“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
― Joe Klaas, Twelve Steps to Happiness
Kashmir – How the Problem Began:
The Kashmir conflict started after the partition of India in 1947 as both India and Pakistan claimed the entirety of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a dispute over the region that escalated into wars between India and Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1999 and several other armed skirmishes. The Simla Agreement formally established the Line of Control between the two nations’ controlled territories.
Since 1989, Kashmiri protest movements voiced Kashmir’s disputes and grievances with the Indian government, with some armed conflicts – especially in 2010, 2016, and the unrest following the 2019 Pulwama attack. (BBC Article)
The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, the series of anti-Hindu attacks and Pogroms that took place shortly after the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, which forced native Kashmiri Hindus out of the Kashmir Valley, peaked in the early 1990s when Hindus fled from the Kashmir Valley to seek refuge elsewhere in India. This has been serving as a curtain to hide any and all of the current regime’s policy failures and a smoke-screen to drive away all scrutiny. To pander to its fanatical supporters, a drastic measure, curtailing the state’s right to self-legislate, was introduced in 2019.
Kashmir is Ours, Kashmiris are Not:
Both India and Pakistan lay claim to the entirety of the (former) Jammu & Kashmir princely state. That means any violations of Human Rights in the region invites fierce criticism from the other country. This, however, does not stop either country from committing atrocities themselves.
Team 1 – India: According to scholars, Indian forces have committed “many human rights abuses and acts of terror against the Kashmiri civilian population, including extrajudicial killing, rape, torture, and enforced disappearances” (Oxford Press). According to Amnesty International, no member of the Indian military deployed in Jammu and Kashmir has been tried for human rights violations in a civilian court as of June 2015 (excluding military courts-martial).
Political repression and the suppression of freedom of speech has been relatively common since the ’60s – however, as mentioned later, this has taken an abrupt turn since 2019. Several massacres have taken place in the region – the biggest in 1990. The Indian Armed Forces, Paramilitary Forces, as well as many Islamic militant groups on the Indian side have been accused of committing severe human rights abuses against the Kashmiri civilians. A WikiLeaks Issue stated that “US diplomats possessed evidence” of the “use of torture by Indian Police and Security Forces”. Other reports from 2019 have echoed similar allegations of “systematic” and “indiscriminate” torture perpetrated by Indian authorities without any repercussions or accountability.
September 1990 witnesses the enforcement of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 – to handle the rise in Kashmir Insurgency – giving the security forces immunity from violations and the freedom to act with impunity (Amnesty International Reports 1 and 2). WikiLeaks claims that the International Committee of the Red Cross briefed US officials in India, while India “condoned” torture and that “sexual penetration” formed part of the maltreatment of victims. The ICRC alleged that of the 1296 detainees interviewed, 681 had reported being tortured. Of those, 304 individuals complained of sexual torture/abuse. (Source)
Team 2 – Pakistan: Reports from international agencies such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, Asian Human Rights Commission, as well as the US State Department are periodic on this matter. They all state the same thing – massive human rights violations by not just Islamic militant groups but by the Pakistani government, security forces, and the Inter-Services Intelligence. (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – Reports 1 and 2)
Emma Nicholson, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne submitted a report to the European Parliament titled “Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects”. The report was highly critical of the lack of justice, democracy, the rule of law, as well as the human rights violations in the so-called “Azad Kashmir” (Free Kashmir). Further, the Kashmiris under Pakistani Occupation had no representation in the Pakistani National Assembly, effectively making it “taxation without representation”.
Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency – the ISI, operates in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir and has been involved in extensive surveillance, arbitrary arrests, torture, and murder (Source – Human Rights Commission of Pakistan). It has also been condemned for its role in aiding, abetting, training, and funding terrorists to infiltrate India over the past few decades. This is done with impunity, and perpetrators are, almost always, unpunished. The same report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees labelled Pakistan-administered Kashmir as “Not Free”. Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, the chairman of the International Kashmir Alliance, says that “On one hand Pakistan claims to be the champion of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, but she has denied the same rights under its controlled parts of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan”.
In the book “Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons”, author Adrian Levy states that, “Undaunted, Musharraf had in 1988 been called on by General Beg to put down a Shia riot in Gilgit, in the north of Pakistan. Rather than get the Pakistan army bloodied, he inducted a tribal band of Pashtun and Sunni irregulars, many from the SSP which had recently put out a contract on Bhutto, led by the mercenary Osama bin Laden (who had been hired by Hamid Gul to do the same four years earlier).” (Source – Chapter 13)
There is a lack of empathy for the Kashmiris, and there is a lack of support. Kashmir was said to be the “Heaven on Earth” – the title given to it by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.
Agar firdaus bar ru-ye zamin ast
Hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hamin ast
(If there is heaven on earth, It is this, it is this, it is this!)
Unfortunately, those at the gates of this heaven seek only to conquer it, not live it.
It does not weaken any nation to admit diverse, strong, and assertive sub-nationalities. Rather, that is the civilised way of appreciating the natural development of culture and communities.
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, conferring it with the power to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal administration of the state. (Britannica)
Article 35A of the Indian Constitution empowered the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them. It was added to the Constitution through a Presidential Order, i.e., The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 – issued by the President of India under Article 370.
On August 5, 2019, the GoI issued a Presidential Order superseding the 1954 order and making all the provisions of the Indian Constitution applicable to Jammu and Kashmir without any special provisions. The order was based on the resolution passed in both houses of India’s parliament with a two-thirds majority. Further orders on August 6 made all the clauses of Article 370 except clause 1 to be inoperative. In addition, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories on October 31, 2019. A bill for the act was introduced on August 5, 2019, and was passed on the same day. It received the President’s assent on August 9, 2019. This implied that the State’s separate Constitution stood inoperative, including the privileges allowed by Article 35A.
Hence with this one swift move, our Supreme Leader was clear with his intentions – and it was a clear message to the states – that any which stood in the way of BJP’s and RSS’s dream of ‘Make India Hindu Again’ or ‘Make India Akhand Again’ could be brought to heels by converting them to UTs, bringing them under the direct control of the Supreme Leader’s stooges.
Note to Reader: This article is part one of a two-article series. The second article, “Whose Problem is Kashmir: The Empire Strikes Back” can be found here.