rather make India accountable for its war crimes and goad it to resolve the dispute according to the wishes and aspirations of the people. It should also bear in mind that Jammu and Kashmir is sandwiched between three nuclear powers, and leaving it unresolved is a sure recipe for an unimaginable disaster should the situation get out of hand.
(Writer is a lawyer and Human Rights activist and can be reached at [email protected])
Disclaimer: The G-20 Summit in Kashmir — a recipe for disaster - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view